$9,296 - $13,757

2012 Kia Sorento Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2012 Kia Sorento was new.


Performance: 7.4

Reviewers say that overall, the 2012 Kia Sorento rides fairly well for a bargain-brand midsize crossover, and that even its base engine provides enough power for most drivers. Plus, its fuel economy is above-average for a three-row crossover.

  • "Although we didn't spend any time off-road in the new Sorento, our on-road seat time revealed a surprisingly steady performer, with a relatively quiet ride--though some road noise intruded into the cabin--and minimal body roll for such a tall vehicle.” -- AutoWeek
  • "If you were to describe the Sorento's ability to corner, hold a line and ride the freeway, ‘direct’ would be it. We also noticed how well isolated the cabin proved to be from both road and wind noise at freeway speeds.” -- Edmunds
  • "Well-mannered, well-balanced, easy to maneuver and easy to live with, the … Kia Sorento merits high overall marks as a driver-friendly travelmate.” -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "The Sorento is no revelation to drive but few are in the small-crossover segment. It could use a suspension retune and slightly lighter steering at low speeds but it is still a good option for those looking for a small to mid-size crossover.” -- Automobile Magazine

Acceleration and Power

The Kia Sorento comes with a base 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder engine that makes 175 horsepower, and for 2012, Kia adds direct injection to the base engine for a middle-of-the-road option that makes 191 horsepower. The top-of-the-line 3.5-liter V6 makes 276 horsepower. According to the EPA, two-wheel drive Sorento models with the base engine net 21/29 mpg city/highway, while those paired with two-wheel drive and the 191-horsepower engine get 22/32 mpg city/highway. Two-wheel drive V6 models net 20/26 mpg city/highway. When equipped with optional all-wheel drive, base four-cylinder models get 21/27 mpg city/highway, and direct-injected four-cylinders net 21/28 mpg city/highway. Sorento V6 models equipped with all-wheel drive net 18/24 mpg city/highway. No matter how it’s equipped, the Sorento gets better fuel economy than most of its midsize competitors. Kia says that both four-cylinder engines can only tow up to 1,650 pounds, but V6 models can tow up to 3,500 pounds. That’s less than most of the Sorento’s V6 competitors.

A few test drivers say that the base engine is adequate, but most agree that it’s a pretty good choice. The few who have driven the new, direct-injected four-cylinder praise the higher horsepower, saying it makes up for the base engine’s power deficit while improving its fuel economy. All agree that the V6 is a good choice if you have the extra cash, especially since it doesn’t come with much of a penalty in fuel economy.

  • “The extra power generated from the new direct-injected four-cylinder helps, and we suspect the majority of buyers will be happy with this midlevel choice. Buyers who regularly ferry passengers and cargo are better served by the strong and smooth 3.5-liter V6.” -- Edmunds
  • "In most situations, the automatic transmission works well, however we found it reluctant to shift a few times. On the highway, when looking for a six-to-four downshift, we prodded the accelerator without response until finally the Sorento produced a dramatic, abrupt shift to third gear.” -- Automobile Magazine
  • "Models with the 175-horsepower 4-cylinder engine are not what you'd call fast; they have merely adequate passing punch. Testers complain of needing a heavy throttle foot in order to summon power reserves. Naturally, the V6 is stronger in all situations, but doesn't feel quite as potent as its 276-horsepower rating would suggest.” -- Consumer Guide
  • "Base four-cylinder is slow and barely beats V-6 fuel economy.” -- Car and Driver
  • "On either vehicle, hard acceleration often resulted in a bit of torque steer - a sensation that the front wheels are being tugged sideways as they try to deliver power to the road. This was somewhat surprising, given that the 4-cylinder Sorento isn’t wildly powerful and that the V-6 test car’s all-wheel drive would presumably eliminate any tendency toward torque steer (primarily an issue with front-drive cars). Many automakers have done a far better job of taming torque steer.” -- The New York Times

Handling and Braking

Reviewers praise the 2012 Sorento’s composed handling and strong brakes, but they mention that while the Sorento’s firm ride helps keep control over the body lean that plagues many SUVs, it can make driving on less-than-perfect roads a bit bumpy. A full-time all-wheel drive system with a locking center differential is optional on all models, and reviewers confirm that the system is quite capable.

  • "All Sorento models ride firmly, but they exhibit good overall composure and bump absorption.” -- Consumer Guide
  • "It should be noted, too, that both Sorentos, equipped with the larger 235/60R18 footwear (LXs get 235/65R17s), exhibited best-in-class braking, at 119 feet in the four and 121 feet in the V-6. Only the CX-7 manages to match them at 119 feet." -- Motor Trend
  • "We're also impressed with the Sorento's handling ability and its direct response to steering inputs; this is one of the more enjoyable small family crossovers to drive. The ride quality should suit most folks, but we've found it gets harsh when the Sorento is driven over potholes or similarly broken pavement.” -- Edmunds
  • "On a relatively smooth highway, the vehicle rides quite nicely, although the chassis doesn't handle rough roads that well as some of its competitors.” -- Automobile Magazine

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