Car Reviews – 2012 Kia Sorento Test Drive

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Can An SUV Be Pretty?

I really liked the Sorento – I guess you could say it’s the sleeper hit of our Car Reviews experience so far. Personally, I liked the truck-ish feel, and the fact that it felt solid and strong without being massive. Considering the Kia Sorento wasn’t even on our radar, I can say with confidence that Mr. HBWT and I were pleasantly surprised.

2012 Kia Sorento Review and Test Drive:

Great interior space / useable 3rd row
Feels like a solid mid-size SUV
Competitive pricing in both small and mid-sized SUV categories

Maneuverability in tighter spaces
Fairly rough ride at lower speeds

Hands down (and to me oddly enough) my week with the Sorento generated the most questions and comments (and oohs and ahhs) of any of the vehicles that we have had so far… and for a carmaker that can’t be bad. The standard dialogue went like this – “hey, what is that?… A Kia? Hmmm!” It is the 2nd year of an all-new design (there was no 2010) and they appear to have created a very competitive, well reviewed, SUV with, from what I learned, much curb appeal.

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Low Profile But Lots Of Room…

Thinking in terms of the small-mid-sized SUV categorization, I immediately put the Sorento into the larger group – thinking the Sportage filled Kia’s small SUV category – but was most surprised when I realized this vehicle, in price and features, is highly competitive in the small SUV category as well. To me it feels much more substantial than the CR-V and Rav-4 (particularly with the optional v6 RAV like we had), and that is a feeling that can’t be bad either.

The Sorento price scheme and options run a pretty wide gamut – from the base model LX with 4 cylinder manual transmission and front wheel drive,to the fully loaded SX with a V6, AWD and every bell and whistle one could cram into an automobile with about $15k in sticker price separating the two. I’m not a huge fan of so many variants of the same vehicle – to me it feels like they couldn’t quite decide what they wanted it to be – but I am impressed by this vehicle at the high end variant like the one we got to drive. It did feel luxurious, and with the useable 3rd row priced in at loaded CR-V and Rav 4 versions but felt much more in line amongst the ranks of mid-size SUVs like the CX-9 and Pilot (yet anywhere from 5 to 10k cheaper than those loaded versions).

Inside our Sorento the creature comforts were not lacking, with ample space in both the front and second rows and a highly useable 3rd row for 2 that can easily disappear without a compromise in storage space. A very nice touch to this vehicle was the heated AND cooled seats (my first experience with the cooling option in any SUV)… On a hot day that is GOOD.

The Sorento was also comfortable to drive, with the V6 AWD giving a good accounting of itself in the city and fuel economy was decent (for the mid-size market mind you) at around 15L/100km. One of my only beefs with the Sorento as far as the driving experience was concerned was that it did feel pretty rough at lower speeds on choppy city ruts, with a fair amount of sway that is so typical in this class of vehicle. This beef, though, did seem to vanish on the highway and I really did appreciate how this vehicle performed at higher speeds. It really cruises along once you are up over 100km/h, so if you are looking for a nice long-distance commuter this is definitely worth a look.

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Another “Smiley” Car…

As you no doubt interpreted from my opening statement on the attention I got in the Sorento styling is good for this model year. I don’t think it is radically innovative in the styling department, but it does have nice dimensions and is aerodynamic but while keeping an SUV truck-like styling. One feature I would like to point out that was a definite oddity were the auto-folding mirrors when you locked the car. So you lock the car and *brrrr* in go the mirrors. Unlock it and *brrrrr* out they come. Apart from the obvious appeal to my 3 year old (and akin to homer Simpson’s “bed goes up, bed goes down” scene in a hospital bed) I am not really sure how valuable that may be but was a bit scared to think how much repairing one of those would be if a bike courier knocked one off in downtown traffic. I wish sometimes car makers can cut down on these seemingly goofy options that no doubt add up to sticker prices being so shocking as of late.

So, overall, the Kia Sorento was not even on my radar when we first started looking but I am glad that I got to spend some time with it. It’s a bit of an odd duck, being on the fringe of the small and mid-size SUV categories, and trimmed in the base model with no 3rd row I don’t think I would be as enthusiastic. The real strength of this SUV is where it fits in the top end of the small SUV price range, comparable to any of the others in comfort and accessories, yet manages to squeeze that extra row and larger engine into the package costing appreciably less than comparably equipped mid size SUVs. Hmmm!


The Sorento was fun to drive, and the kids’ car seats were easy to install. There are no tether bolts in the third row, but it would be a challenge putting a baby back there anyway. Other than that, there was plenty of room for the kids plus Grandma in the second row, and everyone enjoyed the stereo as well – though I don’t think any car can compete with the Outlander in that department! Coming up for our Car Reviews, we spent a week with the Suzuki Grand Vitara


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