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  • 2011 Kia Sorento EX FWD

    Posted on October 8th, 2010 ninarussin

    Midsized crossover for active families

    By Nina Russin

    2011 Kia Sorento

    The original Sorento was part of Kia’s expansion beyond the compact car segment. The mid-sized sport-utility vehicle offered buyers similar features to the Sportage in a larger, more cargo-friendly package.

    Prior to the Sorento roll-out in 2002, a Sportage clinched the Class 3 championship at the Baja 1000, proving it was capable of swimming with the sharks. The mid-sized Sorento was just what the doctor ordered for Kia’s growing dealer network, offering value, content and safety features competitors found hard to match.

    The all-new Sorento rolls out this year, giving active families a cargo-friendly car with better fuel economy, ride and handling than the original. While size remains the same, the platform is completely reinvented: a unibody cross-utility vehicle with performance similar to a passenger car.

    The Sorento is the first car being built at Kia’s manufacturing facility in West Point, Georgia. The plant officially opened in February of this year. Its proximity to Hyundai’s Montgomery, Alabama assembly plant enables the companies to share components, since the Sorento is built on the same platform as the Santa Fe.

    Two engine choices and seating for up to seven passengers

    2011 Kia Sorento

    Sorento buyers can choose between four and six-cylinder engines, with available all-wheel drive for four-season capability. The crossover is available as a five or seven-passenger car: a boon for families trying move down from full-sized sport-utility vehicles.

    The EX is the most upscale of three available trim levels. Pricing for the five-passenger EX with the four-cylinder engine starts at $24,795, excluding the $795 destination charge.

    An audio and navigation package on the test car includes a rearview camera and a wheel upgrade ($2000). Kia partners with Infinity audio, which produced a ten speaker, 550 watt surround-sound system for the car. A premium package adds leather trim, heated front seats and an auto-dimming rearview mirror ($1500). A rearview mirror with integrated compass and Homelink costs $250, bringing the price of the test car to $29,340.

    Four-cylinder engine boosts gas mileage

    Since I had driven the V-6 Sorento last year in Georgia, I was anxious to see how the car would handle with the smaller engine. The 2.4-liter block in the test car produces 175 horsepower and 169 foot-pounds of torque.

    While that might not sound like much for a 3682-pound car, it actually works surprisingly well. Fuel economy for my 100-mile test drive was 24.4 miles-per-gallon: significantly higher than the EPA estimate.

    Engineers wisely kept the shift points late, keeping the engine within its sweet spot for hard acceleration. In fact, when I opened up the throttle, the transmission shifted at 5000 rpm: well above the base peak torque point of 3750.

    The drive route was one I use frequently in Phoenix, combining urban streets, highways and a hilly rural road at the base of the Superstition Mountains. I kept the transmission in fully-automatic mode around town, and used the manual gear select option outside of town.

    Either way, the transmission shifts quite smoothly, with surprisingly little shift shock. Not only is there plenty of power to accelerate into traffic or pass other vehicles at speed, the car does quite well on uphill grades.

    A hydraulic rack-and-pinion steering system provides plenty of assist at low speeds while maintaining positive on-center response on the highway. A 35.7-foot turning radius is impressive for a car with a 106-inch wheelbase.

    Visibility is good to the front and sides: I had no problems monitoring traffic to either side on the highway. Blind spots in the rear corners are rather large due to the car’s thick D pillars. Because of this and the high rear glass, I’d recommend the optional rearview camera to those who can afford it. Lines superimposed over the camera image show the car’s trajectory, make it much easier to park on the street, or back into a vertical slot.

    A four-wheel independent suspension consists of a MacPherson setup in front and multi-link in the rear: stabilizer bars on both axles keep the chassis flat in the turns. I was impressed with the Sorento’s handling on the winding rural road outside town which includes some steep hills and decreasing radius turns.

    Engineers did a good job minimizing noise intrusion into the cabin, with no obvious wind noise around the windshield or side mirrors.

    Four-wheel disc brakes with four-channel antilock braking can stop the car quickly on wet roads.

    Versatile interior

    Kia Sorento Interior

    The Sorento’s spacious interior has all of the convenience features tech-savvy buyers crave: an abundance of 12-volt power points, USB and auxiliary ports, standard satellite radio and Bluetooth interface.

    Controls for the power driver’s seat are easy to use: I found lower back support adequate for my two-hour test drive. A tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel allows smaller drivers to maintain a safe distance from the front airbag.

    Both the three-gauge cluster and navigation display screen are easy to read in a variety of lighting conditions. However a digital display at the base of the gauge cluster disappears in bright sun. The display indicates odometer and trip meter readings, driving range and average fuel economy.

    A locking glovebox provides secure storage inside the car. There is also a concealed storage area under the cargo floor. A huge center console bin with removable tray is large enough to hold a small purse or pack. The bin has a port for the key fob: a handy feature for owners who frequently valet park their cars.

    Dual-zone climate controls keep both front passengers comfortable. Vents in the B pillars circulate air through the back of the cabin.

    The car’s low floor tunnel gives the middle second-row passengers decent legroom. The seats fold flat in a 60/40 pattern to extend the cargo floor, meeting our bicycle-friendly standards. Standard roof rails make it easy to add a bike rack or cargo carrier.

    Standard safety

    All models come with front, side and side curtain airbags, antilock brakes, traction and electronic stability control. Standard hill descent control automatically maintains a five mile-per-hour speed on steep descents.

    Kia’s ten-year/100,000 mile warranty includes free roadside assistance for the first five years or 60,000 miles.

    The all-new Sorento is on display at Kia dealerships nationwide.

    Likes: An affordable versatile crossover vehicle with seating for up to seven passengers. The V-6 model meets our ALV minimum towing standards.

    Dislikes: Digital display in the gauge cluster is difficult to read in bright sun.

    Quick facts:

    Make: Kia
    Model: Sorento EX FWD
    Year: 2011
    Base price: $24,795
    As tested: $29,340
    Horsepower: 175 Hp @ 6000 rpm
    Torque: 169 lbs.-ft. @ 3750 rpm
    Zero-to-sixty: N/A
    Bicycle friendly: Yes
    Towing: No*
    Off-road: No
    Fuel economy: 1/29 mpg city/highway
    Comments: V-6 model meets ALV 3500-pound minimum towing standard.


    2 responses to “2011 Kia Sorento EX FWD”

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