2012 Kia Sorento Review and Prices

Last Updated: May 23, 2012

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2012 Kia Sorento Buying Advice

The 2012 Kia Sorento is the best midsize SUV for you want to experience canny updates to an appealing crossover.

The 2012 Kia Sorento gets an advanced new four-cylinder engine for more power plus better fuel economy. And new features include a voice-activated Microsoft infotainment system. These and other changes amount to an unusually comprehensive going-over for an SUV in just its second model year. Kia is the spunky subsidiary of the South Korean giant, Hyundai. It outsells such brands as Dodge, GMC, Volkswagen, and Mazda in the U.S. Sorento is its largest SUV and was fully redesigned for model-year 2011. The 2012 Sorento continues with a choice of four- and six-cylinder engines and front- and all-wheel drive, seating for up to seven, and a competitive $23,950-$35,650 base-price range.

Should you buy a 2012 Kia Sorento or wait for the 2013 Kia Sorento? Buy a 2012 Sorento if you’re conscious of styling that’s about to go stale. Kia will shuffle some of the 2013 Sorento’s features mix, but none of the changes appear to be worth waiting for. And the 2013 Sorento will be a visual repeat of the 2012 model. But Kia has an all-new Sorento in the wings for model-year 2014, so the 2013 Sorento’s styling will have a shorter shelf life than the 2012’s. If you admire this crossover’s ability to squeeze a couple of kids in a third-row seat, its good road manners, and looks that Kia says are masculine enough not to “stigmatize dad,” buy a 2012 Sorento.

2012 Kia Sorento Changes back to top

Styling: The 2012 Kia Sorento styling gets only detail updates as this SUV continues to share its basic understructure and dimensions with the 2012 Hyundai Santa Fe. Sorento handily outsells the Santa Fe, however, and has its own styling that’s chiseled and understated compared with the Santa Fe’s swoopy flamboyance. Both are available with a choice of front- or all-wheel drive and with four- and six-cylinder engines but only Sorento gets the advanced new engine for model-year 2012.

Kia positions the 2012 Sorento as a crossover rival to such midsize-class stalwarts as the Chevrolet Equinox and Ford Explorer. Sizewise, however, Sorento is an SUV that straddles the compact-midsize line. Midsize traits include an available V-6 engine and seating for seven -- although Sorento has less passenger room in both the second- and third-row seats than most true midsize crossovers. Compact-SUV qualities include an available four-cylinder engine, a body that’s easy to maneuver and garage, and popularly equipped versions priced around $27,000.

The 2012 Kia Sorento offers base LX, midlevel EX, and top-line SX models. All have two front bucket seats and a three-passenger split/folding second-row bench. A child-sized two-passenger 50/50 split/folding third-row seat is standard on the SX and available on LX and EX versions. There’s just 9.1 cubic feet of space between the third-row seat and the rear hatch, but Sorento’s cargo capacity otherwise compares well with that of larger, midsize crossovers. Cargo volume is 37 cubic feet behind the second row and a generous 72.5 cubic feet with the rear seats folded.

Styling tweaks for model-year 2012 include chromed dual exhaust outlets for models with the new four-cylinder engine, a fresh five-spoke design for the EX’s standard alloy wheels, and a side-step pad with a stainless-steel finish for SX versions. All 2012 Sorentos have alloy wheels -- 17-inchers on base and LX models, 18s on EX and SXs. Further setting the 2012 SX apart are its body-color bumpers and wheel arches and LED taillamps.

Mechanical: The big mechanical change for the 2012 Kia Sorento is addition of a second four-cylinder engine that adds significantly more power while actually improving fuel economy. Like the carryover base four-cylinder engine, the 2012 newcomer is a 2.4-liter. But it employs advanced direct fuel injection. Relatively rare in Sorento’s completive set, direct fuel injection introduces the gas-air mixture directly into the combustion chambers to maximize power and fuel economy and minimize exhaust emissions.

Borrowed from some other recently redesigned Kia models, the carmakers calls the new engine the GDI (Gas Direct Injection) 2.4-liter. In the Sorento it’s rated at 191 horsepower and 181 pound-feet of torque. The carryover 2.4-liter four-cylinder is again rated at 175 horsepower and 169 pound-feet of torque. (Think of torque as acceleration’s motive force and horsepower as the energy that sustains momentum.) The 2.4 GDI helps solve the acceleration shortfall suffered with the base four-cylinder and is a far-more viable – and more efficient – alternative to Sorento’s available V-6 engine.

The 175-horsepower four-cylinder engine remains standard on the base-level 2012 Sorento LX model with front-wheel drive. The GDI 2.4 is optional on that model and is the standard four-cylinder engine in all other 2012 Sorento LX and EX models. Returning as the 2012 Sorento’s V-6 is a 3.5-liter with 286 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque. It’s standard in the Sorento LX V-6 and EX V-6 models and is the only engine in the SX.

All 2012 Sorento models come only with a six-speed automatic transmission. No longer available is front-drive four-cylinder LX model with a six-speed manual transmission. With any engine, Sorento’s automatic transmission uses a floor shifter than can be flicked to mimic manual gear control.

