Kia, Road Test Reviews, Vehicles

2011 Kia Sorento LX V-6 – Road Test

If you’ve been reading any of my reviews over the past few months, you might remember that my wife and I are in the middle of a large conundrum: we need a new car to replace her Mazda5, but we have no idea what we want to get. Not only is the type of vehicle the problem (car, coupe, CUV/SUV), but so is our budget! We have no idea what we want or how much we want to spend!

In the recent past we’ve gone through the Ford Fusion, Genesis Coupe, Ford Flex and Edge, Honda Crosstour, Ford F-150, Toyota Venza, Prius and RAV4. The Kia Soul is very high on my wife’s list (we had it last year, but another one coming up next week), just to mention a few.

This week we’ve got the Kia Sorento. Why not just get another Mazda5? As terrific as it is, that’s not what we do – we never get the same car or even manufacturer back to back, no matter how much we’ve loved the vehicle. For us a two-year lease is too long!

With our lifestyle, it’s probably going to be a CUV or 5-door hatchback car we’ll end up with. Unfortunately here in Canada, the hatchback is extremely rare – if only we could get some of those European cars…..

The 2011 Sorento is probably just about the perfect size that we are looking for. It’s a tiny bit bigger in all dimensions than the RAV4 – including the all-important power and torque category. Matched as closely as possible, the Sorento comes in about $4,000 cheaper and has a couple of items Toyota charge extra for. With a better and longer warranty, could the Kia Sorento be “The One”?

First Impressions
The 2011 model is a ground-up re-design. Looking at it you’d never know it, but the differences are significant. I climbed into one at the auto show and thought it was a 2009 – that’s how similar they are. The new model is a unibody CUV, versus the body-on-frame truck platform used in the past.

Sharing its platform with the re-designed sister vehicle – the Hyundai Santa Fe, the Sorento is supposed to be much smoother and have less of a truck feel to it. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a chance to drive the old Sorento, but I did drive the last two iterations of the Santa Fe and I have to say this is much better than those models.

Like the RAV4, the Sorento is available in 4 and 6-cylinder models and in either FWD or AWD. The Sorento is available in a 7-passenger configuration – why Kia (and Toyota) would do that I just can’t fathom. The bigger and bolder Borrego is better suited for more passengers – why jam them into the Sorento?

The Sorento is available in a front-wheel-drive, 2.4-litre 4-cylinder model that churns out 130 Kw (174 hp) and is connected to a 6-speed manual or optional 6-speed automatic transmission. The automatic is more fuel-efficient, returning 9.7 / 6.9 L/100 kms (city/highway), versus 10.6 / 7.4 L/100 kms for the manual. The more powerful V-6 automatic is a little thirstier at 11.1 / 7.9 L/100 kms – but probably provides a whole lot more fun for the money.

Climbing into the Sorento, I quickly adjust the seat to my liking. I was a bit disappointed that there wasn’t a lumbar adjustment, but the seat was nice and firm with an upper-end feel to the cloth seating surfaces. The seat is height adjustable and the steering both tilts and telescopes so it’s very easy to get comfortable. At this point I have no idea what model I’m driving or even which engine is under the hood.

There is no indication anywhere that it is anything but a Sorento. Setting off, I gently push the throttle and we scamper of swiftly.. gotta be the V-6 under the hood I tell my wife. We jump onto the motorway and I floor the gas pedal to get up to highway speed…WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA the engine screams, but we’re not actually going anywhere fast – we’re sort of just sitting there watching the traffic fly by us. Uh oh, it must be the 4-cylinder! Eventually, we get up to 100 km/h and blend with traffic – not too impressed I might add.

Once up and running right along with the usual moving chicanes and turtle racers that are a part of Toronto’s permanent rush-day (and I do mean “day” – not “rush-hour”) traffic, I get an opportunity to assess the Sorento on our nearly two-hour trip home. Other than the surprising crescendo coming from the engine when entering the motorway, the 2011 Sorento is a very nice place to be.

