Second-hand: 2011-13 Kia Sorento

Stylish and roomy, but thirsty at the pumps

  • 2011-13 Kia Sorento

With conviction usually reserved for flying-saucer sightings, progressive taxation and other figments of imagination, North Americans believe that four-cylinder engines invariably save gas.

When they don’t, there’s hell to pay.

“I bought the four-cylinder model because it was supposed to get 38 mpg on the highway,”begins a post by a Kia Sorento owner. “This vehicle has never gotten above 28 mpg.”

Kia and Hyundai made headlines last year when they revised their published fuel consumption numbers upwards, but in the case of the Sorento, it was a faint adjustment, from 7.1 L/100 km to 7.5.

Bearing pitchforks and torches, Kia drivers sought reparation: “I took it to the dealer. They said to drive slower.”

2011-13 Kia Sorento


When it introduced its mid-size SUV for 2003, Kia channelled Ford’s Explorer by bolting its stout body atop a rigid frame of box-section rails. It had real truck bones.

Four-wheel-drive models got the good stuff: a standard Eaton limited-slip rear differential, a low-range transfer case, skid plates and ample ground clearance.

Spiking gas prices prompted Kia to move the Sorento to corporate brother Hyundai’s Santa Fe unibody architecture.

Together with the loss of the two-speed transfer case, the transplant trimmed 215 kg of mass.

With its reassignment surgery complete, the second-generation Sorento had become a crossover with a fully independent suspension and transverse engine orientation. Towing capacity was adjusted down to a still useful 3,500 pounds with the V6. The U.S. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded it a Top Safety Pick.

Related: Looking for a used Kia? Start your search here

The Sorento arrived in January 2010 as a 2011 model. Inside the chiselled five-door body was enough space for a pair of optional third-row seats for the first time. The cabin impressed with its contemporary lines, upscale finishes and comfy seating. The cloth upholstery, however, was known to stain easily.

?Even leaving a wet umbrella on the seat for just a moment left a water mark immediately,? grumped one owner online.

Buyers could choose from two engines: the base DOHC 2.4-L four-cylinder, which churned out 175 hp and 169 lb.-ft. of torque, and an optional 276-hp DOHC 3.5-L V6 making 248 lb.-ft. of grunt.

Surprisingly, Kia offered a six-speed manual transmission in the base model; a six-speed automatic was optional or standard, depending on the trim level. Both front-drive and all-wheel-drive configurations were retained.

For 2012, Kia released an energized version of the four-banger outfitted with gasoline direct injection (GDI), good for 191 hp. Also new were stain-resistant seat fabric, a ventilated driver’s seat and Kia’s ?Uvo? voice-activated interface.

On the road

An automatic-equipped, four-cylinder Sorento panted to 96 km/h in 9.0 seconds. With its 101-hp advantage and all-wheel drive to lay down the torque, the V6 model attained highway velocity in a decent 6.9 seconds.

Despite the sophisticated suspension design, the Sorento was apt to ride stiffly, especially in the EX model, owners griped. The base model actually behaved better.

Beyond the ride, the steering exhibited good heft, the brake pedal was firm and body roll was nicely mitigated.

Best of all, the Sorento went about its business quietly, which telegraphed a favourable return on investment. Consumers equate silent running with expensive machinery. Unfortunately, there remains that sticky issue of fuel economy.

?Our Sorento gets 17 to 20 mpg in combined driving, and its performance is weak and sluggish,? posted the owner of a 2012 four-cylinder model. The powerful V6 reportedly burns only slightly more regular-grade fuel.

What owners reported

No question, the 2011 redesign of the Sorento ? a nameplate many people didn’t know existed previously ? was a vast improvement over its predecessor. Owners raved about its handsome styling, roomy interior, class-leading amenities and intrinsic value for money.

Built in Kia’s billion-dollar assembly plant in West Point, Ga., the Sorento was supposed to deliver world-class quality, but there are disquieting reports of lapses.

There are owner accounts, in small numbers, of entire engines and automatic transmissions giving up the ghost early on. Some models equipped with push-button start have exhibited mysterious engine shut-off at speed ? much like the Chrysler models we’ve documented before. More commonly reported were noisy suspension bits, faulty coil springs, alignment issues, broken interior trim, a few oil leaks and some electrical snafus.

Kia’s trumpeted five-year warranty offers relief, but what will owners do after that milestone? Pitchforks, anyone?

We would like to know about your ownership experience with these models: Hyundai Genesis Coupe, Ford Mustang and Honda Insight. Email:

2011-13 Kia Sorento

What’s Best: Refined and quiet, seven-passenger seating, DIY gear changes.

What’s Worst: Four-cylinder drinks heavily, badge-challenged, 2011 model older than you think.

Typical GTA prices: 2011: $19,000, 2013: $28,000

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