With the buzz surrounding Kia and its redesigns, I was excited to climb out of my comfortable minivan and fall in love with the budget-friendly 2012 Kia Sorento. Unfortunately, it just didn't happen.
I wasn't impressed by the 2012 Kia Sorento's quality of finishes, the way it drove or the space the three-row crossover provided.
When I'm test-driving cars, my Toyota Prius and Toyota Sienna normally collect cobwebs. Whatever shiny, tech-laden test car I'm driving gets all the love from my two munchkins (and husband). A tear is shed when they see it go and we are left to climb back into our boring cars.
However, that wasn't the case during the week I drove the Sorento. While the crossover had the tech features that my family appreciates, we simply did not fit in it. The few times my family of four drove together in the Sorento, we found it torturous, with everyone clamoring (read: whining) for legroom. Needless to say, no tears were shed when it came time to turn in the Sorento and climb back into the minivan.
My midlevel Sorento EX with all-wheel drive had a new-for-2012 191-horsepower four-cylinder engine. It gave me a sufficient amount of power for merging onto California's highways, but it wasn't terribly impressive.
The 2012 Kia Sorento is budget-friendly with a starting MSRP of $22,050 (including an $800 destination charge). After adding leather, navigation and a useless third row, my EX came in at $30,550.
The Sorento's conservative exterior isn't exactly a head-turner, but it doesn't scream "I have a jog-stroller in the trunk" either, which many parents may like. I appreciated its chrome accents and large, shiny grille. Kia made this easy-on-the-wallet SUV look like it wasn't.
Step-in height was what you would expect from a small SUV; it's not quite as low and convenient as a sedan, but it's at a helpful height for buckling up small ones in their child-safety seats.
The Sorento has an optional third row, but I'd save my money. It's part of the Premium Plus Package that costs $3,800 and includes leather seats, heated front seats and a navigation system. The third row is ridiculously tiny, low to the ground and a waste of space. It eats up valuable cargo space, leaving a paltry 9.1 cubic feet of space. However when the third row is folded, the 37.0 cubic feet of cargo space is more than enough for a cart (or two) full of groceries.
My midlevel EX test car had a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine making 191 horsepower and paired with all-wheel drive. It gets an EPA-estimated 21/28 mpg city/highway and thankfully only requires regular unleaded gasoline. There's also a smaller 175-hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that's on lower level trims and paired with front-wheel drive; it gets 22/32 mpg. The available 276-hp, 3.5-liter V-6 gets 20/26 mpg with front-wheel drive.
SENSE AND STYLE
Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Fair
Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove-On): Some
At first glance, the Sorento's interior was quite stylish and eye-catching. I was smitten with the contrast stitching on the optional leather seats and the chrome-like trim around the gauges.
Once I closely checked out the interior, I was sorely disappointed in the quality of the finishes. With less than 7,000 miles on the three-row crossover, it looked completely beat up. The center stack's controls were jammed and misaligned, as if they were about to pop off. It had me questioning how solid the car would be in the long run, especially when kids are involved.
Despite my disappointment in the finish quality, I was pleased with the easy-to-use navigation system, and the stereo controls are laid out simply, making them a breeze to use while driving.
With only five cupholders, it appears that not even the Sorento's designers believe that seven people can squeeze into this crossover. However, the number of storage pockets and cubbies was sufficient enough.
When loaded with two child-safety seats in the second row, the Sorento is just too small. Even a forward-facing convertible seat ate up a ton of legroom. The rear-facing convertible seat ate up not only the second-row legroom but also the front passenger's. Watching my husband try to fit anywhere in the car was comedic. I found myself wishing that the third row was tossed out and the second row was given a few more inches of space.
IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT
Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Fair
Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Ample
The 2012 Kia Sorento has been named a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. It received a top score of Good in front, side, rear and roof-strength crash tests. In crash tests by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the 2012 Sorento received an overall score of four stars of five. It earned four stars in front and rollover crash tests and five stars in side crash tests.
The Sorento has standard front-wheel drive, four-wheel-disc antilock brakes with brake assist, an electronic stability system with traction control, active front head restraints and six airbags. The side curtain airbags provide protection to first- and second-row occupants, but not those in the third row. All-wheel drive is optional.
There are two sets of Latch anchors in the Sorento's second row. They are buried deeply in the seat bight, where the back and bottom cushions meet. It was a struggle to access them.
The third row appears to be a complete afterthought because not only is there no legroom, but there's also a lack of Latch anchors and airbags. The seat belt buckles are somewhat floppy, making it difficult for children in booster seats to buckle themselves up. Find out how the 2012 Sorento performed in Cars.com's Car Seat Check.
Get more safety information about the 2012 Kia Sorento here.