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SX Appeal: 2011 Kia Sorento SX Review




Until recently, Kia and sister company Hyundai had a problem: their vehicles offered great value and strong quality, but their dorky looks and design quirks made them easy to ignore. 

Boy how things have changed.

Approaching the Sorento, you first notice the work of former Audi designer Peter Schreyer.  Clean surfaces and a muscular stance give the vehicle chunky good looks, particularly with this tester’s 18” mirror-finish alloy wheels. 

The top of the line Sorento SX AWD comes standard with the 276-horsepower V-6, a 6-speed automatic, and the aforementioned 18” wheels.  Inside, leather seats, dual-zone climate control, navigation, Bluetooth, and a 10-speaker Infinity sound system round out the standard features of the up-level SX.

 

 

The driver is presented with an elegant yet simple dash layout featuring a large touch screen and intuitive audio system and climate controls.  Kia’s clear, simple iPod/Bluetooth interface is still one of the best offered in any vehicle.  The Sorento has a clever dual-tiered storage compartment below the climate controls.  In a vein similar to Volvo’s floating control panel behind which lies storage space, the Kia’s dual-level storage provides ample space for phones, glasses and other items that normally clog cup holders.

The center console is covered in matte-black plastic that isn’t particularly flashy but looks durable.  Carbon-fiber-look accents are tasteful and fit with the understated cabin.  Our tester’s optional $1200 panoramic sunroof covers almost the entire first and second row seating area, providing abundant light to the otherwise dark cabin, especially with the black leather seats.

With seating for seven, passenger space is ample.  However, with the second and third row seats up, remaining cargo space is tight (9.1 cubic feet).  Folding both rows reveals a cavernous cargo area; though the downward sloping roofline that looks so attractive from the outsides does limit the ability to carry taller items.  Two mountain bikes couldn’t be stowed upright in the Sorento, an easy task for some smaller, boxier competitors. 

Dynamically the Sorento does well but in no way sets a new standard for mid-size SUVs.  Fuel economy is good at 19 mpg city and 25 mpg highway.  The V-6 and 6-speed auto work together well, at times undermined by nonlinear throttle programming that is quite sensitive at initial tip-in but can be slow to respond deeper in the pedal travel. That said, acceleration is strong.

A rare area where Kia lags the competition is in suspension tuning.  Lots of body roll makes the 3900-pound SUV feel large.  At times the Sorento’s ride feels jittery, with sharp, sudden bumps sending reverberations through the body, leading one to wonder if Kia was aiming for both comfort and sportiness but not quite getting the mix right.  Not horrible, but not class-leading either.   

Depending on the trim level, the Sorento offers tremendous value, particularly for those who don’t like being forced into top-level trims for Bluetooth, USB interface, or heated seats.  A well-optioned AWD Sorento with the 175-horsepower 4-cylinder and a 6-speed automatic can be had for around $25,000. 

The attractive, well-engineered Sorento may not lead the competition in every way, but this vehicle is a must-see for anyone considering mid-size SUVs.  Pilot and Highlander, consider yourselves warned.

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Comments (5)
  1. I agree that this is a great alternative to the Jeep Grand Cherokee, GMC Acadia, Toyota Highlander and Honda Pilot.
    Looked at all 4 after owning 3 Grand Cherokees.
    The kia suspension is very weak, with a few boxes in the back of mine the suspension sags terribly. This is my only complaint. The AWD system is outstanding. Hill descent, ipod controls, comfort on long drives, and gas mileage make this car worth it. If it had any other badge on it, the car would be another 5,000.
     
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  2. Another selling point in the 2011 Sorento's favor is that it earned Top Safety Pick status from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)-- for models built after March 2010. Overall, great strides for Kia and for Sorento.
     
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  3. I purchased my Sorento SX AWD a month ago. I enjoyed driving it for the first three weeks. Then the beginning of the third week I noticed it was starting a little rough. I thought ok; it is December and is very cold outside; no big deal. Then Thursday morning the day before Christmas Eve I notice a ticking sound coming from the engine. So I call the dealership to see if I could bring it by to see if it is safe to drive. They basically told me NO its the day before Christmas Eve its probably your breaks you will be fine. Bring it in after the holidays. Ok sensing no help from the dealer I went out to finish my Christmas shopping with my wife. As we pull up to a major intersection I hear a nasty loud squeal then the sound of metal screeching and my car ceased and came to a dead stop in the middle of the intersection! I put it into neutral and I could not even get it to roll out of the middle. Everything under the hood had completely ceased up and locked up. Long story short we were able to have the car towed to the dealer but had no vehicle over the holidays so we had to cancel plans with our families. The next week they drained the oil and found metal fragments inside the engine. Now you tell me how a vehicle with less than 1000 miles on it has catastrophic engine failure like this? I will never purchase another Kia and I STRONGLY advise anybody thinking about the Sorento model reconsider until they get the kinks worked out.
     
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  4. To Russell, obviously that is terrible luck. Btw, the engine is made by Hyundai, one of the top auto manufacturers in the world. The Sorento and Sante Fe are built at the same plant too. Just because this happened to YOU doesn't mean it's a widespread problem at all. Consumers Reports just chose the Sorento as their top pick in the SUV category. Obviously they are doing something right! Making a statement like "I will never purchase another Kia" makes me wonder about your logic...
     
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  5. We bought our first KIA 3 months ago and have 1300 miles so far. It's a Sorento SX loaded, and by far the best made, best value SUV we found in our 6 month search. You name a brand..and we drove it and researched everything. The Made in USA KIA is a winner!
     
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