Sorento LX – A tough mid-size four-wheel drive SUV that I use daily in the Canadian Oilfields. This is my third Kia and another ALMOST winner by KIA. I average two to three hundred kilometres per year and go through at least two vehicles per year. All vehicles have their faults which I can live with, but vehicle safety and vehicle control are always my main concern, and I have never had a complaint about KIA, but the Sorento has three very dangerous faults.
The stock tires are made for parking on dry pavement only. Being over width for aesthetics only - these wide tires make the Sorento’s steering heavy, unpredictable and extremely dangerous on icy, snow-covered, wet or muddy roads. Not a major problem to change to narrower tires, but a $1000.00 of additional cost for replacement tires, and always a battle for warranty when the tire size is changed.
Typical of most new vehicles, the Sorento has lots of blind spots, and unfortunately with small and totally inadequate outside mirrors, rear and side vision on the Sorento is dangerously impaired.
Then there is the 5-speed “Steptronic” Automatic Transmission A5SR1 designed with normal operation in drive and reverse, and an option to shift manually through all 5 gears.
There is a constant shudder in the transmission when starting off. Also there is no way to shut off the overdrive for pulling a trailer or slow driving, without shifting through all gears manually, and the manual shift option is painfully slow and not very responsive.
These items are annoying, but not dangerous. What is dangerous, and has caused me several visits to the ditch and other unplanned “Swamp Tours”, is the driver cannot select a gear such as fourth, third or second, and stay in it as with a normal automatic transmission or a manual transmission. In manual mode, if the Sorento’s wheel speed slows down, the transmission will shift down automatically, and if you are on ice or mud, the wheels will lock and slide. Being a short vehicle, the Sorento will be out of control faster than you can react, and now as your vehicle is either headed for the ditch or across the centre line, you have to deviate your attention to manually shift the transmission.
Don’t even think about operating this vehicle in Low Range four-wheel-drive in manual mode, as when you think you are under control, creeping along in a tough slippery spot, the wheels slow down, the transmission shifts to first, all four wheels lock, and the vehicle starts to slide.
If you think the limited slip rear differential will help, it won’t, it only makes control on slippery surfaces worse, and I see KIA has dropped it in 2006.
If you are planning to drive on California freeways without pulling a trailer, the automatic transmission would be great. If you need to know the vehicle is under control in all conditions, especially in four-wheel drive, and you want a Sorento, consider another transmission or look somewhere else for a vehicle.