2011 Kia Sorento. Click image to enlarge
Inside Story is a review of interior comfort features, cabin controls, storage options, trunk space and under-hood accessibility based on a seven-day evaluation. For driving impressions, please see our Test Drives section.
Review and photos by Michael Clark
2011 Kia Sorento
Pine Mountain, Georgia – The saying goes that The South shall rise again. What better way to re-ignite an area decimated by the outsourcing of textile jobs to faraway lands than to build a one-billion dollar plant for a sport-ute from a faraway land. The 2011 Kia Sorento is the first Kia to be built in North America, and with freshly-minted examples at the ready, I dusted off my passport for the launch last week, just outside Atlanta. Drive time included the entry LX, up-level EX, five and seven-passenger configurations, as well as four-cylinder and V6 powerplants, in front and all-wheel drive motion. Pricing starts at $23,995 for the LX I-4 FWD 5-passenger, with a six-speed manual transmission, topping out at $39,395 for the EX Luxury V6 AWD 7-passenger trim. (Pricing shown does not include freight, taxes, regional or promotional incentives.)
2011 Kia Sorento. Click image to enlarge
Remember Bonanza? Not the show; the restaurant chain with steaks by Uniroyal. The saving grace was the salad bar, where you could pretty much assemble everything you’ve ever wanted on your sea of greens. This thinking of loaded-for-the-masses appears to have penetrated the majority of Kia nameplates, including the new Sorento. The tilt/telescoping wheel gets the well-placed and actuated trifecta of controls for cruise, audio, and Bluetooth phone engagement.
The headlamp switch on the turn signal stalk is equipped with an auto detent. The intermittent wiper stalk keeps the rear wiper controls separate, to the left of the driver, at a good height on the dashboard. Note that the rear wiper swipe is a fixed intermittent, which may not be the best choice for ark-inspiring downpours. Also inhabiting this pod is the Electronic Stability Control switch, Downhill Assist Control, plus rear parking sonar. The sonar first appears on the I-4 in automatic transmission trim, and occurs on V6 models as standard equipment. Bumping up to the EX trim for either engine eliminates the sonar, providing in its place a rear-view camera view, within the rear-view mirror. (View is incorporated into Navi screen on models so equipped.)
Finally! A proper dimmer rocker switch control, much more appreciated than fiddling with what looks like an odometer reset on the instrument panel. Note to Kia; even at its brightest, the panel lighting did seem a touch dim. The six-speed Steptronic automatic includes a manual shift gate (sorry; no steering wheel paddles.) The driver’s door pod houses an auto driver’s window, power window lock-out, and the power heated exterior mirror toggle.
High-mount turn signal indicators on the exterior mirrors are standard across the range. The electric fuel door release is found on the door panel, yet another standard feature. Manual HVAC controls are LX-specific, with digital dual zone climate controls arriving at the EX trim level. The single CD head unit is Kia corporate issue, topped off by a separate clock display, next to the passenger airbag indicator. Below the HVAC dials is the docking station for auxiliary audio inputs, including iPod and USB, flanked by two 12-volt DC powerpoints. Push button start with Smart Key is standard on all V6 models, also appearing on the EX I-4.
Front and rear door pockets are mostly interested in your hydration elation, instead of stuff stow. An open cubby with no anti-rattle pad sits below the HVAC controls. Beneath this cubby is yet another realization that no space should go un-stuffed, with a pass-through cubby, instead of diminutive side pockets favoured by other makes. The front console cupholder gets a rubber bed, easily removable for cleaning, and small, rubber-tab cinchers for cup grip. Note to Kia; I would prefer larger cincher tabs. The console lid has been hollowed out, allowing for CD cases to be placed in the upper tray, while still achieving closure.
For those heck-bent on plugging their Smart Key into a void, the Push-button Start models receive such a port on the bottom of the console floor. The glovebox is a locker, and of respectable sizing, though Kia appears to have forgotten a light for the within. Front seatbacks are equipped with mesh pockets. Note the third 12-volt DC powerpoint, on the rear of the centre console. The second row centre armrest gets the expected dual non-cinch cupholder. Look at the elevated cushion of the armrest, which genuinely appears to have been thought out for both comfort, beverage steadying, and ease in raising the bevvie to one’s lips. (Yes; I have that kind of time.)
A good-sized sunglasses holder joins overhead forces with sliding sunblocker panels on the visors, plus vanity mirrors with rocker switch-actuated lamps. (Unlit on the I-4 manual.) The rear-view interior mirror you receive is trim level dependent. Manual day/night is the reflection for I-4 LX models. The V6 LX uses an auto-dimming unit, with Homelink transmitter. EX trim, be it I-4 or V6, adds the rear-view camera screen to the mirror. The Luxury edition reverts back to the auto-dim/Homelink unit of the V6 LX, since the camera view is now part of the Navi screen.