2011 Kia Sorento EX-V6 Luxury
2011 Kia Sorento EX-V6 Luxury. Click image to enlarge

Related articles on Autos
Buyer’s Guide: 2011 Kia Sorento
Sorento tops in CR tests
Day-by-Day: 2011 Kia Sorento
Buyer’s Guide: 2010 Kia Sorento
FIrst Drive: 2011 Kia Sorento
Used cars: Kia Sorento, 2003-2009
Inside Story: 2011 Kia Sorento
Kia unveils all-new U.S.-built Sorento
Kia unveils roomier, more powerful Sorento
New Sorento to debut at Frankfurt show

Manufacturer’s web site
Kia Canada

Join Autos’s Facebook group
Follow Autos on Twitter

Review and photos by Chris Chase

Photo Gallery:
2011 Kia Sorento

Language geeks will tell you that nothing can ever be both new and improved, only one or the other. But something can be both new and an improvement over what it replaces, which is the case with the 2011 Kia Sorento.

It wasn’t too hard to improve upon the first-generation Sorento, which was a comfortable but fairly unsophisticated SUV with thirsty engines, a truly-truckish body-on-frame construction, and solid rear axle suspension.

Everything about this second-generation version is all-new: 2.4-litre four-cylinder (175 hp/169 lb-ft of torque) and 3.5-litre V6 (276 hp/248 lb-ft) engines which replace the old truck’s two V6s; a newly available all-wheel drive system and a new front-wheel drive model; an all-independent suspension; and a new – and, you might even say, improved – look inside and out.

2011 Kia Sorento EX-V6 Luxury
2011 Kia Sorento EX-V6 Luxury. Click image to enlarge

The Sorento can be had in a variety of trim packages, ranging from the $23,995 LX (the only one offered with a manual transmission) to the seven-seat EX-V6 Luxury model that goes for $39,395 with a sharp looking black and ivory leather interior. My tester was just like that, but with plain black leather surfaces and an MSRP of $39,195.

In the base model LX, you get the Sorento’s generous list of standard features, which includes heated front seats and Bluetooth connectivity in all trims, while the EX adds leather, power driver’s seat, automatic climate control and an auto-dimming rear-view mirror with integrated back-up camera. Pony up for my top-line tester and you also get navigation, panoramic sunroof, rear spoiler, mood lighting, premium stereo, and third row seating with air conditioning controls.

2011 Kia Sorento EX-V6 Luxury
2011 Kia Sorento EX-V6 Luxury
2011 Kia Sorento EX-V6 Luxury
2011 Kia Sorento EX-V6 Luxury. Click image to enlarge

The front seats are nicely shaped, but the prominent lumbar support might prove too much for some, and firm cushions can get a little hard-feeling on longer drives. Headroom up front seems tight for a tall vehicle, but rear seat room is more generous, with lots of legroom and toe room under the front seats. The panoramic sunroof makes coach class bright and airy; it’s too bad it can’t be had in combination with the four-cylinder engine.

Not surprisingly for a mid-size crossover, the Sorento’s third row is tight and really only suitable for children, like my six-year-old nephew, who found his spot back there quite comfortable. Third row access is provided only on the passenger side, where the second row seat can be folded and then flipped forward and (mostly) out of the way. The Dodge Journey and GM’s big Traverse/Acadia crossovers do this better, with seats that slide forward with one simple motion to allow third row riders in and out privileges.

Like other recent Kias, the interior is well designed, though some of the materials give away the brand’s budget-oriented bearing. Interior oddities include the push-button rear wiper and washer controls, found on the dash to the left of the wheel, instead of on the main wiper stalk. Also slightly odd are the visor-mounted vanity mirrors, whose lights must be turned on manually with a switch on the headliner, rather than turning on automatically when the mirror is opened. Then there’s Kia’s infuriating USB stereo interface, which has failed to work with any iPod I’ve plugged into it in any number of their test cars.

Connect with Autos.ca