2012 Kia Sorento Expert Review

3.6 Overall Score
Performance 3.4 Comfort 3.6 Styling 3.7 Value 3.8

You'll Like The 2012 Kia Sorento If...

The 2012 Kia Sorento promises a lot and never fails to deliver. It's attractive, versatile, fuel-efficient, affordable, reliable, and it has one of the nicest interiors we've seen in this category in a long time.

You May Not Like The 2012 Kia Sorento If...

About the only negative we can think of regarding the 2012 Kia Sorento SUV is that it can't be taken off-roading (a Nissan Xterra is better suited for that) and its ability to tow is limited to 3,500 pounds.

What's New

The 2012 Kia Sorento SUV adds an optional gasoline direct-injection (GDI) 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine to the lineup earning top marks for horsepower and fuel economy. Also new this year is the addition of YES essentials fabric that provides anti-bacterial, anti-soil and anti-static properties. Last year's base-model Sorento and manual transmission are dropped for 2012.

Interior Features

Kia interiors have been getting better and better over the years, and the 2012 Kia Sorento SUV is no exception. The dash and door panels show great detail and thought, as do the numerous soft-touch surfaces, but what really strikes our fancy are the numerous cloth patterns and leather color combinations that go a long way in making this rather middle-class SUV look and feel like it is part of the one percent. Seating in the first two rows is supportive and generous in space, but the available third-row seat, like so many in the class, is best relegated to small children or very limber adults. The Sorento's second-row seat is of the 60/40-split folding kind, which is useful for carrying bulky cargo items larger than the Sorento's 37 cubic feet of stowage space (that number falls to 9.1 with the third-row seat in place).

Exterior Features

Taking its visuals cues from the Kia concept shown in 2007, the 2012 Kia Sorento SUV is endowed with an arguably conservative profile dressed up with a snazzy front end. The design is intended to help cheat the wind while also creating a strong and secure cocoon around the interior occupants. The 2012 Kia Sorento SUV has plenty of ground clearance, all-important for forging through deep snow, and its big wheel-and-tire combinations range from 17 inches on the LX trim, to 18 inches on the EX and SX models. Upper-end trims get more brightwork, such as chrome door handles as well as a stainless-steel rear bumper step pad and LED taillights.

Driving Impressions

Well-mannered, well-balanced, easy to maneuver and easy to live with, the 2012 Kia Sorento - coming with a choice of front-wheel drive (FWD) and all-wheel drive (AWD) – is truly a driver-friendly travel mate. The new gasoline direct-injection 2.4-liter 4-cylinder has more horsepower than the standard 2.4-liter engine, pumping out 191 horsepower yet achieving laudable fuel economy. We like this engine very much and think most people will be quite satisfied with its power and smoothness. The 3.5-liter V6 adds considerably more enthusiasm in either configuration without exacting too much of a fuel-economy hit and ups the Sorento's maximum tow rating from 1,650 to 3,500 pounds. The 2012 Kia Sorento SUV's wide track and fully independent front and rear suspension give it a smooth, controlled ride with only the slightest hint of excessive lean occurring during hard cornering. The Sorento's low-key stability control allows for some measure of reasonably spirited driving. However, even modestly rough roads tend to produce more noise and impact harshness than you'd expect in the Sorento's otherwise notably well-isolated cabin. Although lacking a low-range transfer case, the Sorento's torque-on-demand all-wheel-drive system does include a lockable center differential.

Pricing Notes

Pricing on the 2012 Kia Sorento lineup reflects the automaker's high-value philosophy, with the front-drive LX model opening at a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of just under $24,000. A 4-cylinder Sorento LX with all-wheel drive can be had for around $26,000, while a reasonable $27,500 gets you a 4-cylinder EX. The primo Sorento SX commands a $34,000-$36,000 premium, depending on drivetrain configuration. Although Kia residual values continue to increase, segment leaders like the Chevrolet Equinox, Honda CR-V, and Toyota RAV4 still hold meaningful advantages in that critical arena. However, the built-in-America 2012 Kia Sorento SUV's most-appealing combination of a lower entry price and outstanding warranty are factors that have led more and more people to seriously consider trading off some long-term cash-out potential in return for a very rewarding ownership period. Its overall merits led Kelley Blue Book to name the Kia Sorento one of our "Top 10 Family Cars of 2011."

Notable Equipment

Beyond a 175-horsepower, 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine, 5-passenger base LX Sorento models feature a full range of power assists, air conditioning, multifunction/tilt/telescoping steering wheel, trip computer, cruise control, AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system with Sirius Satellite Radio, USB/AUX ports and Bluetooth hands-free connectivity. The EX trim nets dual-zone climate control, rear-seat air conditioning, Kia's UVO infotainment system, an 8-way power driver's seat, upgraded interior trim, a rearview camera, foglights, automatic headlight control and a rear spoiler. Sitting atop the Sorento range, the SX boasts full-leather seating, a premium Infinity sound system, navigation with real-time traffic and more.

Notable Options

The 2012 Kia Sorento LX option roster includes a Convenience Package (roof rails, foglights, heated front seats, 2.4-liter gasoline direct-injection engine, Backup Warning System) and folding third-row bench. A gasoline direct-injection 2.4-liter can be added to the LX and is standard on the EX trim. The LX V6 can be upgraded with the same Convenience Package as the 4-cylinder, and EX buyers can add a Premium Plus Package (leather, heated front seats, rearview camera, Infinity Surround Sound and power-folding outside mirrors) and/or a Limited Package that brings navigation with real-time traffic, cooling seats, power-folding mirrors, and rearview camera. A panoramic sunroof and a black/dove 2-tone interior is the sole SX option package.

