The 2009 Kia Sorento offers good off-road and towing performance for the money; however, its on-road performance is unremarkable—especially when compared to the newer crossover utility vehicle designs.
The Sorento "retains the rugged body-on-frame construction preferred by off-road enthusiasts and those who need to tow heavier trailers." says Kelley Blue Book. Four-wheel drive is an option as well, giving it moderate off-roading prowess.
Kia added a new 3.3-liter V-6 in 2008 as the engine in the base Sorento LX, Edmunds reports; it makes 242 hp and 228 pound-feet of torque, and it comes with a five-speed automatic. So equipped, the Sorento is capable of towing 3,500 pounds. Cars.com says a larger 3.8-liter V-6 remains the standard engine on the EX models. It's also teamed to a five-speed automatic, and it gives the Sorento a 5,000-pound towing capacity.
ConsumerGuide did not have the opportunity to test the smaller engines, but they report that the 3.8-liter engine "is strong from a stop and has adequate passing power."
Neither engine is unhappy on the go, but they produce strictly average—or below average—performance, especially if you count the unimpressive EPA fuel economy figures of 15/20 mpg (city/highway) with the larger engine and 16/22 mpg with the smaller V-6.
Cars.com reports that the five-speed manual transmission has been "discontinued," leaving the "five-speed automatic as the sole transmission," which "offers a sequential-shifting mode." TheCarConnection.com finds generally positive comments regarding the transmission, which ConsumerGuide considers "generally smooth," noting, however, that "full-throttle downshifts can be abrupt."
“Handling is on par with most other midsize truck-type SUVs,” reports Consumer Guide. “Sorento corners with noticeable body lean and modest tire grip." As for braking, reviews are mixed. Edmunds remarks that the Sorento suffers from "mediocre braking performance in demanding situations." ConsumerGuide, on the other hand, says "the brakes provide good stopping control."