Kia Sorento: A Jekyll and Hyde Bargain?

by The Car Family

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This is a Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde SUV. If you opt for for base four-cylinder engine you get exceptional gas mileage, literally the best in its class, but if you go with the optional six-cylinder you have one of the fastest in its class. We highly recommend you test both versions because they are that different, and consider the resale value for each version as well. The real life fuel mileage difference is about 3 mpg or ten percent better for the four cylinder version. Pricing starts well below $30,000 even with significant features that enrich the hot selling Sorento’s appeal.

As usual, Kia offers a host of standard items, an attractive exterior and comfortable interior, but there is a lot of competition in this category. One major consideration in this regard are dealership locations. There are about 2600 Kia dealers, for example, and over 4000 Chevrolet dealers. To take advantage of Kia’s excellent warranty being close to a dealership is a real plus. The reason we mention Chevrolet is that the Equinox is as close a competitor as you can get to the Sorento, but the former does not offer the third seat option. We recommend a back-to-back testing of these two vehicles.

Another Jekyll and Hyde part of the Sorento is its ability to transform itself from a five seater to one capable of holding seven thanks to an optional third row of seats. The rear two seats are a worthwhile option if you have children or supple adults willing to ride in coach.

Even a base model Kia has an abundance of standard features and the Sorento is no exception with such noteworthy items as Bluetooth and audio input jacks to note just a few. The more upscale versions of this Kia get downright fancy with GPS, garage door openers, more elegant interiors, and an array of sophisticated electronics.

Our favorite model was the EX equipped with a more potent four-cylinder engine and 18-inch wheels, automatic headlights, keyless ignition/entry, a better cooling and heating arrangement, eight-way power driver seat, leather upholstery and more. You can opt for the V6 as well. The top of the line Sorento SX comes only with the V6 and a plethora of features from LED tail lamps to rear air-conditioning and everything in between.

Mom’s View: Nice looking, decent interior features, and a useful cargo bay make the Sorento an attractive choice. However, if you get the V6 model be warned that the accelerator is a bit touchy and with the powerful engine you need to quickly learn to moderate your pedal pressure. It wants to go right now. Safetywise, the Sorento has antilock disc brakes, stability control, front active head restraints, front-seat side airbags and side curtain airbags for the first two rows and very good crash scores. I found the brakes satisfactory. The interior is nicely laid out and the materials are very upscale considering the pricing with plenty of storage bins and excellent visibility to the side and front. Overall, this is a good value, but select your model carefully as the standard features, such as the third row of seats are only be available on some models.

Dad’s view: The seats are comfortable, the ride a bit stern, and the three available engines as different as our Mr. Jekyll and Hyde. The base engine has a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 175 horsepower and yields about 24 mpg in mixed driving. If you order the optional all wheel drive and pack the Kia you are going to note that it does not like long grades in hot weather. I recommend you order the direct-injected version of the 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 191 horsepower and gets excellent mileage. The bad boy is Kia’s 3.5-liter V6 that produces 276 horsepower and is quite fast for a SUV. Gas mileage suffers, but it may be worth it to those who live in the area of the country that has mountains or where you need all wheel drive. Sorento’s all use a six-speed automatic transmission that does its job without notice, but under power it can let you know when a shift has been made. Overall, a bargain.

Young working woman’s view: The Sorento may be a crossover, but it looks, feels, and drive large. It has good visibility, but that comes at a cost as shorter drivers need to pull themselves into the Kia. I found the Sorento fairly quiet and the controls easy to master. The steering is nicely weighted and the entire experience is pleasant, except for the touchy accelerator pedal. Truth be told, the Sorento looks much more expensive and drives that way, too.

Young, unemployed male’s view: Ten years building an open source computer business and one day it is all gone. The good news is that I still have my music, and I was selected as the winner of the International Music competition. Meanwhile, back in the unemployment line, Sorento’s electronics need to be evaluated and I am the Man. Briefly, the voice operated system is similar, but superior to that in the quality deprived Ford line. The sound system is good overall. The GPS monitor is a bit frustrating to see in bright lighting conditions and it does not have the panache of the Nissan units. If you want value, try both the standard and upgraded versions before you decide which audio version. I would go with the $3400 Premium Package 2 and get the Infinity surround system, heated seats, the Panoramic sunroof and the extra seating.

Family conference: Without a doubt, whether or not you need a SUV with a third row of seats, the pricing and performance of the Kia should place it at the top of your shopping list. And its good quality ratings place it well above some of its competitors and there is always that warranty. The Sorento is certainly no Dr. Hyde.

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