2008 Kia Sorento Review

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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
June 14, 2008

The 2008 Kia Sorento has good towing capacity and all-weather handling, but it lacks the features, the performance and the carlike characteristics of more modern SUVs and crossovers.

TheCarConnection.com's editors read the latest reviews on the new 2008 Kia Sorento to write this comprehensive review. The car experts at TheCarConnection.com also drove the 2008 Kia Sorento to be able to deliver a definitive opinion on the car, to compare it with other cars in the class, and to help you make the right shopping decision.

While many automakers have turned their mid-size, truck-based SUVs into car-based crossover vehicles, the 2008 Kia Sorento remains part of the old school--at least for one more year.

Restyled in 2007, the 2008 Sorento adds a new 3.3-liter V-6 as the engine in the base Sorento LX; it makes 242 horsepower and 228 pound-feet of torque, and comes with a five-speed automatic. So equipped, the Sorento is capable of towing 3,500 pounds. 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 5,000-pound towing capacity. Neither engine is unhappy on the go, but they produce strictly average performance--below average, if you count fuel economy of 15/20 mpg with the larger engine and 16/22 mpg with the smaller V-6.

Both rear- and four-wheel-drive versions of the 2008 Kia Sorento are offered. There are two different four-wheel-drive systems: a part-time system with a low range, and a Torque-On-Demand system that operates all the time, also offering a low range. The latter is available only on some EX models. The Kia Sorento is a sport-utility vehicle with real towing capacity, though off-roading is more of a stretch since it doesn't offer the kind of underbody protection needed for driving trails.

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The Sorento's highway ride is fine, but its steering can be vague on base versions. It's not the kind of vehicle that enjoys high-speed maneuvers and rapid changes of direction, either. Inside, the seats are roomy enough for two adults and a trio of kids, but three adults across in back is rather tight. There is no third-row seating option. The interior materials are fine and assembled well, but it's not the most handsome cabin on the market.

All Sorentos come standard with dual front and curtain airbags; four-wheel disc brakes with anti-lock, stability, and traction control; tire pressure monitors; and active headrests. The Sorento earns five-star crash ratings from the federal government for front and side impacts.

Standard features include air conditioning; power windows/door locks/heated mirrors; cruise control; a 10-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system; an eight-way adjustable driver's seat; 60/40 split flip-and-fold rear seats; roof rails; and a keyless entry system. Leather trim and a sunroof are offered, but many cutting-edge features--Bluetooth, a navigation system, satellite radio, and a rear-seat DVD entertainment system--are not.

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2008 Kia Sorento

Styling

The 2008 Kia Sorento has decent if dated styling.

The 2008 Kia Sorento has a pleasantly rounded shape, but it’s grown old rather quickly, and its interior is more useful than it is handsome.

According to Cars.com, the 2008 Kia Sorento bears a strong family resemblance to its little brother, the Sportage, sharing that vehicle's "multi-slat grille, narrow air dam and larger headlights with orange borders,” while Car and Driver likes its "stylish bobbed tail." Automobile comments on the 2008 Kia Sorento's similarity to the Jeep Grand Cherokee, oddly enough, saying it shares the same proportions as the Chrysler-built SUV. The basic shape is rather plain to TheCarConnection.com’s editors, and looks fairly thick from some angles, but Jalopnik admires its “stunning curves”—ironically, it turns out. Buyers who choose to upgrade to the 2008 Kia Sorento's EX trim will get their vehicle outfitted with fog lights and chrome door handles.

Inside the Sorento, Automobile comments that the "interior accommodations are also similar" to those of the Jeep Grand Cherokee. The interior has been upgraded since the Sorento was introduced in 2003, and Motor Trend noted the "new center fascia, gauge cluster, and floor console as well as new, upscale wood and metal trim materials" and described the interior as "refined." Edmunds praises the "upscale ambiance to this modestly priced SUV" and says that "the ergonomics are sound," though they note that the "styling of the interior has begun to look dated."

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2008 Kia Sorento

Performance

The 2008 Kia Sorento is an adequate performer on-road, and has a truck frame and four-wheel drive for moderate off-roading.

For the price, the 2008 Kia Sorento offers substantial power and excellent off-road capability.

Kelley Blue Book says that the 2008 Kia Sorento "retains the rugged body-on-frame construction preferred by off-road enthusiasts and those who need to tow heavier trailers." Four-wheel drive is an option as well, giving it moderate off-roading prowess.

For 2008, the Sorento adds a new 3.3-liter V-6 as the engine in the base Sorento LX, Edmunds reports; it makes 242 hp and 228 pound-feet of torque, and 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 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 performance--below average, if you count fuel economy of 15/20 mpg with the larger engine and 16/22 mpg with the smaller V-6, according to the government’s FuelEconomy.gov Web site.

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 found generally positive comments regarding the transmission, which ConsumerGuide reports as "generally smooth," noting, however, that "full-throttle downshifts can be abrupt."

The Kia Sorento’s suspension leaves a bit to be desired on rough roads. Edmunds says that the "ride can get bouncy over broken pavement," a finding also reported by ConsumerGuide, which says that while "generally comfortable and composed," the Sorento can be "stiff and jiggly over modest road imperfections...[while] larger bumps and sharp-edge ruts can be jolting [and ] large humps and dips trigger hobby-horse pitching." This may be due to what Kelley Blue Book describes as the Kia Sorento's "somewhat soft suspension" that also "displays more front-end dive and rear squat...during harder acceleration and braking." Steering is satisfactory, however, according to ConsumerGuide: "Handling is on par with most other midsize truck-type SUVs. Sorento corners with noticeable body lean and modest tire grip."

