KBB Editors' Overview
By KBB.com Editors - Updated Date: 7/8/2011
Completely redesigned following a one-model-year hiatus, the 2011 Kia Sorento reflects a wholesale transition that spans everything from its look and feel to its place of origin. Swapping body-on-frame for more car-like unitized construction and available in base/LX/EX/SX trims, the new Sorento boasts a smarter appearance, enhanced creature comforts for up to seven, upgraded powertrains and improved dynamics. Related by architecture to its Hyundai Santa Fe cousin, this "compact-plus" front-drive/all-wheel drive crossover is the first Kia to be made in America at the firm's new facility in West Point, Georgia. The automaker sees four-cylinder Sorento variants facing off against rivals like Chevrolet Equinox, Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 with V6-powered models taking on foes like the Ford Edge, Mazda CX-7, Nissan Murano and Toyota Highlander.
You'll Like This Car If...
Should words like practical, comfortable, versatile and economical be the first to come to mind when you start scoping out a mid-size crossover, the 2011 Kia Sorento definitely merits a test drive.
You May Not Like This Car If...
Those expecting to spend more time off pavement than on will be better served by a more traditional body-on-frame SUV like the Nissan Xterra or Toyota 4Runner. Anyone planning to tow more than a 3,500-pound trailer should consider a Toyota Highlander V6.
What's Significant About This Car?
A comprehensive ground-up remake moves this bigger, better and decidedly more capable 2011 Kia Sorento into the most desirable part of an increasingly popular market segment.
Well-mannered, well-balanced, easy to maneuver and easy to live with, the 2011 Kia Sorento is truly a driver-friendly travelmate. Although the 2.4-liter four has sufficient power to handle all light-to-medium duty work, it's decidedly less stressed when fitted to the front-drive models. The 3.5-liter V6 adds considerably more enthusiasm in either configuration without exacting too much of a fuel-economy hit and ups the Sorento's max-tow rating from 1,650 to 3,500 pounds. Wider track dimensions, a nicely tuned, fully independent suspension and appropriately scaled wheel/tire fitments give this Kia crossover a confident feel and help curtail body roll in corners while its low-key stability control allows for some measure of reasonably spirited driving. However, even modestly rough road surfaces tend to produce more noise and impact harshness than you'd expect in the Sorento's otherwise notably well-isolated cabin. Although lacking a low-range transfer case, the Sorento's torque-on-demand all-wheel drive system does include a lockable center differential.
UVO infotainment system
Introduced on the 2011 Sorento, Kia's answer to Ford's SYNC also is built around Microsoft's Windows Embedded Automotive software and offers a full spectrum of user-friendly features, expanded voice recognition capability and is easy to update.
The 2011 Kia Sorento is protected by the automaker's outstanding five-year/60,000 mile bumper-to-bumper coverage that includes 24-hour roadside assistance as well as a 10-year/100,000-mile limited powertrain warranty.
Impressively finished and tastefully turned out, the 2011 Kia Sorento cabin gains 15 percent more volume and a new – albeit kid-scaled – third-row seat that's standard in V6 models and optional in all but the "base" four. Numerous soft-touch surfaces effectively counterpoint hard plastic elements, while highly legible instrumentation, logical control layouts and a bounty of standard comfort/convenience touches add appeal, whether teamed with cloth or optional leather upholstery. All iterations match decently supportive front buckets with a generously proportioned 60/40 split/folding second-row bench. The Sorento's modest 9.1 cubic feet of stow space when rigged for seven rises to 37.0 cubic feet with the third row folded and maxes out at 72.5 cubic feet.
Integrating cues from its 2007 KND-4 Concept vehicle with the latest elements of Kia production design, the Sorento's bodywork melds clean, aerodynamic lines with suitably modern detailing in the grille and headlamp/taillamp treatments. Longer, lower and wider than the 2009 model it replaces, the 2011 Sorento rides on a marginally shorter wheelbase but boasts over 1.5-inches of additional front/rear track. Nicely flared fender arches are filled with 17-inch aluminum wheels wrapped in 235/65 all-season tires on base and LX models, while the EX and SX models get 235/60 rubber on 18-inch satin-finish and polished alloys. The top-line Sorento SX adds a bit more brightwork, body-color bumpers and LED taillights.
Notable Standard Equipment
Beyond a 175-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, five-passenger base and LX Sorento models feature a full range of power assists, air conditioning, multifunction/tilt/telescoping steering wheel, trip computer, cruise control, AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system with Sirius Satellite Radio, USB/AUX ports and Bluetooth hands-free connectivity. The LX V6 adds rear air conditioning and a third-row seat while the EX trim nets dual-zone climate control, Kia's UVO infotainment system, power driver's seat, upgraded interior trim, a backup camera, fog lamps, automatic headlight control and a rear spoiler. Sitting atop the Sorento range, the SX boasts full-leather seating, a premium Infinity sound system, navigation with real-time traffic and more.
Notable Optional Equipment
The modest Sorento LX option roster includes a Convenience Package (roof rails, fog lamps, heated front seats, Backup Warning System) and folding third-row bench. The LX V6 can be upgraded with the same Convenience Package as the four-cylinder and EX buyers can add a Premium Package (leather, heated front seats, backup camera) and/or a Limited Package (Navigation with real-time traffic, 18-inch chrome-finish wheels, and special interior trim/mood lighting) as well as a rear-seat DVD entertainment system [V6 only]. A panoramic sunroof is the sole SX option.
Under the Hood
The 2011 Kia Sorento offers two gasoline engines. Its port-injected 2.4-liter four makes 175 horsepower and 169 pound-feet of torque while the 3.5-liter V6 turns out a far more energetic 276 horses and 248 pound-feet of torque. Save for the "base" front-drive Sorento, all other versions feature a new Kia-designed six-speed "Sportmatic" automatic transmission. Offsetting the four's lower entry price point, the more capable and enthusiastic V6 equals its 20-mpg city rating and sacrifices but one mpg on the highway when motive force only goes to the front wheels. Interestingly enough, a four-cylinder/front-drive Sorento LX/EX actually nets better EPA figures in both categories with the new automatic than a base model does with its six-speed manual.
2.4-liter in-line four cylinder
175 horsepower @ 6000 rpm
169 lb.-ft. of torque @ 3750 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 20/27 mpg (FWD 6-sp manual), 21/29 mpg (FWD 6-sp automatic), 21/27 mpg (AWD 6-sp automatic)
276 horsepower @ 6300 rpm
248 lb.-ft. of torque @ 5000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 20/26 mpg (FWD 6-sp automatic), 18/24 mpg (AWD 6-sp automatic)
Pricing on the 2011 Kia Sorento lineup reflects the automaker's high-value philosophy, with the special-order "base" model opening at a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of just under $21,000. A four-cylinder Sorento LX in either front- or all-wheel drive can be had for under $25,000 while $26,000-$30,000 can slide you into an LX V6 or an EX model. The primo Sorento SX commands $33,000-$34,500, depending on drivetrain configuration. Although Kia residual values continue to increase, segment leaders like the Chevrolet Equinox, Honda CR-V, and Toyota RAV4 still hold meaningful advantages in that critical arena. However, the built-in-America Sorento's most-appealing combination of a lower entry price and outstanding warranty are factors that have led more and more people to seriously consider trading off some long-term cash-out potential in return for a very rewarding ownership period. Its overall merits led Kelley Blue Book to name the Kia Sorento one of our "Top 10 Family Cars of 2011."