Here's a vehicle that won't impress you with high-tech gadgetry or its ability to drive by itself. If that's what you're looking for, you might as well shop for an SUV such as a Ford Edge with its comprehensive array of electronic safety features.
That's right -- the 2012 Kia Sorento doesn't offer a blind-spot monitor, a lane-departure warning system, a collision warning system or adaptive cruise control. Nope, you essentially don't need all these gizmos, irritating or not.
And that basically is what's so good about the Sorento. It's a competent midsize SUV that delivers a lot and asks for little. In short, it's got everything you need in this type of vehicle; nothing less, nothing more.
Packed with features
That doesn't mean the Kia Sorento has a short equipment list. Every trim level includes alloy wheels, fog lamps, power heated mirrors, windshield wiper de-icer, cloth or leather upholstery, heated front seats, sound system USB port, Bluetooth connectivity as well as a backup sonar or rearview camera.
Our EX-V6 Luxury tester also adds a power panoramic sunroof, power-folding mirrors, a power-adjustable and ventilated driver's seat with position memory, a 10-speaker sound system, navigation and a heated steering wheel.
The switchgear in the Sorento couldn't get simpler, with temperature rotary dials and well-placed wheel and steering column stalk controls. The touchscreen infotainment system isn't as driver-friendly as Chrysler's Uconnect but better than Ford's MyTouch. There is one flaw: the rear window wiper/washer is activated by dash-mounted buttons on the left of the steering wheel, which is awkward.
On the LX-V6 and EX-V6 Luxury trims, you can also get a 50/50-split folding third-row bench for an extra $1,200, if you need it; it's standard in the top-shelf SX.
There is plenty of space in the Sorento: it feels bigger inside than the outside shell suggests. The seats, front and back, are comfortable for road trips, while cargo space sums up to 1,048 litres with the rear seatback in place; fold it down, and volume almost doubles to 2,052 litres. The Sorento is roomier than the Ford Edge and the Mazda CX-7, but not as roomy as the Ford Explorer, the Dodge Durango or the Chevrolet Traverse.
Base versions of the 2012 Kia Sorento are equipped with a 191-hp, 2.4L inline-4, but most shoppers will likely choose the 3.5L V6, which develops 276 hp and 248 lb-ft of torque. Both are connected to a 6-speed automatic with manual mode. Acceleration is strong, as Kia's 6-cylinder powerplant offers plenty of low-rpm muscle. Towing capacity is rated at 3,500 pounds (or 1,588 kg), which is the class norm.
During an 800-km road trip with the kids wired to an aftermarket rear-seat DVD system (no OEM setup is offered), the Sorento delivered a fuel economy average of 11.9L/100km, not bad for an AWD sport-utility in the dead of winter.
On city streets or on the highway, the Sorento serves up a very comfortable ride, and the only thing that disrupts the quiet cabin is the V6 engine at wide-open throttle.
The Sorento's all-wheel drivetrain favours the front wheels under normal driving conditions, and sends up to 50% of available power to the rear wheels when slippage is detected. The system's reaction time on icy surfaces could be better; a dash-mounted button locks a 50:50 torque split between front and rear, which makes the driver feel a little more confident behind the wheel.
A Sorento for all budgets
What's good about Kia's midsize SUV is its relative affordability. It starts at $26,595 for a 4-cylinder, front-drive LX, while our EX-V6 Luxury tester rings in at $38,495. A midrange LX-V6 AWD should satisfy almost everyone's needs, priced at $31,095.
In comparison to our tester, the Ford Edge Limited AWD costs $39,999, a Mazda CX-7 GT AWD with navigation costs $39,290, a Toyota Highlander 4WD V6 Limited costs $45,075 and a Nissan Murano SL costs $40,698. The soon-to-be-replaced Hyundai Santa Fe 3.5 Limited AWD with navigation, which shares its mechanicals with the Sorento, is a little cheaper at $37,599.
The 2012 Kia Sorento might not be a high-profile SUV, and some people still hesitate to buy a Korean-badged product, but it gets the job done; it looks good, it's got more than enough power, it's got loads of interior room and it's packed with features for the asking price. For what it's worth, the Sorento is an overachiever and definitely deserves your attention.