As for braking, reviews are mixed. Edmunds reports that the Sorento suffers from "mediocre braking performance in demanding situations." ConsumerGuide, on the other hand, says "the brakes provide good stopping control."

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2008 Kia Sorento

Comfort & Quality

The 2008 Kia Sorento has ample passenger room, but cargo space is smaller than usual.

TheCarConnection.com notes generally positive comments on 2008 Kia Sorento's interior materials, but use and arrangement of interior space are less than effective.

The seats offer a reasonable level of comfort in the 2008 Kia Sorento: Edmunds says that "the seats are comfortable and the rear bench is wide enough for three adults, though knee and toe room may be tight for taller folks." Car and Driver notes that the vehicle, in which the rear seats fold down in a 40/60 split, has no third-row seating. Kelley Blue Book says that the "Sorento's rear seats provide good headroom and legroom"--though they also say that in the nominally five-passenger vehicle, "if those passengers are adults, four would be a more comfortable fit."

However, at less than 32 cubic feet, the Kia Sorento's storage capacity is limited; one problem with the Sorento's use of interior space has to do with its exterior styling. Car and Driver points out that its "stylish bobbed tail limits cargo capacity," which could put a damper on extended off-road camping excursions. With the rear seats folded flat, reports Edmunds, "the Sorento can hold approximately 66 cubic feet of cargo, less than most of its competitors." According to ConsumerGuide, however, "interior cubbies and storage compartments abound."

Regarding the fit and finish of the Sorento Kia, ConsumerGuide describes the materials and assembly as "a notch above similarly priced domestic-brand rivals." Kelley Blue Book says that the Kia Sorento's "interior quality is commendably good, with substantial plastic components, rich textures and plush surfaces." Edmunds states that the "quality materials" give the interior an "upscale ambiance." Cars.com points out that "amenities increase with each trim level, topping out with the EX Luxury Package," which features genuine leather seats as well as "front active headrests and a new rear seatback lever for easier reclining adjustment," according to Motor Trend.

When it comes to "silent running," the Kia Sorento isn't the greatest. ConsumerGuide reports that the larger engine puts out more decibels than most rival models, while "wind noise and coarse-surface tire thrum intrude but aren't irksome."

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2008 Kia Sorento

Safety

The 2008 Kia Sorento's safety features are impressive, but side impact protection is a concern.

Most sources give the 2008 Kia Sorento excellent marks for safety; in addition, the Kia Sorento offers a number of standard supplemental safety devices.

TheCarConnection.com has noted some mixed reviews in this area, however. While most sources report that the Sorento Kia received a five-star rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for frontal impacts, Edmunds contends that when it comes to side impacts, occupants of the Kia Sorento would not fare so well; results of these tests were "disappointing." The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) also reports that side impact results were less than stellar, giving the Sorento Kia a rating of "poor" in this area.

Beyond these issues, the list of the 2008 Kia Sorento's standard safety equipment is impressive: Cars.com says these include a full complement of airbags (including ones for the front passengers' knees), electronic stability and traction control, an "energy-absorbing steering column," and rear child door locks, among other features. Kelley Blue Book reports that the "full-length side-curtain airbags and electronic stability control and traction control" are all standard equipment on the Kia Sorento.

Visibility does not seem to be a problem on the Kia Sorrento; TheCarConnection.com could not find a single complaint in this area. Canadian Auto Press says it provides a "commanding view of the road" and "excellent visibility from all angles."

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2008 Kia Sorento

Features

The 2008 Kia Sorento offers an excellent value but lacks some advanced options.

In contrast to last year's "bare bones" model, the 2008 Kia Sorento offers some great value in terms of features, but many cutting-edge features are unavailable.

ConsumerGuide reports standard features for the base Sorento include "air conditioning, tilt steering wheel, cloth upholstery, front bucket seats w/lumbar adjustment, center console, split folding rear seat, heated power mirrors, power windows, power door locks, AM/FM/CD/MP3 player, tachometer, variable-intermittent wipers w/deicer, illuminated visor mirrors, rear defogger, [and] intermittent rear wiper/washer."

According to Kelley Blue Book, notable standard features at the LX trim level of the Kia Sorento include "four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes (ABS)...illuminated entry, remote keyless entry, auto-off headlamps, electronic stability and traction control, dual heated power mirrors, power windows, power locks...fuel tank skid plate, cruise control...[and] four 12-volt outlets."

As with most cars reviewed by TheCarConnection.com, the more you are willing to pay for your 2008 Kia Sorento, the more features are available. Kelley Blue Book reports that optional equipment on the Sorento Kia "include Torque-On-Demand full-time four-wheel drive, fog lights, remote start and a rear spoiler" and that a la carte "options and accessories include a power moonroof (EX), trailer hitch and side step bars." Edmunds reports that most optional features are bundled into two packages: "The LX Sport package adds 17-inch alloy wheels, foglights, side step bars, the leather-wrapped wheel and shift knob and specialized black cloth trim," with black leather seating as an additional upgrade. They further report that the Kia Sorento's "EX Luxury package adds special wheels, a sunroof, dual-zone automatic climate control, leather seating, heated front seats and a six-disc CD changer."

Kia does not offer Bluetooth or a navigation system on the Sorento.

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