Kia is a brand on the rise in the United States. From its memorable hamster ads to its high-profile sponsorship of the NBA, you don’t have to be a car nut to know that this South Korean company is no longer a peddler of anonymous, value-driven cars. And even though its most recent offerings have been getting plenty of attention for their creative, eye-catching styling, it’s the comparatively conservative 2013 Kia Sorento crossover SUV that’s actually the brand’s best-seller.
Quite simply, the Sorento doesn’t need anthropomorphic rodents or an L.A. Clipper to get noticed. It all starts with its size. Placed in between compact SUVs like Kia’s own Sportage and midsize SUVs like the Toyota Highlander, the Sorento falls in line with vehicles like the deceptively large Honda CR-V. However, the Sorento manages to squeeze in an available third-row seat that can actually fit adults. Despite such a generous amount of passenger and cargo space, this Kia still feels maneuverable and achieves decent fuel economy.
Next up comes a generous helping of available features. Even the base trim includes Bluetooth and satellite radio, while the upper trims can be packed with niceties like a cooled driver seat, a heated steering wheel and a panoramic sunroof. In true Kia tradition, all of this comes at a price that undercuts its rivals. Essentially, the Sorento offers the size and equipment of a more expensive crossover.
Add in a competitive engine lineup and styling that’s attractive (if not especially distinct), and you get a family SUV that delivers on most fronts. We certainly suggest checking out the Chevy Equinox, Dodge Journey, Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4, as each is strong in its own right. However, the 2013 Kia Sorento is one of our favorites and it has nothing to do with its association with hip-hop rodentia.
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Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2013 Kia Sorento is a crossover SUV that fits in between the compact and midsize segments. There are three trim levels: LX, EX and SX. Five-passenger seating is standard on all but the LX V6 and SX, which come with the otherwise optional 50/50 split-folding third-row seat that raises capacity to seven.
The base LX comes standard with 17-inch alloy wheels, heated mirrors, keyless entry, full power accessories, cruise control, air-conditioning, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a 60/40 split-folding second-row seat, Bluetooth and a sound system with a CD player, satellite radio, an auxiliary audio jack and an iPod/USB audio interface. The LX Convenience package adds foglamps, rear parking sensors, heated front seats, an auto-dimming mirror and the Uvo voice-activated electronics interface. On four-cylinder models, this package also includes a more powerful and efficient engine, roof rails and the third-row seat (also available as a stand-alone item). Later in the model year, a new LX Convenience Plus package will add an eight-way power driver seat (with lumbar adjustment), a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, and a first aid kit.
Stepping up to the EX gets you the upgraded four-cylinder engine, 18-inch wheels, automatic headlights, keyless ignition/entry, dual-zone automatic climate control, the eight-way power driver seat, leather upholstery and the LX Convenience package items (minus the auto-dimming mirror).
V6-powered EX models can be equipped with the EX Premium package, which adds the third-row seat, the auto-dimming mirror, a panoramic sunroof, rear air-conditioning, a four-way power passenger seat, the third-row seat, a first aid kit, a rearview camera and a 10-speaker Infinity surround-sound audio system with HD radio. Four-cylinder EX models can be equipped with the EX Premium Plus package, which includes all of the above items plus power-folding mirrors, driver memory functions and a touchscreen navigation system with real-time traffic. The V6 model’s EX Limited package includes all of the Premium Plus package’s extra items plus a ventilated driver seat.
The Sorento SX comes only with the V6 and adds to the standard EX equipment special styling cues, different 18-inch wheels, LED taillamps, rear air-conditioning, the four-way power passenger seat, the third-row seat, a rearview camera, a two-tone interior color scheme and an Infinity audio system. The SX Premium package essentially adds a heated steering wheel and everything from the EX’s options that aren’t included as standard.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2013 Kia Sorento LX comes standard with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 175 horsepower and 169 pound-feet of torque. Every Sorento comes standard with a six-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive, while all-wheel drive is an option. In Edmunds performance testing, this base LX engine with front-wheel drive went from zero to 60 mph in 9.9 seconds, which is slow for the class. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 21 mpg city/29 mpg highway and 24 mpg combined with front-wheel drive and 20/26/22 with all-wheel drive.
Optional on the LX and standard on the EX is a direct-injected version of the 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 191 hp and 181 lb-ft of torque. Though we haven’t tested this engine, its acceleration should be better. EPA-estimated fuel economy stands at 21/30/24 with front-drive and 21/27/23 with all-wheel drive.
Standard on the SX and optional on the others is a 3.5-liter V6 that produces 276 hp and 248 lb-ft of torque. In Edmunds performance testing, an EX V6 went from zero to 60 mph in 7.6 seconds, which is better than average. Fuel economy rates 20/26/22 and 18/24/20 for front- and all-wheel-drive models, respectively.
The 2013 Kia Sorento comes standard with antilock disc brakes, stability control, front active head restraints, front-seat side airbags and side curtain airbags that cover only the first and second rows. In Edmunds brake testing, the Sorento came to a stop from 60 mph in 131 feet, which is a bit longer than average.
In government crash testing, the Sorento received four out of five stars for overall crash protection, with four stars for frontal-impact protection and five stars for side-impact protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Sorento the highest possible rating of “Good” in the frontal-offset, side and roof strength crash tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Sorento’s cabin doesn’t have the visual flair of its more recently redesigned Kia siblings, but it’s attractive enough and benefits from the brand’s usual array of audio and climate controls that are intuitive with a substantial feel. Dashboard plastics are hard to the touch, but look good and are certainly on par for the class. Kia’s Uvo system also works very well. Based on the same technology as Ford’s Sync system, it allows drivers to control various functions with voice commands, including their MP3 players and cell phones.
The front seats provide plenty of comfort for long trips and offer the type of commanding view of the road that crossover buyers want. The second-row seat accommodates two with ease and three in a pinch. It doesn’t slide fore or aft without the optional third-row seat, making the standard Sorento less versatile than the Equinox or RAV4. But the third-row seat does feature 50/50-split-folding seatbacks and enough room for adults, which is unique to a vehicle of its size. With the rear seats folded, the Sorento can carry up to 72.5 cubic feet of cargo, about as much as a RAV4 or CR-V.
The 2013 Kia Sorento’s base 2.4-liter engine feels punchy enough around town and with light loads, but struggles a bit with extra passengers and cargo. The extra power generated from the available 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.
At highway speeds, the Sorento’s cabin remains impressively isolated from both road and wind noise. 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 is a little firmer than some other models in this class, but it should still suit most folks just fine.