Kia's corporate grill, known as the "Tiger Nose," translates well onto the Sorento's large proportions. Angular headlamps and large lower grill openings with fog lights give the crossover an aggressive look.
Black body cladding along the lower edge and around the wheel wells reduces the visual mass of the Sorento and increases its sleek and sporty appeal. However, the Limited package's chrome wheels are a design choice that we could live without.
2.4-liter inline four
Our Sorento may look like a high performer, but beneath its hood is a smallish 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder engine. Power output is a reasonable 175 horsepower, but if you anticipate ever being in a rush to get somewhere, you're going to want to spec the larger 276-horsepower V-6 engine.
The previous generation Sorento was a body on frame, truck-based SUV. However, the 2011 model is now a unibody crossover that has more in common architecturally with a large car.
Fully independent suspension
Its rear-wheel driven, live axle chassis has also been replaced with a front-wheel-drive system with fully independent suspension at all four corners.
Available all-wheel drive
The Sorento is available with full-time all-wheel drive (featuring a lockable center differential), but choosing this configuration puts a dent in the CUV's fuel economy numbers.
Third row seating
Although not shown here, the Sorento is available with third-row seating (standard on V-6 models, optional with the I-4) that boosts its maximum passenger load from five to seven.
The Sorento's interior varies wildly from fairly classy to downright tacky depending on the color combination chosen. Here, we have a nice two-tone black and tan combo that's been upgraded with the Premium package's heated leather seating surfaces.
Steering wheel controls
The Sorento's steering wheel features a plethora of buttons for cruise control, audio functions, hands-free calling, and voice commands.
All Sorentos are equipped with a six-speed automatic transmission. Sliding the selector to the left places the transmission in Shiftronic mode for manual gear selection.
The instrument cluster is pretty Spartan by CNET standards, but it gets the job done with a small monochromatic trip computer and clear gauges. When you're driving in a thrifty manner, a small, green ECO light illuminates.
If this navigation rig looks familiar, it's because we've seen it before in various Hyundai vehicles. The 8GB, solid-state memory-based system is a snappy performer and a terrific value.
Real-time traffic updates are provided by the standard Sirius Satellite Radio uplink.
The satellite connection also beams music and talk radio stations into the Sorento's dashboard and out of its speakers.
Bluetooth hands-free calling is standard on the Sorento with automatic phone book import and voice-activated dialing.
A2DP audio streaming
The system also supports A2DP/AVRCP audio streaming from music phones, which is rather impressive for a vehicle in this price range.
Rear view camera
When equipped with navigation, the Sorento also benefits from a rearview camera with proximity sensors and distance indicators, but no moving trajectory guides.