Kia's 2010 Super Bowl TV spot "Joy, Ride, Dream" starred much-wanted kids toys (one's from cable TV show Yo Gabba Gabba) coming to life and living it up in Las Vegas. Add an infectious music bed by Heavy ("How You Like Me Now") and you've got a must-see TV ad. It's an adult antidote for existentialist angst: obsolescence, symbolized by outmoded playthings in Toy Story.The 2011 Sorento SX, a new top trim line, fares well too. It's hip; a sales hit for Kia. Footprint: nearly mid-size with three-row seating. Reserve the rear for kids or their Gabba toys. Access is best through the right side; the second-row seat flips forward. The middle seat wins the limbo contest; it's too low. Yet, there's room for adults. Up front, the driver and his/her sidesaddle companion get firm leather-covered thrones.
Everyone faces an interior comprised of textured, hard plastic panels. Everything fits but pieces creak, when temps drop into the single digits. Noise level: moderate, with some wind rush due to the panoramic sunroof.
That roof is part of the SX's appeal: lots of goodies such as awkward-to-use voice-activated navigation system, backup camera, upgraded sound system, dual-zone automatic temperature control, and illuminated sill trim. Safety features include stability control, hill assist and side curtain airbags. Traction aids are effective on slush-covered streets. Stopping distances on wintry roads with the 18-inch Kumho Solus tires: very long. Get winter tires. Anti-lock brakes worked well, though.
The North Face?Enlarge Photo
Power comes from a slinky 3.5-liter, 276-hp V-6 with variable valve timing. Its partner: a cooperative six-speed automatic transmission. This setup's EPA numbers: 19 mpg city and 25 highway. I measured 17 overall, probably due to frigid trekking.
Southern Exposure Enlarge Photo
Southern ExposureEnlarge Photo
If you fancy a Vegas getaway, you'll like piloting this rig there. That's because it has nicely weighted responsive steering with good on-center feel. Ride quality: firm with quick snaps. Body roll: modest, as with most crossovers it's not a sports wagon.
Kia assembles the Sorento in the USA. This one's MSRP: $34,000. Plus roof and freight: $36,000.