The seats remained comfortable and the steering is quick and responsive – as are the brakes that got used constantly as we travel from 120 km/h down to zero every 5 minutes. Getting back up to 100 km/h is brisk when I push the gas pedal instead of mashing it like I had earlier. From that point on, my whole perception on the Sorento’s abilities improved dramatically.

The 6-speed automatic transmission shifts through the gears seamlessly – and briskly – obviously to maximize fuel economy. The on-board computer told me I was averaging 10.9 L/100 km – in fact all week it rarely changed from that number, other than when it improved to 9.8 L/100 km.

Once we got home I took the opportunity to decipher the codes that Kia provides so that I could figure out what vehicle we were driving. Turns out we were indeed driving the V-6, but it was the base model – something I wasn’t expecting. The Sorento base model comes with so many features it’s hard to imagine what else could be added – other than a moonroof.

With the very dark black and grey interior, the test Sorento felt smaller and more confined – I’m sure this would be alleviated with the installation of said moonroof – or even just a glass panoramic panel. Unfortunately, to add a moonroof you have to step up to the EX AWD version – and with that you get a whole lot more stuff jammed into the Sorento, like an 8-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with lumbar support, leather seats, rearview camera etc…

The plastics and cloth materials used throughout the Sorento are of very good quality. I’ve driven many a vehicle with “upgraded” interiors that don’t even come close to the quality of the Sorento. Even though the interior was comprised of dark grey and black, it wasn’t depressing, and would probably be the colour of choice if I were to buy/lease one of these – I’d just be sure to spring for the moonroof.

The driving position is just perfect and I can’t think of any occasion where the Sorento disappointed or drew a negative comment from my wife in the two weeks we had it – that in itself is a miracle because she can usually pick any vehicle to bits (you don’t want to know what she thinks about BMW’s) and that’s why her input is so important – because after all let’s face it … the wife is usually the one who decides if we men can buy the vehicle.

The climate control is nice and simple – just the way I like them.. turn one dial for hot or cold, and one for the fan speed. I found the fan speed is either extremely low or full-blast. No happy medium between the two. We were in the middle of a heatwave while we had the Sorento, and it didn’t take long for the cabin to cool down from over 30 C to a more comfortable level – especially considering the Sorento was black and we didn’t have a moonroof to help release some of the heat. For those of us in the colder climates, I was happy to see bum warmers as standard equipment, even on the base vehicle.

Rear seat accommodation is generous with plenty of space for rear passengers. Even with the front seat pushed back, there’s plenty of knee and foot space. My mother-in-law pointed out that it’s a little higher than normal to get in and out compared to a number of other CUV’s we’ve had recently.

I found the rear seat very comfortable and roomy – many luxury vehicles don’t have this much space! The rear bench seat splits 60/40 and incorporates a folding centre armrest with cup holders. The seatback is adjustable to the point of almost a full recline – perfect for those long journeys when a nap is required – and folds completely flat for maximum cargo storage.

Cargo space is very generous – especially if you don’t take the third-row seat option. Without that third row there’s a nice big covered bin, with a smaller one near the rear door. There was however, no cargo cover, so it’s helpful that the windows in the rear area are deeply tinted to keep prying eyes off your goods. I measured the rear cargo area and it came out at 140cm W x 92 – 100cm D and 83cm H.

The larger of the two storage bins measure an impressive 114cm W x 70cm D x 17cm H and the smaller one came in at 54cm W x 17cm D x 215cm H (the tire change jack eats up a lot of space in the small compartment). Folding the second-row seats gets the length up to a very long 185cm without anything infringing on the front seat occupants. Unfortunately, the front passenger seat doesn’t fold forward for additional cargo options.

The audio system is very good and comprises of an AM/FM CD/MP3 Single-Disc Player, 6-Speakers, iPOD, Auxiliary and USB jacks, steering wheel audio controls, voice-activated Bluetooth Hands-free telephone and the ever useless Sirius satellite radio. My wife complained that the bass is “annoying”, as in no matter how far you dialed the bass back, it was still over-powering.

