2011 Kia Sorento Driving Impressions

We're used to Kias being small, cheap and cheerful, and this SUV is certainly cheerful, in a roomy, upscale way. The new unibody construction isolates engine vibration well. Moving away from the curb onto choppy pavement, the structure again proves its worth, having excellent sound damping and an impressive feeling of sturdiness.

The MacPherson-strut front suspension and multi-link rear suspension are nicely tuned to muffle and damp pavement irregularities the vehicle is passing over. On smooth curves when driving a bit more aggressively, this crossover feels decently agile and easy to control. Much of this is thanks to Kia's firm, spot-on steering effort. Steering is power-assisted but requires the driver to make forthright moves to left or right, there's no light-headed wandering or numbness of any kind. This no-nonsense steering feel will prove invaluable when making an emergency accident-avoidance maneuver. First-class.

We drove models with the I4 engine and V6. The four-cylinder was entirely adequate, though not exciting. The V6, on the other hand, was crisp and energetic. A V6 Sorento is no performance car, but it's probably the quickest in its class. These Kias are not going to be doing a lot of drag racing, of course; on the other hand, ample acceleration can be very handy escaping a threatening traffic situation.

The 4WD models use full-time all-wheel drive, which makes them excellent all-weather alternatives.

The four-wheel disc brakes of the Sorento brought it to a firm halt from highway speed with good controllability. We found the nose dives down under heavy braking, but the vehicle was stable in panic braking, and on dry pavement the anti-lock brakes worked appropriately.

Fuel efficiency was a bit of a disappointment. The Sorento certainly doesn't squander fuel. The Sorento 2WD gets an EPA-estimated 20/27 mpg City/Highway with manual transmission, 21/27 mpg for the 4WD automatic. Sorento V6 4WD gets 19/25 mpg, 20/26 mpg for V6 2WD. By comparison, the 2011 Chevrolet Equinox is rated 22/32 mpg. The Sorento offers better performance, however.

* MSRP is the Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of the vehicle. Unless specifically indicated in the advertisement, MSRP does not include taxes, fees or other charges. Actual dealer pricing may vary. Consult your dealer for more information and complete details.

* The dealer advertised price may not reflect specific dealer offers, and may be subject to certain terms and conditions as indicated in the advertisement. Consult your dealer for more information and complete details.

* Images and options shown are examples, only, and may not reflect exact vehicle color, trim, options, pricing or other specifications.

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