The Kia Sorento was one of the Korean brand’s first new models to fully showcase its popular new styling language and has been with us its current form since 2011. The three-row mid-size crossover has stood out in its class offering not only that third-row seat but a fuel efficient four-cylinder engine.
Our Tuscan Olive Sorento EX was front-wheel drive and equipped with Kia’s 2.4 liter GDI four-cylinder engine mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. The Sorento is available also with all-wheel drive and a more powerful 3.5 liter V6 engine with 276 horsepower.
One of the first things that strikes you from behind the wheel is that this crossover still has the high seating position, and SUV-like feel that many of its competitors have lost when they made the transition from truck-based SUV to car-based crossover. While the Sorento has much sharper handling and a much better ride than the old ladder framed model, it still feels brawny.
On our desert back roads test loop the Sorento was sure footed on the rougher roads including the washboard gravel ones. The washboard surface did little to make the interior rattle or get the Sorento skating across the road. On our panic stop and hill climb tests in the rough, the suspension remained well planted with minimal dive or squat normally associated with crossover SUV’s.
The only area where a deficiency arose in the off-road drives was that our Sorento only had front-wheel drive. While traction is adequate for pedestrian driving in the dirt, the steering begins getting squirmy and loose when you try to apply too much power. If you like spirited off-road driving we recommend you opt for all-wheel drive.
On the highway, the Sorento rides solid and sure. Steering is crisp and direct. Power from the 2.4 liter engine is adequate but it does feel a bit strained accelerating onto the freeway. Around town the engine does fine, the transmission shifting in mostly all the right places.
Gas mileage was a little disappointing. The EPA rates our model at 22 mpg city and 32 mpg highway, 25 mpg combined. These numbers are actually pretty impressive for a mid-size SUV. The problem is that our actual results were far lower, with 21.9 mpg combined city and highway over the week.
This is unusual as our test numbers with most vehicles often land right on the mark with the EPA’s estimates. We even made efforts to hyper-mile a little to give it a chance, but even on the highway the best average we saw was around 28 mpg, 4 mpg less than the 32 mpg rating.
On the up side, the Sorento has a well executed interior. Our tester had the $3,800 Premium Package 1 which gave us supple leather seats, power folding mirrors, navigation and a really great sounding Infinity sound system just to name a few features.
The seats were comfortable and featured a memory setting that also included the side mirrors. Interior trims fit well together and look of decent quality. All major controls were easy to reach and understand as were the seat and steering wheel adjustments.
The third-row seat folds down flat so well we didn’t even notice it was where until three days into our test. As this is a mid-size SUV, they do eat up cargo space significantly when in the upright position and are really best suited for small children. It’s a highlight feature however as many of its competitors are still only five-passenger only SUV’s
As always here in Phoenix the air-conditioning was a major attraction for us. Temperatures this week hovered around 100 degrees and we were able to pronounce the HVAC system in the Sorento a success. It blows hard and cold, taking minimal time to get cool at start up.
Our 2012 Kia Sorento EX tester came to a grand total of $30,600 including all options. It represents the mid-point between the base model and a fully loaded SX V6 with all-wheel drive. We came away impressed overall with the quality and driving character of the Sorento, only let down with its fuel thirst.