When the midsize Kia Sorento first appeared, it featured a traditional, trucklike (body-on-frame) design that provided a level of ruggedness not typically found on midsize SUVs. Blessed with above-average off-roading and towing abilities, the V6-powered first-generation Sorento won our respect for its practical nature. It also boasted impressive value, offering the dimensions of a midsize SUV at a compact-crossover price point.
But the original Sorento was clearly out of sync with the crossover craze. Nowadays, most consumers want the better efficiency and handling that carlike (unibody) architecture provides. So Kia provided precisely that with its second- and third-generation Sorento models. These newer Sorentos are among the best picks for a small or midsize crossover SUV thanks to their choice of four-cylinder or V6 power, roomy interiors, available third-row seat and extensive warranty coverage.
Current Kia Sorento
The current Kia Sorento is large and spacious, and it may be configured to seat five or seven passengers. This Kia offers a sophisticated package both inside and out, with a stylish cabin and superb refinement. Trim levels include L, LX, EX, SX and SX Limited.
The Sorento's base 2.4-liter four-cylinder generates 185 horsepower and 178 pound-feet of torque, and it's standard on L and LX trims. A 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine is available on EX models, and this powerplant produces 240 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. The top-of-the-line engine is a 3.3-liter V6 that churns out 290 hp and 252 lb-ft of torque. This V6 is standard on the SX and SX Limited and optional on EX and LX models. All engines are matched to a six-speed automatic transmission, and there is a choice of standard front-wheel drive or optional all-wheel drive.
The Sorento's cabin is home to soft-touch surfaces, and handsome two-tone color schemes are available. Both of the available touchscreen interfaces are a breeze to operate, with large buttons and easy-to-read labeling. Base models come with Bluetooth connectivity and satellite radio, and luxury upgrades such as a premium Infinity sound system are available. You can also spruce up your Sorento with amenities such as heated front seats, rear air-conditioning, leather upholstery and a hard-drive-based navigation system.
In reviews, we've been impressed with the Sorento's attractive cabin and comfortable seats. The second row is roomy enough for three passengers on short trips, and the third row is spacious enough to seat taller passengers. On the road, the Sorento's base engine is impressive when the load is light, but it feels taxed when burdened with lots of passengers and cargo. The direct-injected four-cylinder offers a bit more oomph, but the strongest choice for those who haul lots of cargo and passengers is the 3.5-liter V6. Its responsive handling makes the Sorento a pleasure to drive, but ride quality suffers a bit when the SUV is faced with rough pavement.
Used Kia Sorento Models
The third-generation Kia Sorento debuted in 2016. The current model is larger than its predecessor, and it offers notable improvements in ride and handling — without a doubt, these changes leave the Sorento feeling much more refined on the road. Improved refinement is also evident within the Sorento's cabin, which features high-grade materials and attractive styling.
The second-generation Kia Sorento debuted in 2011 and was produced until 2015. As with the current model, it was available with four-cylinder or V6 power and had an available third-row seat. Thanks to a roomy interior, plenty of features and an attractive price, it's a great choice for a used crossover SUV.
Kia offered this Sorento in LX, EX and SX trim levels. Five-passenger seating was standard on all but the LX V6 and SX, which came with the otherwise optional 50/50-split folding third-row seat that raised capacity to seven.
A 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine with 175 hp and 169 lb-ft of torque was standard on the earliest LX models from this generation. A direct-injected version of this engine (with 191 hp and 181 lb-ft) debuted for 2012 and was optional on the LX and standard on the EX. Standard on the SX and optional on the others was a 3.5-liter V6 with 276 hp and 248 lb-ft. In 2014, the 175-hp engine was dropped, leaving the direct-injection four-cylinder powerplant as the new base engine. The Sorento's V6 was also replaced in this year, and the new 3.3-liter V6 produced 290 hp and 252 lb-ft of torque. All Sorento trims from this generation have a six-speed automatic. Front-wheel drive was standard, while all-wheel drive was available.
Even the base model came with alloy wheels, full power accessories, air-conditioning, a tilt-and-telescoping multifunction steering wheel and Bluetooth connectivity. Upper trims offered standard and optional features such as a backup camera, dual-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery, a ventilated driver seat, a panoramic sunroof, a navigation system, Uvo voice activation and an Infinity sound system.
In reviews, we were impressed with the third-generation Kia Sorento. The early base 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine was a bit buzzy and overtaxed in this application, so we recommend going with the upgraded four-cylinder or the V6. On the road, the Sorento provided a smooth and quiet ride as well as secure handling. Seating was comfortable, and the available third-row bench could even accommodate adults on short trips, making the Sorento an affordable alternative to full-size three-row crossovers.
The first-generation Kia Sorento was produced from 2003 to 2009 (there was no 2010 model). It debuted with a 3.5-liter V6 with 192 hp in LX or EX trim. LX models had either a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic transmission, while the EX came only with the automatic. From 2005 on, the automatic was a five-cog unit. Both part-time and full-time 4WD were available, depending on the trim, and both systems included low-range gearing, a feature absent from the current Sorento. For 2007, all Sorentos were upgraded to an all-aluminum 3.8-liter V6 engine good for 262 hp, and the interior received a different dash design and better-quality materials. For 2008-'09, a base model with a 3.3-liter V6 was introduced, and the LX got this engine as well; the EX kept the 3.8-liter V6.
Standard equipment on the first-generation Sorento included air-conditioning, full power accessories, a CD audio system, multiple power points and 60/40-split flip-and-fold rear seats. Upper trims added items including alloy wheels, a sunroof, keyless entry, cruise control and leather upholstery. Dual-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery and heated front seats were among the notable options.
In reviews, we noted that this Kia Sorento changed considerably over the years, so if you want more power and a higher-quality cabin, it's best to focus your attention on more recent model years. The late-arriving 3.8-liter V6 had plenty of power, and all Sorentos excelled off-road relative to its car-based rivals. The cabin had an abundance of storage space, the front seats were well-shaped and three could be seated in the rear if need be, though kneeroom and toe room were somewhat tight. Downsides included lackluster on-pavement handling and ride quality and below-average fuel economy. But if you're looking for an affordable SUV that can take on the occasional camping trip without breaking a sweat, a used Sorento is worth a look.