The 2012 Kia Sorento remains in step with the crossover-SUV pack with a front-wheel-drive-based design that places the weight of the engine over the front tires for good snow traction. Its available all-wheel drive (AWD) system is also conventional in that it normally operates in front-drive but automatically reapportions power to the rear wheels when the fronts lose traction. This AWD system also includes a dashboard button that locks in a 50/50 front/rear torque split to provide extra traction at low speeds, a feature not available on all AWD crossovers.

Sorento has an all-independent suspension and tow ratings of 1,650 pounds with either four-cylinder engine and 3,500 with the V-6.

Features: The 2012 Kia Sorento continues the Hyundai/Kia practice of harassing comparably priced competitors by featuring a broader range of standard features – and offering some features direct rivals don’t offer at all.

Include in the latter category an available panoramic sunroof with a large tilt/slide-opening moonroof over the front seats and a huge fixed glass pane over the rear seats. Also rarities among similarly priced crossovers: the 2012 Sorento’s newly available power folding outside mirrors, cooled front seats, and, added to SX models, a heated steering wheel with a wood-trimmed rim.

Every 2012 Sorento comes with air conditioning (dual-zone automatic on EX and SX models), a trip computer, height-adjustable driver’s seat, and tilt/telescope steering wheel. The steering wheel includes controls for the audio system and for the Bluetooth hands-free cell-phone connectivity that’s standard on all 2012 Sorentos. It also contains buttons for the cruise-control system.

The 2012 Sorento continues to steal a beat on many rivals by equipping every trim level with both an MP3 auxiliary port and a USB iPod interface. Newly available for model-year 2012 is Kia’s UVO/Microsoft audio system with voice-command control, enhanced Bluetooth capabilities, and a 4.3-inch color dashboard screen that also displays a review camera. Audible rear obstacle detection is optional for 2012 Sorento LX models and standard on EX and SX trims. Standard on all but the base model are heated mirrors with LED turn-signal indicators.

Optional on all but the base Sorento are heated front seats. Newly optional on 2012 EX models and standard on 2012 SXs is a cooling function to go along with the heated front seats, memory capability for the power driver’s seat, and a power front passenger seat.

Keyless entry is standard on 2012 Sorentos, and EX and SX models come with pushbutton ignition via a keyfob that need not be removed from purse or pocket. The EX and SX also are the only 2012 Sorento models available with leather upholstery or with the navigation system, which features voice-activation.

2012 Kia Sorento Prices back to top

Base-price range for the 2012 Kia Sorento is $23,950-$35,650. That keeps 2012 Kia Sorento priced below rival 2012 compact crossovers of similar specification and also under slightly larger midisize crossovers. (Base prices in this review include the manufacturer’s mandatory destination fee; Kia’s fee for the 2012 Sorento is $800.)

At $23,950, the 2012 Sorento LX with the 175-horsepower four-cylinder and front-wheel drive is a relative stripper designed to snare price-based Internet searches. Limited to front-wheel drive, it’ll account for well under 10 percent of 2012 Sorento production.

About half of 2012 Sorento sales will be the LX model. Equipped with the new 191-horsepower GDI four-cylinder, the front-drive LX also has a base price of $23,950. However, that model has an effective base price of $25,600 because Kia equips each with a $1,650 Convenience Package option that includes roof cargo rails, a reverse obstacle detection system, inside rearview mirror with build-in backup-camera display, heated front seats, and fog lamps. 

The 2012 Sorento LX V-6 is priced from $25,750 with front-wheel drive and from $27,450 with AWD.

The 2012 Sorento EX four-cylinder model comes with the GDI 2.4 and starts at $26,750 with front-wheel drive and $28,450 with AWD. It also includes the 18-inch alloy wheels, automatic-on headlamps, rear spoiler, dual-zone automatic climate control, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, and pushbutton ignition.

Base price for the 2012 Sorento EX V-6 is $28,750 with front-wheel drive and $30,450 with AWD. 

The 2012 Kia Sorento SX comes with the V-6 and starts at $33,950 with front-drive and $35,650 with AWD. SX models come with leather upholstery, the navigation system, heated front seats, power driver’s seat and other amenities.  

Among key options, Kia charges $800 for the third-row seat. The Premium Plus Package for EX models costs $3,800 and adds navigation, leather upholstery, heated front seats, driver-seat memory and a power front passenger seat, power folding outside mirrors with memory, third-row seating, and an ungraded 10-speaker Infinity audio system.

Included in the 2012 Sorento’s value equation is Kia’s warranty coverage, which is among the industry’s most generous. It includes 5-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper and 10/100,000 powertrain coverage. This coverage is matched by the Hyundai Santa Fe’s, though the parent-company includes roadside assistance for 5 years/unlimited mileage while Kia’s roadside assistance is for 5 years/60,000 miles.

2012 Kia Sorento Fuel Economy back to top

EPA fuel-economy ratings for the 2012 Kia Sorento are among the best in the competitive set for both the four- and six-cylinder versions.

