Auto Review: A drive in Sorento

By Bill Heald - ReminderNews
Featured Article - posted Thu., Jan. 10, 2013
- Contributed Photo

Last week I talked about a very well-known SUV (the Jeep Wrangler) that has, in many ways, kept its original persona over time to stay a rugged workhorse while so many SUVs have evolved to have more car-like manners. Kia’s midsized Sorento SUV is a fitting counterpoint to the Wrangler approach, for it has changed dramatically in order to compete with other SUVs in the area of on-road comfort, as opposed to off-road performance.

When the Sorento arrived in the early 2000s, it featured rugged body-on-frame construction and was geared more towards utility than overall refinement. Now, years of development have resulted in replacing the ladder frame with unibody construction, and a steady diet of features make it a polished, all-weather family-hauler. Available with either front-wheel or all-wheel drive, the Sorento is still capable in terms of light off-road work, but is geared much more towards providing comfortable passenger accommodations and solid on-road manners.

Now called a Crossover Utility Vehicle (CUV), the Sorento rides on a 106.3-inch wheelbase, and, in terms of exterior size, is a bit larger than most compact SUVs. As a result, it has a lot of room and either two- or three-row seating. Three engines are available, including two 2.4-liter Inline Fours (with either 175 or 191 horsepower) and a potent 3.5-liter V6 with 276 horsepower. All drivetrains get a six-speed Sportmatic Automatic transmission and, as mentioned, all-wheel drive is an option across the board.

We sampled an SX-FWD with the V6, and this proved to be quite quick, with 60 mph arriving in just under 8 seconds. With the V6’s muscular, low RPM torque, the front wheels occasionally displayed some wheelspin until the Traction Control would quell things down a bit, so if you want the V6, I would definitely go for the all-wheel drive version (always a good idea in this part of the country). The drivetrain is otherwise smooth and refined, with balanced handling and a well-controlled ride over a variety of road surfaces. Steering feedback was pretty much on par with the rest of the Crossover class of SUVs, meaning light in effort but still reasonably responsive.

The interior of the Sorento is both roomy and versatile, and the optional Premium Package 3 included a panoramic sunroof that makes a spacious interior seem even more commodious. The driver’s instrument cluster is more logical and concise than a lot of the competition, with the only control foible being a rear windshield wiper switch that’s in a rather odd location. Otherwise, the first two rows of seating offer up good support and comfort, with the third row on our SX being a bit tough to get to (you tumble the second row seats for access), but once back there, kids will be comfortable and most adults will be able to tolerate it fine for short distances.

The 2013 Kia Sorento SX FWD is EPA rated 20 MPG city/26 highway and has a base price of $31,700. With options, our sticker came to $35,875.

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