2011 Kia Sorento Review | Toronto Star

2011 Kia Sorento SUV Test Drive
By Jil McIntosh, Toronto Star – April 2011
New Sorento feels more like a car than a crossover.
When many companies say a vehicle is “all-new,” they seldom mean truly drastic changes. Kia’s accurate with its 2011 Sorento, though: just about the only thing that’s carried over is the name.
The previous Sorento ? a 2009 model, as there was no 2010 ? was body-on-frame, the same heavier-duty configuration used in pickup trucks.
This time around, Sorento uses unibody construction, as is found in lighter-duty SUVs and crossovers. It shares its basic platform and V6 engine with Hyundai’s redesigned Santa Fe. While the last-generation Sorento came from Korea, the 2011 is the first Kia built in North America, at a new plant in Georgia.
With far more weight to pull around, the old Sorento offered two V6 engines. Having shed a couple of hundred kilograms, the new model comes with a 2.4 L four-cylinder (which can be ordered with a manual gearbox) or, as with my tester, a 3.5 L V6 that’s mated to a six-speed automatic transmission.
Both engines come in front- or all-wheel-drive. The four-cylinder models start at $23,995 and run to $31,695; the V6 starts at $29,095 and goes up to my top-end tester, the EX Luxury, which is $37,995. Mine was further packaged with an optional third row of seats, bringing it to $39,195.
Keep the $1,200 for the additional seats in your pocket. The chairs are ridiculously tiny, it’s a chore to put them up and down, and when they’re up, the cargo space measures a paltry 25 cm. Folding the third row gives you 104 cm of length, while dropping the second-row seats gives you 185 cm, and it’s almost completely flat.
At 276 horsepower, the V6 provides ample power, although when it goes into its fuel-saving “eco” mode, which drops the engine r.p.m., there’s often an odd noise that sounds almost like buffeting.
The all-wheel system runs primarily in front-wheel until it senses that extra traction is required; if necessary, it can be locked into all-wheel at low speeds.
Naturally, the major change in its body construction substantially cuts down on its towing capacity. Where the old model could pull 2,268 kg (5,000 lbs), you’re now restricted to 1,588 kg (3,500 lbs). Heavy-duty towing jobs are now left to Kia’s body-on-frame Borrego.
On the up side, the former trucky-tough ride is now smoother and more pliable. A really rough road will bounce it around, though, with corresponding suspension noise but nary an interior rattle. The steering is very crisp and responsive, and feels more like a car than a crossover. It’s by far one of the nicer drivers in the segment.
Sorento includes several higher-end items on the base model, including satellite radio, Bluetooth, rear-parking sensors, heated seats and iPod cable, along with important safety items such as active front head restraints (which help reduce whiplash), electronic stability control and six airbags.
The next-step-up EX trim level adds leather upholstery, power driver’s seat, backup camera and automatic climate control, while my EX-Luxury tester topped it off with a two-pane panoramic sunroof, premium stereo and navigation system.
The seats are big and cushy, and legroom is decent; it’s quite a comfortable machine. But for all that, the cabin is made up of an awful lot of plain, hard plastic, and despite all the extra stuff in my vehicle, it never felt like I was piloting something that cost just under 40 grand. Appearance-wise, most competitors leave this interior in their dust.
I’d be inclined toward the five-passenger LX-V6, which offers a nice array of features, good cargo space, a tag of $29,095 and more grunt than the four-cylinder (it’s rated at 175 horsepower) with only marginally more fuel consumption.
As with all Kia (and Hyundai) models, the warranty is pretty spiffy: 5 years or 100,000 km coverage on just about every component.
All in all, this is a nice little machine, with its major flaw being that, in the higher levels, it doesn’t look like it’s worth what it costs.
If performance is more important than presentation, put this in the top tier when you’re in the market for a crossover.
Read article: