Kis Sorento - is no cheese

Sorrento makes great cheese, Mozzarella, Ricotta, Mascarpone, and delectable snack packs among them. Kia, the Korean purveyor of all things value, makes a great Sorento. Packed with yummy goodness straight from America, there is nothing cheesy about it.
This is pure American cheddar, engineered in Ann Arbor, MI and built in a glistening new plant in West Point, GA. Sure, some of the crumbs migrate back to S. Korea, but the bulk of what makes the Sorento is brewed in the USA. That becomes immediately apparent as you climb inside, take a bite, and head to Eisenhower’s Interstate.

Kia bills this hunk of nourishment as a CUV, or Crossover Utility Vehicle, because it is constructed as a unibody wagon without a separate frame. Riding on a four-wheel independent suspension system, it definitely behaves more like a car than a crusty old SUV. It feels tough, but rides smooth, and can tackle almost anything Aunt Martha or Uncle Ned can churn over.

Designers made Sorento’s exterior tantalizingly appealing with curves, angles, and crisp creases. Styling is based on the KND-4 concept from the 2007 L.A. Auto Show and includes Kia’s tabbed chrome grille, wrap-around headlamps, and taillamps carved into the liftgate. High ground clearance comes via 17” wheels (optional 18” chrome alloys on up-level models). Recessed lower body sills, angled rear windowline, and large foglamps help hide the CUV’s ample proportions, providing a fit appearance in a world of pudgy piggies. The hood is designed to flex and crumple to absorb shock if hit by pedestrians or bicyclists. Now that I think about it, our cream beige wagon kinda looks like cheese. Maybe pimento, with a little bit of spice.

Crossover or SUV, Sorento packs on enough inches to stuff up to seven passengers inside its finely-finessed shell. Once injected, you’ll feel like the Head Cheese inside a golden pastry. Sorento is equipped like an Acura MDX or Volvo XC90 with a touch screen, large analog gauges, smooth panels, dark woodgrain, two-tone leather seats (beige and gray), and gated gear selector. A bit sour, there is lots of hard plastic on the dash and doors…kinda like Kraft tries to fool us with premium cheddar – it is good stuff, but still not the awesomely-delicious cave-aged gold. You could watch one of Sorrento’s cooking videos on the rear seat DVD monitors and hear Martha Stewart whip up a batch of cheese-filled hors-d’oeuvres on Satellite Radio, but you’ll want to connect to friends through the car’s hands-free Bluetooth phone connection. View the world through an optional panoramic sunroof or rear backing camera.

Engineers whipped out a big ol’ can of Cheez Whiz when developing the powertrain. Powering this dairy farm is a 276-HP 3.5-litre V6 engine tuned like a Swiss watch; base models come standard with a 175-HP 2.4-litre four-cylinder. Both are coupled to a crisp-shifting six-speed automatic transmission. Standard front-/optional all-wheel-drive, locking center differential for severe weather and light off-roading, four-wheel anti-lock brakes, and electronic stability control hold everything steady no matter the conditions. Hill Start Assist Control (holds vehicle momentarily while lifting from brake to throttle) and Downhill Brake Control give at least a pretense at off-road capability.

Grated or curd, roads are no match for the Sorento’s four-wheel independent suspension system and firm steering. It glides over almost anything without shaking its rump out of sequence with its better parts. Some might consider the Sorento a mild cheese, best suited for smooth highways. However, the crossover is sharper and demonstrates considerable bite off-road. It goes up trails like mozzarella sticking to your teeth while whipping up cream on the Interstate.

You’ll always be able to attack the master counter in a gourmet cheese shop and come home with the best from Germany, Italy, France, or Sweden. American and Japanese cheeses aren’t bad either, if you take them locally. The BMW X5, Mercedes ML, Cadillac SRX, and Lincoln MKX are great, but you’ll pay. Or, you could hustle through the Kraft section and go home with an affordable yet yummy number from Sorento. You’ll hardly miss the expensive stuff.

In the end, this story is the cheesiest thing about the Sorento. Go to for great recipes, but melt down to your local Kia dealership for all the best value-packed CUVs they have to offer. Prices start at $22,395, but our test vehicle fermented to a briny $34,715 including Kia’s standard 10-yr/100,000-mile limited powertrain warranty, 5-Yr/60k limited basic warranty, and five-yr./100k anti-perforation warranty. Competitors include the Ford Explorer, Chevy Traverse, Honda Pilot, and Toyota Highlander.

By Casey Williams - MyCarData