One thing of note – the Bluetooth system is pretty much standard throughout the Kia line up, whereas all other manufacturers package or charge considerably more for it. With all the morons driving around texting, phoning and eating bananas or Big Macs while driving, it’s good to see that Kia takes a very responsible attitude towards safety – I just wish everyone else would.

Standard features on all 2011 Sorento’s include: 17″ alloy wheels, Air conditioning with cabin air filter, Steering wheel mounted cruise control, Power windows with one-touch driver’s express up/down and retained time lag feature, 6-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3 stereo system, Heated front seats, 2nd row 60/40 split-folding seating with fold-down armrest, Steering wheel mounted audio controls, Bluetooth® hands-free cell phone capability, Tilt and telescopic adjustable steering column, Trip computer, Illuminated vanity mirrors, Centre console storage compartment with armrest, Rear cargo under-floor storage compartment, 6-way manual adjustable driver’s seat, AUX & USB input ports with iPod® cable.

As you can see from that extensive list, there isn’t much else to add other than luxuries such as leather seating and a Sat-Nav system.

All Sorento’s are stuffed with safety features which helped it get a “Top Safety Pick” by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), earning the organization’s highest possible rating, in front, side and rear crash tests.

Among the list are: 4-wheel anti-lock braking system (ABS), 4-wheel disc brakes,  Electronic stability control (ESC), Traction control system (TCS), Hill assist control (HAC), Downhill brake control (DBC), Dual advanced front airbags, Dual curtain side-impact airbags with roll-over sensor, Roll-over prevention (ROP), Dual front seat-mounted side-impact airbags, Anti-whiplash active front headrests, Height adjustable front seatbelts with pre-tensioners and load limiters, Auto light control, Impact sensing auto door unlock, Variable intermittent front windshield wipers, Front windshield wiper de-icer.

The Conclusion
The comparisons between the Sorento and Toyota RAV4 are obvious. Size, price, power and fuel economy being so close they really are closer than any other CUV’s I can think of – other than the Hyundai Santa Fe. Comparing it to the RAV4 Limited that we had a few weeks back, the Sorento has many things the RAV4 didn’t have – even as options – yet it comes in about $4,000 cheaper! Another bonus in the Sorento’s favour is the IIHS Top Safety Pick. The Sorento has now become THE vehicle to beat in our quest for our next new set of wheels!

Perfect size
Great fuel economy
Plenty of storage compartments and loads of cargo space under the cargo floor too
Stuffed with safety features

Honestly, I can’t think of anything worth mentioning

Immediate Competition:
Honda CR-V, Dodge Nitro, Ford Escape, Hyundai Santa Fe, Mazda Tribute/CX7, Mitsubishi Outlander, Subaru Forester, Toyota RAV4

By The Numbers…
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Powertrain:            3.5 L DOHC V-6; 6-speed automatic transmission with Steptronic; FWD
Horsepower (Kw):     276 (280) @ 6,300 rpm
Torque lb-ft (N.m.):     248 (336) @ 5,0000 rpm
0-100 kph:         6.4 seconds

Curb Weight:         1,767 kg (3,896 lbs)
Cargo Capacity:     Behind Front Seats: 2,052 litres (72.5 cu.ft)  //  Behind Rear Seats: 1,047 litres (37 cu.ft)
Towing capacity:     1,588 kg (3,500 lbs) – when equipped with Towing Package
Ground clearance:    190mm

Fuel Consumption:  (Regular / 87 Octane)
City: 11.1 L/100 kms  //  Highway: 7.9 L/100 kms
I averaged 10.2 L/100 kms and 9.1 L/100 kms during combined driving

Pricing for the 2011 Kia Sorento LX V-6 ($ Cdn)
Base Price / As Tested: $29,095
Destination & Delivery: $1,650

The warranty is a Worry-free comprehensive warranty covering virtually the entire vehicle for 5 years/100,000 kms that includes a 5 year/100,000 kms Powertrain warranty and Roadside Assistance is unlimited for five years.

Copyright © 2010 by Iain Shankland. All rights reserved.
Text: Iain Shankland / Images: Iain Shankland

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