The 2012 Kia Sorento has an appealing Total Car Score, as critics heaped praise on its road manners, generous interior space and above-average fuel economy.
The Sorento is big enough to offer a third row of seats. It also comes with a comprehensive array of standard equipment, while making Uvo -- a voice-activated infotainment system developed in conjunction with Microsoft -- an option in upper trim levels. Maximum cargo space is 72.5 cubic feet, which is right up there in the top echelon.
There were a few gripes, primarily about the merely adequate performance of the entry level four-cylinder engine and the fact that the second-row seats don't slide and recline like those of several rivals. And the ride might be considered too taut for some.
Even so, the driving experience seems to be a generally happy one, and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has made the Sorento a Top Safety Pick.
The Sorento moved into its second generation last year. Stain-resistant upholstery fabric and a ventilated driver's seat are available in the 2012 iteration, while the biggest change is the addition of a new, more fuel-efficient four-cylinder engine that most critics consider the ideal choice.
The 2012 Kia Sorento can seat up to seven. Trim levels are base, LX, EX and SX.
Base and LX models have a 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine making 175 horsepower and 169 pound-feet of torque. In the base, this links to a six-speed manual transmission sending drive to the front wheels. Trim levels from the LX up have a six-speed automatic that can send power to the front wheels or all four.
A new-for-2012 2.4-liter four with direct fuel injection is optional in the LX, standard in the EX. It develops 191 hp and 181 lb-ft. A 3.5-liter V6 with 276 hp and 248 lb-ft is optional in the LX and EX, standard in the SX.
Equipment starts with air conditioning, power accessories, Bluetooth, an iPod connection and 17-inch alloy wheels. LX brings heated mirrors; models with the V6 also have the third seating row. Heated front seats, roof rails, rear parking sensors and a rearview camera are options.
EX brings the Uvo infotainment system, a power-adjustable driver's seat and 18-inch alloys. Options include leather, navigation and an upgraded audio system -- things that become standard at the SX level. The SX gets a sportier suspension tune plus the option of a panoramic sunroof.
Front side airbags and side curtain airbags covering the first and second rows join ABS with brake assist and electronic brake force distribution, traction and stability controls, hill start/descent assist, and active front head restraints as standard safety equipment.
EPA estimates for the 2012 Sorento are 20 mpg city, 27 mpg highway and 22 mpg combined with the manual trans; with the auto/less powerful four-cylinder/front-drive, it's 21/29/24 mpg. With all-wheel drive, those figures are 21/27/23 mpg. The more powerful four-cylinder/front-drive combo returns 22/32/25 mpg; all-wheel drive achieves 21/27/23 mpg.
Front-drive/V6 makes 20/26/22 mpg; AWD/V6 makes 18/24/20 mpg.
Properly equipped, the 2012 Kia Sorento can tow up to 3,500 pounds.
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