2012 Sorento New Car Test Drive
The Kia Sorento looks modern, sleek, clean as a whistle. It has a forward-lunging stance, the result of a low and compact nose, followed by long, dynamically rising lines to rearward. Kia has been particularly successful at executing the current high-grille look (dictated by body-integral front bumpers) without causing the nose to seem high and awkward.
The grille is flanked on both sides by sly-looking upper complexes for headlights and turn signals. Lower complexes contain foglights and are finished in matte-black to match the grille mesh.
A dark plastic faux skidplate wraps up from below the vehicle to about halfway up the foglight nacelles on LS and EX models.
The SX dispenses with this design element by stretching the lower air opening and the body-color part of the bumper down closer to ground level. A smaller, stainless steel skidplate defines the bottom of the enlarged lower grille on the SX, and SX foglights are five-sided instead of round, and accented by splashes of body-color trim. More subtle is the change in the upper grille on the SX, where the trademark Kia tiger-nose shape seems to float within the grillework, rather than outlining the border as it does on lesser models.
To maximize interior volume, particularly in the third-row seats, the Sorento roofline makes only a slight taper downwards at the rear. Similarly, the rear passenger doors extend back over the wheel housing to optimize access to third-row seats.
Sorento's shape is more than just a pretty face; it slips through the air at highway speed with minimal wind noise.
The Kia Sorento interior is tasteful and pleasing. Dash surfaces are an attractive textured black with gray simulated-wood trim, not the real thing, in the driver's compartment. Controls and switchgear are of high quality, with good tactile feel. Instruments are well laid out and self-explanatory.
We found the driver's seat, with eight-way power adjustment and lumbar support, to be excellent, firm, supportive, confidence-inspiring. There's lots of legroom here, making the Sorento a good choice for exceptionally tall drivers. The front passenger seat on the top models is powered, but adjusts only four ways as is common.
The second-row bench seat was comfortable, though even with the front seat well forward, second-row legroom was so-so. Good for small children, not so good for tall teen-agers.
The third-row seats are a compromise, as they are in any but the most grandiose three-row vehicles. Tilt-folding the second-row seats forward to access the rear involves a bit of calisthenics, as the seats are fairly heavy. Once the unlucky, last-row galley slaves are in place and the second-row seats slam down and lock, the latches are hard to release and fold forward from the rear row. Headroom in the far rear is minimal, as well. The third row should be adequate for kids but adults won't like it back there.
The navigation system with rearview camera lacks some of the more sophisticated onscreen visual aids for backing while turning found on premium crossovers. The Infinity deluxe audio system is superb. The climate control works flawlessly, offering strong fan volume when requested. Vanity mirrors in the sun visors were lit, but only after you turn them on with a button. Similar units in some other vehicles light automatically upon being opened.
Cargo space with all seats folded down is 72.5 cubic feet.