Auto Review: Sorento: A nice place to be

By Bill Heald - ReminderNews
Feature Article - posted Thu., Dec. 8, 2011
Contributed
- Contributed Photo

Automobile names are always entertaining, in that a lot tends to go into their selection before they literally become cast in metal (or plastic) and placed on a new vehicle. And while there have been some misses out there, many selections have been perfect for the auto in question and seem to fit like a glove. Could a Mustang really be called anything but a Mustang? Silverado is a great name for pickup truck, too, for it conjures up images of wide-open spaces and horse trailers.

So when Kia named one of its SUVs the Sorento, I thought it was an unusual (and interesting) choice. Either a coastal town in Italy (with an additional “r”) or smaller town in Illinois, the vehicle with this name started life as a rugged, body-on-frame SUV that has evolved into a more car-like unibody design. It is also now built in Kia’s state-of-the-art factory in Georgia, and sort of lies between compact and midsized on the interior volume scale. Regardless of how you classify it, the Sorento is roomy, polished and versatile, and with available all-wheel drive, makes a lot of sense as a year-round family wagon.

The Sorento gives you the choice of two engines and two drivetrains; the engines being a 2.4-liter Inline Four with 175 horsepower and a 3.5-liter V6 276 horsepower. Both mills distribute their might through six-speed automatic transmissions with a Sportmatic manual shifting mode, and you can go with either front-wheel or all-wheel drive. Our SX test unit had the V6 and all-wheel drive, and it was more than able to launch the Sorento onto the highway with great dispatch. The all-wheel drive system works automatically to give the rear wheels traction when needed, and there’s also a lock button for the center differential for when things get unusually slippery or muck-laden.

While there can be some suspension noise over rough surfaces, the ride is smooth and well-controlled, with acceptable steering feedback. Despite a long 106.3-inch wheelbase, maneuverability is excellent, with a tight 35.7-foot turning radius.

Even though this is a “compact” SUV, the SX model comes with a third-row 50/50 folding seat in addition to the 60/40 second row. It’s tight (and access is not for the mobility-challenged), but adults can occupy the rear-most seat. The second row is roomy and comfortable, and with the third-row seats deployed there’s little cargo space, but with all rows folded flat you have 72.5 cubic feet of usable volume. Displays and controls are logical and contemporary (with bright red graphics) with the exception of oddly-place rear windshield wiper switches. Fit and finish are excellent, with great attention to detail.

With winter knocking at the door and a roomy, versatile vehicle always coming in mighty handy, the Sorento is definitely worth serious consideration. The 2012 Kia Sorento SX AWD is EPA-rated 18 mpg city/24 highway and has a base price of $34,850. With options including a panoramic sunroof, our MSRP came to $37,150. www.kiausa.com

 


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