The 2012 Sorrento LS with the 175-horsepower four-cylinder engine and front-wheel drive rates 21/29/24 mpg city/highway/combined. Its savings come courtesy of its lower initial purchase price, not over the long term in fuel economy.

Indeed, with the more powerful four-cylinder GDI engine, the 2012 Sorento LX and EX are rated 22/32/25 mpg with front-wheel drive and 21/28/23 mpg with AWD. Additionally, the GDI 2.4 brings 2012 Sorento fuel-economy ratings in line with those of the most fuel-efficient compact- and midsize crossover SUVs, including the heavily hyped 22/32/26-mpg rating of the four-cylinder, front-wheel-drive Chevrolet Equinox. 

With the V-6 engine, the 2012 Sorento LX V-6, EX V-6, and SX models are rated 20/26/22 mpg with front-wheel drive and 18/24/20 with all-wheel drive.

2012 Kia Sorento Release Date back to top

The 2012 Kia Sorento went on sale in May 2011.

What's next for the 2012 Kia Sorento back to top

Assembled in Kia’s new plant in West Point, Georgia, Sorento is the first U.S.-built vehicle from this rapidly expanding brand. It’s also the first Kia to exceed 100,000 sales in a single year. Sorento is larger than the true-compact-class Kia Sportage, itself fully redesigned for model year 2011.

Sorento competes on price with compact-class stalwarts like the 2012 Honda CR-V and 2012 Toyota RAV4 but competes for driving feel with larger, costlier midsize crossovers such as the 2012 Honda Pilot and 2012 Chevrolet Equinox.

That’s a sweet spot Kia won’t jeopardize with radical changes for 2013, but it will continue to adjust features, making leather upholstery standard on the EX trim, for example, but relegating the navigation system to the SX model’s options sheet. More than most automakers, Kia makes these sorts of incremental adjustments without waiting for the traditional midcycle freshening. Witness the model-year 2012 addition of the GDI engine.

In all, though, this first-generation Sorento will have an abbreviated lifecycle, with the all-new model on tap for 2014, after just four model years rather than the traditional six. Look to the redesigned 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe for clues to the next-generation Sorento. The Hyundai boasts regular- and extended-length versions with five – and seven-passenger seating, respectively. It also continues with the GDI four-cylinder and the 3.5-liter V-6 as its only engines.

2012 Kia Sorento Competition back to top

Chevrolet Equinox: This handsome five-seat crossover has climbed to the top of the midsize-SUV sales charts on the strength of its roomy cabin, refined manner, and likeable powertrains. Along with its GMC Terrain design cousin, Equinox is larger than Sorento and has more rear-seat room, though it maxes out at 63.7 cubic feet of cargo volume. The base engine is a four-cylinder with 182 horsepower and 172 pound-feet of torque that sacrifices some performance to rate an impressive 22/32/26 mpg with front-drive and 20/29/23 with AWD. Frankly, the uninspired acceleration of the available V-6 (264 horsepower but just 222 pound-feet of torque), is a letdown. It rates 17/24/20 mpg with front-drive, 16/23/19 with AWD. The 2012 Equinox starts at $24,260, with AWD models beginning at $26,010 and V-6 versions starting at $27,280 and climbing to $33,200 before options. Equinox undergoes a freshening for model-year 2013. 

Ford Explorer: An old-school body-on-frame SUV until its model-year 2011 redesign, Explorer is now a seven-seat crossover selling well on the strength of classic styling and a wide array of features. It, too, is larger than the Sorento, and its third-row seat, which is standard, is far more spacious. Explorer has more cargo volume, as well, with a maximum 81 cubic feet on tap. The base engine is a 3.5-liter V-6 that’s a good match for the Sorento’s, at 290 horsepower and 255 pound-feet of torque, though it rates a lower 17/25/20 mpg with front-drive and 17/23/19 with AWD. At $995, Explorer’s optional powerplant is a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder from Ford’s EcoBoost engine family. It has 237 horsepower and 250 pound-feet of torque and while it rates a laudable 20/28/23 mpg, it comes only with front-wheel drive. All Explorers use a six-speed automatic transmission and go most rivals a step deeper into age of connectivity with the advanced but sometimes finicky MyFord Touch hands-free infotainment system. The 2012 Explorer V-6 models start at $28,995 with front drive and $30,995 with AWD; EcoBoost versions are priced from $29,990. 

Subaru Outback: At first glance it looks like a puffed-up station wagon, but the Outback is really an admirable feat of crossover packaging. It’s strictly a five-seater but has passenger and cargo volume to rival that of any of the truckier SUVs in this grouping. Its 8.7 inches of ground clearance is at least an inch greater than any direct rival’s. Outback also comes standard with a highly capable AWD system. Employing Subaru’s horizontally opposed engines, four-cylinder Outbacks have 170 horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque. They can feel a bit lethargic but rate a very competitive 22/29/24 mpg with their continuously variable (automatic) transmission. Their model-year 2012 base-price range is $24,070-$29,470. Six-cylinder versions get up and go with 256 horsepower and 247 pound-feet, rate 18/25/20 and have a $29,070-$32,470 base-price range.

2012 Kia Sorento Next Steps