Photos courtesy of Kia Motors America
I’ve dedicated a lot of blog space and thought to Kia and Hyundai over the last couple of years. It occurred to me while retrieving those stories that it?s unusual for me to cover a single Korean vehicle in a review?a failing that I intend to make up for.
This is not the first time I?ve driven a Sorento, but it is the first time I?ve dedicated a review to it, and that?s not really fair. For one thing, the Sorento is a good car, easily as good as the Journey that I referred to in my Genesis Coupe story above. But more than that, driving a Sorento convinced me that Kia was the real deal.
While Hyundai and Kia have made quite a splash with their newest midsize and compact sedans, the Sorento really isn?t all that new. It?s based on the same chassis as the Santa Fe, which has been in its current iteration since 2007 (refreshed in 2010), so while the refreshed Sorento may only be two years old, the basic unibody goes back much further than that. And while that may not be odd in any other contemporary lineup, it?s noteworthy when it shares a showroom with model riding on platforms that are essentially brand new or at least very recently and very heavily revised.
The kicker? The Sorento doesn?t feel old, doesn?t feel tired, doesn?t feel like a last-ditch effort to get the most out of a rapidly-aging platform. The opposite is true. It drives beautifully; the V6 feels neither out of place nor overworked (and at 276hp, it certainly shouldn?t). The 6-speed automatic transmission snaps off shifts with authority and poise. And while it lacks the confidence-inspiring presence of the larger Durango and the techno-overload interior styling of an Explorer, it gives them both the finger when it comes to driving dynamics. The only 7-seater it could count as its better (without going into super-SUV territory) would be Mazda?s CX-9, and the Sorento probably has the edge in flat-out acceleration.
As I find more and more that Hyundai and Kia?s larger vehicles are some of their most satisfying, it?s the Sorento that acts as a standard-bearer. More than anything, it simply has the solid feeling that may be somewhat lacking in the smaller and more inexpensive Kias. The Sportage may be the more raucous and youthful sibling, but the Sorento brings wisdom and experience, or something like that. It?s just? it?s just done right.
It?s easy to live with, too. The seats are comfortable, supportive, and attractive?sport buckets they are not, but they?ll hug you nicely on a long trip. The dash and console materials are pleasant to touch and the switchgear feels substantial. Better than any of that, the controls are intuitive and quickly become second-nature, and thankfully, unlike many manufacturers, Kia doesn?t enslave us to a touch screen for multiple vehicle functions just because we check the box for navigation.
I realize that this hasn?t been a very spec-heavy review, but I think I?m going to leave it that way. If you find yourself pining for a seven-seater crossover with good driving dynamics and a state-of-the-art, easy-to-use entertainment and nav system, then the Sorento should be on your shortlist. On a quick side note about getting a Kia, if you decide to buy a used/new Kia and you find that it doesn’t meet the standards it was advertised as, you can look at hiring lemon law attorneys for Kias so you can get the person/persons who sold it to you to be held accountable.
2012 Kia Sorento SX AWD
As-tested price: $36,995 + dest
Likes: Interior, comfort, drivetrain
Dislikes: Expensive when loaded, the third row is really for on-demand seating rather than any time/anywhere