- Solid towing capability
- Available four-wheel drive
- Choice of two powerful V-6 engines
- Good crash ratings
- Only seats five
- Poor fuel economy
- Jiggly ride on rough surfaces
- Trucklike handling
A price that’s much less than the competition is the strongest appeal of the 2009 Kia Sorento, which boasts good towing capacity and all-weather traction but doesn’t stack up to modern crossovers in other ways.
TheCarConnection.com's editors read the latest reviews on the new 2009 Kia Sorento to write this comprehensive review. The car experts at TheCarConnection.com also drove the 2009 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.
With the realization that most consumers want SUVs for cargo capacity and visibility, not off-road capability, automakers have turned to car-based crossovers to satisfy the SUV hunger while improving fuel economy. Kia, however, hasn’t jumped on to the crossover bandwagon yet and continues with the truck-based Sorento for 2009.
The 2009 Kia Sorento features two engine choices: a 242-horsepower 3.3-liter V-6 in the base vehicle and a 262-horsepower 3.8-liter V-6 in the EX model. Both are matched with a five-speed automatic. The smaller V-6 allows a 3,500-pound towing capacity, while the addition 20 horsepower in the larger engine bumps it to 5,000 pounds. Either engine is pleasant under power, but both deliver subpar fuel economy for the class: 15/20 mpg (city/highway) with the larger engine and 16/22 mpg with the smaller V-6.
The 2009 Kia Sorento can be equipped as rear- or four-wheel drive with either engine, but the type of four-wheel-drive system depends on the trim level. The part-time system is available only with the smaller engine, and the Torque-on-Demand system that operates at all times has to be mated to the larger V-6 in an EX trim. Both are available with a low range, but that is more likely for consumers who tow rather than true off-roaders, as neither trim level is available with underbody protection needed for hardcore trail riding.
The Sorento's on-highway ride is comfortable—albeit a little jittery on rough city streets—but when it comes time to turn, it begins to show its warts. Steering can be vague on base versions, and it is not the kind of vehicle that enjoys high-speed maneuvers and rapid changes of direction.
The seats can accommodate two adults and a trio of kids quite comfortably, but three adults across in back is rather tight. There is no third-row seating option. The interior materials are good and assembled well, but the interior won’t win any design awards.
The Sorento earns five-star crash ratings from the federal government for front and side impacts, and all Sorentos come standard with dual front and curtain airbags; four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes; stability and traction control; tire-pressure monitors; and active headrests.
Leather trim and a sunroof are offered, but the Sorento is clearly not a luxury vehicle, and many cutting-edge features—Bluetooth, a navigation system, satellite radio, and a rear-seat DVD entertainment system—are not available. 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; roof rails; and a keyless entry system are all on the standard features list, which means you’ll get a lot for the money.
2009 Kia Sorento
The 2009 Kia Sorento doesn’t really stand out in the crowded field of SUVs.
With a shape that’s somewhat rugged looking but also rounded and soft to the eyes, the 2009 Kia Sorento isn’t likely to be very polarizing. And its appearance seems to have become outdated sooner than the competition. The interior is one of the least styled of any vehicles in its class—more useful than it is handsome.
The basic shape is rather plain to TheCarConnection.com’s editors, and it looks fairly thick from some angles
A number of reviewers try to compare the Sorento’s styling to that of other utility vehicles—an indication that its styling might be a bit derivative. Automobile comments on the 2009 Kia Sorento's similarity to the Jeep Grand Cherokee, oddly enough, saying it shares the same proportions as the Chrysler-built SUV. According to Cars.com, the 2009 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.”
Comments from other reviewers are positive as well. Car and Driver likes the Sorento’s "stylish bobbed tail," and Jalopnik admires its “stunning curves”—ironically, it turns out. Buyers who choose to upgrade to the 2009 Kia Sorento's EX trim will get their vehicle outfitted with fog lights and chrome door handles.
Inside the Sorento, most reviewers consider the design simple and unremarkable, if a bit derivative. Automobile Magazine 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 notes the "new center fascia, gauge cluster, and floor console as well as new, upscale wood and metal trim materials" and describes 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." TheCarConnection.com editors agree with the refined appearance, from a distance, but up close the materials don’t fare as well.
2009 Kia Sorento
The 2009 Kia Sorento is just adequate on the road, but its hardier underpinnings make it a decent performer off-road or when towing.
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."
2009 Kia Sorento
Comfort & Quality
The 2009 Kia Sorento has class-competitive space inside, and materials are perhaps better than expected for the price tag, but ride comfort could be a deal-breaker.
TheCarConnection.com notes generally positive comments on 2009 Kia Sorento's interior materials, but the use and arrangement of interior space are less than effective.
The seats offer a reasonable level of comfort in the 2009 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 comments that the "Sorento's rear seats provide good headroom and legroom"—though they add that in the nominally five-passenger vehicle, "if those passengers are adults, four would be a more comfortable fit."
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."
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. 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."
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."
Ride quality could also be an issue to some. 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 contends 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."
2009 Kia Sorento
The 2009 Kia Sorento's safety features and scores for frontal impact are impressive, but side impact protection is a concern.
The 2009 Kia Sorento comes with a wide range of standard safety features, some of which are optional on other vehicles in its price range. Crash-test results are generally good, too, and most sources give the 2009 Kia Sorento excellent marks for safety.
TheCarConnection.com notes mixed reviews in this area, however. While most sources report that the Kia Sorento receives 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 are "disappointing." The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) also states that side impact results are less than stellar, giving the Kia Sorento a rating of "poor" in this area.
Beyond these issues, the list of the 2009 Kia Sorento's standard safety equipment is impressive: Cars.com says these include a full complement of airbags (including 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 is often an issue in vehicles of this type, but it doesn’t seem to be a problem on the Kia Sorento; 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."
2009 Kia Sorento
The 2009 Kia Sorento offers an excellent value, but some advanced options are notably absent.
The 2009 Kia Sorento offers some great value in terms of features for the price, but many features that consumers come to expect are unavailable.
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 2009 Kia Sorento, the more features are available. Kelley Blue Book reports that optional equipment on the Sorento Kia "include[s] 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."
Two features that buyers have come to expect—even in this price range—aren’t even available on the 2009 Kia Sorento. A navigation system isn’t offered, nor is an integrated Bluetooth hands-free calling interface.