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2012 Kia Sorento Crossover

The 2012 Kia Sorento continues the recent trend for the up and coming automaker of presenting very well appointed vehicles that pull well out ahead of its past models.

Having driven both the 2012 Sorento Crossover SUV for this review (and the 2012 Kia Rio for a review still to come), I was struck by the upgrade in overall build quality and features throughout the line from even recent years’ models. While Kia might’ve been looked at as a strictly affordable, more stripped down option for buyers looking to buy cheaper than German, the automakers has stepped up its collective game to start making some quality, but still affordable vehicles.

The new Sorento’s collection of features and driver quality positions it well to compete with similar sized, in-class vehicles such as the Subaru Outback, Honda CR-V and the Toyota RAV4. The vehicle went through a major redesign in 2011. While the 2012 has a few upgrades, the modern styling stays close to last year’s look.

You can get a four-cylinder engine with direct fuel injection for more power and better fuel economy. Otherwise, standard issue includes a 2.4 liter V4 engine with a manual transmission (optional automatic), Bluetooth, iPod connector, satellite radio (optional with subscription), side/curtain airbags, stability control and traction control.

You can throw in options like a heated driver’s seat, upgraded sound system and the newly redesigned Kia UVO voice activated interface.

I gave UVO a good workout for both driving directions and destination searches and found the interface reliable and easy to navigate.

While the Kia at times seems slightly underpowered with the four-cylinder power plant providing up to 191 horsepower, not going with a V6 does keep fuel economy within manageable limits for a small SUV. Kia promises about 20 city and 27 hwy. Maybe 30 mpg would be nice, but for a vehicle of this size, 27 is a nice number.

You can upgrade in the options category to a V6 engine. That give the SOrento the kind of on and off road guts you might be hoping for when you hit the gas, but you’ll make more frequent visits to the filling station.

In the cargo and passenger carrying department, the Sorento is a crossover – a smaller than traditional SUV – that’s still big enough to carry three rows of passengers. If you want to move the third row of seats out of the way, you open enough a large enough cargo bay for several bags of groceries, more than one golf bag.

The only identifiable drawback for the Kia Sorento is its suspension seems very street tuned and much too tight for any off-roading applications. Of course, an individual buyer could kit out or otherwise adjust any trim variation of the Sorento and make it a more of a dirt road fun machine, but – as equipped off the assembly line – the Sorento is more appropriate for urban warfare – or just getting the kids to school and the groceries home.