Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Compact SUV Comparison Test: 2011 Kia Sorento (Second Place)

Now, I could understand why the first generation Kia Sorento wasn’t on your new family SUV shopping list because it was ugly, underpowered, cramped and generally unappealing to drive. Now, however, the 2011 version of this 7-passenger Kia SUV is not only built at a plant in Georgia (Kia’s first on U.S. soil) but it is has also handily won itself the number two spot on this list.

Now, the third row of seats in the 2011 Kia Sorento is pretty much the domain of kids or really short adults but that is a fact of life in most any SUV. If you want room for seven adults you really need a minivan. But the 2011 Sorento makes a nice compromise between the two choices. And it is much cooler than a minivan.

Although the 2011 Kia Sorento may look a tad reserved compared to the new Sportage or Optima, the exterior styling really grew on me as did the layout and execution of the dashboard. Simple, elegant and classy is how I would describe the 2011 Sorento’s personal style both inside and out.

Although I tested a fully loaded Sorento EX-V6 AWD model, all versions of this extremely competent family SUV come very well equipped with power everything, air conditioning, Bluetooth, USB/iPod connectivity and that 10 year/100,000 mile powertrain warranty. My tester also featured a panoramic sunroof, navigation, 10-speaker Infinity premium audio, leather seats and ultra-cool ambient lighting around the interior.

But the 2011 Sorento doesn’t just impress because of features, warranty, price or looks. It also has one of the smoothest six-speed automatics in its market segment and the 3.5 liter 276 horsepower V6 is truly an engineering masterwork. This V6 puts all of its current rivals to shame for smoothness, efficiency and power.

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