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#15

in 2011 Affordable Midsize SUVs

Avg. Price Paid: $14,371 - $23,863
Original MSRP: $21,195 - $34,095
MPG: 21 City / 29 Hwy
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2011 Kia Sorento Performance

This performance review was created when the car was new. Some links may no longer point to an active page.

The previously truck-based Kia Sorento now rides on a car platform, and the change is evident to reviewers. They say the ride is smooth and even enjoyable. Plus, the Sorento’s engines provide plenty of power. There’s even a V6 option, which is hard to find in a compact crossover.

To see how the Sorento performs, check out our Sorento video.

  • "Although our drive was limited to freeway jaunts in a preproduction front-drive V-6 model, the much higher levels of driving refinement and overall utility were pretty apparent. The ride was quiet, the straight-line tracking true, and the comforts suitable for creatures." -- Car and Driver
  • "Nice car. Just gets more enjoyable to drive." -- Consumer Reports
  • "The ride quality is smooth and the cabin provides a quiet, relaxing environment for long-distance travel. The V6 had plenty of power in all circumstances. The steering feel is good for this class, and if the handling doesn't inspire you to seek out twisty two-lane roads, it's certainly competent enough for the daily commute." -- Popular Mechanics
  • "Being a crossover, the 2011 Sorento's handling was nimble and the ride car-like. The four-wheel disc brake system slowed the Sorento easily from highway speeds. The ride was smooth and quiet." -- Boston Globe
  • "Fortunately, the best thing about the 2011Sorento is how it drives. Calm, quiet and composed are the first words that come to mind behind the wheel, an impression that's especially true on the highway." -- Autoblog
  • “The hydraulic power steering (thank you, Kia, for resisting the electric revolution) feels trusty and accurate, and overall handling is just fine for a family-oriented crossover -- uninspiring, but safe and secure.” -- Edmunds
  • "The Sorento is no revelation to drive but few are in the small-crossover segment. It could use a suspension retune and slightly lighter steering at low speeds but it is still a good option for those looking for a small to mid-size crossover." -- Automobile Magazine

Acceleration and Power

Power is a strong point for the Sorento. It comes with a 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder engine that makes 175 horsepower, and the EX is available with a 3.5-liter V6 that makes 276 horsepower. Both engines are mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. Test drivers say the four-cylinder engine is more than adequate, though the V6’s extra power makes it more fun on the highway. However, since the four-cylinder is good enough already, the V6 may not be worth the extra cost and the dip in fuel economy.

The EPA has not yet rated the Sorento, but Kia estimates the FWD models will net 21/29 mpg city/highway with the base engine and 20/26 with the V6. AWD models are estimated at 21/27 with the base and 19/25 with the V6. These figures are outstanding for a seven-passenger SUV.

  • “With all-wheel-drive versions, we found power to be reasonable. The optional 3.5-liter V-6 pumps out 273 hp and 247 lb-ft of torque and moves the Sorento along more briskly. But neither mill will set one's heart ablaze." -- Car and Driver
  • "The base 2.4-liter four is adequate around town and with light loads, but it struggles a bit with extra passengers and cargo. The 3.5-liter V6, on the other hand, is strong and smooth, and its fuel-economy deficit isn't huge; too bad it's only available on the top-of-the-line EX." -- Edmunds
  • “The V-6 has plenty of energy to run with the pack on the interstate and does so without lots of racket, so you can talk, rather than yell, in the cabin." -- Chicago Tribune
  • "The 3.5-liter V-6 is very energetic and sounds good as it races toward its 6750-rpm redline. Hammer it, and the needle swings to about 6300 rpm before the six-speed automatic makes a crisp upshift." -- Automobile Magazine
  • "The inline-four's performance was exceptional. It was smooth, and merges onto highways were uneventful. We never felt the need for more power." -- Boston Globe
  • “I'm not sure when Kia began making terrific engines, but the 276-hp, 3.5-liter V-6 is stellar. Teamed to a six-speed automatic transmission, it's more than capable." -- Cars.com
  • "I drove several Sorento samples with different configurations, and my favorite was the V6 with all-wheel drive, no big surprise there. But the I4 was perfectly adequate, able to keep up on the highway, and nice and light on city streets." -- About.com

Handling and Braking

Reviewers praise the redesigned Sorento’s smooth ride and excellent brakes. One or two say the ride can be bumpy at times, but they’re in the minority.

  • "The Sorento has hydraulic-assist power steering that provides true, precise and communicative steering control -- a unique quantity in the crossover segment." -- Edmunds
  • "It should be noted, too, that both Sorentos, equipped with the larger 235/60R18 footwear (LXs get 235/65R17s), exhibited best-in-class braking, at 119 feet in the four and 121 feet in the V-6. Only the CX-7 manages to match them at 119 feet." -- Motor Trend
  • "Ride quality is pretty good on smooth pavement, but it falls apart once the Sorento encounters a stretch of Michigan's winter-ravaged blacktop. The suspension is tuned for smooth-road comfort but doesn't have the rebound action to swallow bad pavement without unduly upsetting the vehicle." -- Automobile Magazine
  • "The suspension, however, needs a few tweaks. Every time the 18-inch radials roll over tar marks, you hear the slap of the steel belt as well as feel a ripple in the seat of the pants and steering wheel." -- Chicago Tribune
  • "With the V6 engine, the Sorento has a substantial, heavy luxury-car feel in the steering. As with almost any vehicle with a front-wheel-drive bias, it understeers, which means that its tendency is to plow forward in a straight line. But that also delivers straight-line stability on the highway, even in nasty rain-soaked conditions." -- Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
  • “With independent MacPherson struts, springs and stabilizer bar in front and a multi-link setup with stabilizer bar in the rear, the Sorento was the picture of composure." -- Left Lane News

All-Wheel Drive

A full-time all-wheel drive system is optional. It adds about $1,700 on to the Sorento’s base price. It’s different from other AWD systems because it comes with a lockable center differential, which means you can slog through rough terrain and even deep snow with the Sorento. Reviewers confirm that the system is quite capable.

  • "The all-wheel drive performed extremely well on my unplowed street, and there was little to no wheelspin, even when I practiced -- safely -- avoidance maneuvers. I engaged the locking differential on a particularly slush-covered road, and the Sorento plowed through the muck confidently." -- Cars.com
  • “While it won't make mountains into mole hills quite like the rather capable outgoing model, available hill descent control should help out with light trail capability." -- Left Lane News
  • “Push a button on the instrument panel and you can lock AWD into ‘low’ mode for deep snow, sandy beaches or going farther off-road than the shoulder to reach the mailbox. With off-roading in mind, hill-start control is standard so the vehicle doesn't slip when getting going on an incline." -- Chicago Tribune

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