Favorite Features

UVO infotainment system

Introduced on the 2011 Sorento, Kia's answer to Ford's SYNC also is built around Microsoft's Windows Embedded Automotive software and offers a full spectrum of user-friendly features, expanded voice-recognition capability and is easy to update.

World-class warranty

The 2012 Kia Sorento SUV is protected by the automaker's outstanding 5-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper coverage that includes 24-hour roadside assistance as well as a 10-year/100,000-mile limited powertrain warranty.

Under the Hood

The 2012 Kia Sorento SUV offers three gasoline engines. Its port-injected 2.4-liter 4-cylinder makes 175 horsepower and 169 lb-ft of torque while the 3.5-liter V6 turns out a far more energetic 276 horsepower and 248 lb-ft of torque. The new GDI (gasoline direct-injection) 2.4-liter 4-cylinder may be the perfect choice, with 191 horsepower and EPA-estimated highway fuel economy of up to 30 mpg. All versions feature a new Kia-designed 6-speed Sportmatic automatic transmission.

2.4-liter in-line 4

175 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm

169 lb-ft of torque @ 3,750 rpm

EPA city/highway fuel economy: 21/29 (FWD), 21/27 (AWD)

2.4-liter in-line 4 GDI

191 horsepower @ 6,300 rpm

181 lb-ft of torque @ 4,250

EPA city/highway fuel economy: 21/30 (FWD), 20/26 (AWD)

3.5-liter V6

276 horsepower @ 6,300 rpm

248 lb-ft of torque @ 5,000 rpm

EPA city/highway fuel economy: 20/26 (FWD), 18/24 (AWD)

Editors' Notes

The 2012 Kia Sorento SUV continues to buck the trend toward larger, thirstier and more expensive mid-size SUVs. Built in Kia's new West Point, Georgia, manufacturing facility, the 2012 Kia Sorento also bucks the trend toward shipping American jobs off shore. With available seating for seven, some of the most advanced engine and transmission offerings in the marketplace, and a list of creature comforts that looks more Lexus-like than Kia-originated, the 2012 Kia Sorento SUV is one attractive prospect. Toss in Kia's 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty, and suddenly the Chevy Equinox, Toyota Highlander and Mazda CX-7 start looking a little weak in the knees. And, although the 2012 Kia Sorento SUV can seat up to seven people, the 4-cylinder entry-level models are priced and equipped more like the mid- to up-level versions of the smaller Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4 and Nissan Murano.

Road Test Video Reviews

2012 Kia Sorento Owner Reviews

269 Reviews
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Overall wonderful vehicle, some mechanical issues down the road.

2012 Kia Sorento

Overall I absolutely love my car. We have owned this model vehicle for almost 4 years now and it has always driven smoothly and does well on gas. We have taken this car cross country and on vacation without issues with overheating etc.. The sound system inside is very nice as well as the features within hands reach. I like the overall design of the car. I didn't want to buy a minivan when I became a mom but I also didn't want a gas hog SUV. A few things that I would change about this vehicle would be that I wish the back seat had more room. We are expecting baby #3 and until I test out all three car seats in the back I am not sure they will all fit. Mainly the middle seat in the back. So I would have wanted a larger seating space per seat. Leg room is no issue and the trunk space is great though. We have had a few mechanical issues with this vehicle though recently around 125, 000 miles. We just paid to have a new transmission installed. And we have had to replace the u joint axel in the front right side. Both expensive fixes that I wish hadn't have happened with this vehicle. I want to keep it as long as I can though since I love everything else. But these were definitely surprising issues.

- Mia G

Kia Sorento are the simple, reliable SUV that has character.

2012 Kia Sorento Base

Problems: all of the problems I have can be expected with the age of my vehicle (7 years old). The driver heated seat no longer works and can only be fixed by replacing the entire seat--not worth it to me. The hatch hydraulics did go out which required replacement. Performance: I have never had issues with my cars performance. It handles well and responds to operator guidance. It is an average car. Reliability: like I said, I think my car is very reliable. I have just under 100,000 miles and have never had a mechanical issue. I do maintain regular upkeep and I suppose that helps. . Comfort: it is comfortable, I find I have plenty of legroom in the front and middle seats. The third row is tight if you have long legs, but does well in a pinch. It will eliminate all trunk space when used. Features: mine is the base model. I think it has a few 'bonuses' than my previous vehicle (2001) didn't have that make it feel luxurious.

- Taylor M

I have had very few problems with it. It is a very reliable vehicle.

2012 Kia Sorento

My Kia Sorento is a very comfortable car for my family of four, especially on long trips. It has plenty of legroom in the front and middle rows, lots of cup holders and adequate room for everyone’s gear. Everyone feels like they have their own space. There’s even space for our large dog! I love having a third row, but I wish there was a little extra legroom back there. The rear seats are very easy to fold away when we need extra storage space, and they're just as easy to pop backup when we have to pile kids in the third row. It is a very easy car to drive and it handles really well. Overall, I am very happy with the car. I have had it for 7 years and have driven it well over 100, 000 miles. It is been very reliable. When it comes time to replace it, I am going to replace it with another Sorento.

- Dorothy F

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