2012 Kia Sorento SX AWD review: That much for a Kia?

2012 Kia Sorento SX AWD

2012 Kia Sorento SX AWD

The shocker came from the sticker. The bottom line on our 2012 Kia Sorento SX AWD was $37,150, and all of that was standard equipment for the SX AWD except the $1,500 panoramic sunroof and $800 destination fee. Holy cow, that’s a Kia?

Yes, indeed it is. It’s not that other compact SUVs with all-wheel drive and well-equipped aren’t priced as high as our test Sorento SX AWD or even higher. It’s just that we’re not used to seeing a sticker that fat on a Kia.

The question that naturally follows, of course, is whether it’s worth it.

It’s the second year for the Sorento, which debuted for the 2011 model year. It was also the debut for Kia manufacturing in the U.S., with a modern new plant in West Point, Georgia. And for its sophomore year, one wouldn’t expect much change. One would be right, and wrong, too.

2012 Kia Sorento SX AWD interior

The zigzag shift pattern of the 2012 Kia Sorento SX AWD six-speed automatic transmission also has tip-shift manual operation.

Kia added the option of direct injection to its base four-cylinder engine for 2012. While the old-fashioned port injection is standard—and rated at 175 horsepower—direct injection for the engine raises output to 191 horses.  Torque gets a similar boost, from 169 lb-ft to 181 lb-ft. And although direct injection isn’t the miracle pill for fuel economy, it gives the Sorento one to three extra miles per gallon, depending on whether city/highway and all-wheel/front-wheel drive. Direct injection (or GDI in Kia-speak, for “gasoline direct injection”) is standard on the mid-grade Sorento EX while optional on the base LX.

Also new for 2012 is “YES-Essentials” seat fabric that has anti-bacterial, anti-soil and anti-static properties, and it’s standard on all Sorento models with fabric seats. Kia’s UVO powered-by-Microsoft voice-activated infotainment center is now standard on the EX trim level. Kia also increased availability of a number of items across the board.

But we can’t say anything about the new direct injection engine, however, because we didn’t have a 2012 Kia Sorento EX as a test vehicle. Rather, we had the 2012 Kia Sorento SX, which comes standard with a 3.5-liter V-6 engine. And because it’s the SX, it comes standard with leather seating, so we can’t tell you anything about the new seat fabric. What we’re left with is the top of the line Sorento, with the most standard stuff of any Sorento trim level.

2012 Kia Sorento SX cargo

The third-row seat of the 2012 Kia Sorento SX folds flat easily but the second row doesn’t fold flat.

In fact, counting the only option the panoramic sunroof, it’s easier to talk about what our test Sorento didn’t have: cargo cover, cargo net, roof chromed cross bars, wheel locks, tow hitch and an interior lighting kit that, per Kia, “personalize(s) the Sorento’s cabin environment with the fully integrated colored interior Lighting [sic] system. Lights in the cupholders, forward tray and foot well area are coordinated with the doors which emit a soft white light when opened.”

The actual list of the 2012 Kia Sorento SX equipment is as impressive as it is long, including the aforementioned leather seating (except for the grubbins in the third row), three-zone climate control, “Sorento”-illuminated door sill, Infinity Surround Sound audio, heated front seats and air-cooled driver’s seat, memory driver’s power seat and outside mirror, power-folding outside mirrors, proximity key with pushbutton start, navigation with rearview camera, back-up warning and  a heated steering wheel with leather and wood trim.

Repeat: heated steering wheel. Try it and you won‘t want to drive in the winter without it.

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John is a veteran auto writer, first published in Custom Rodder magazine in 1980. Since then, he has been published in all the big car magazines, including Car and Driver, Road & Track, Motor Trend, Auto Week, Automobile, plus a variety of others, including but certainly not limited to Automobile Quarterly, Collectible Automobile, and Special Interest Automobiles. John’s work has also been featured in a number of consumer and general interest magazines such as Consumers Digest, Popular Science and others. John has written four books, including a history of the Mazda RX-7 (selling for more out-of-print than it did new), buyers’ guides for Mazda, Datsun/Nissan and Volvo cars, and is co-author of 365 Cars You Must Drive with Motor Trend editor Matt Stone, and his work has been translated into Italian, Estonian, Portuguese, Russian, and Bulgarian. John is recipient of the prestigious Ken Purdy Award for Excellence in Automotive Journalism, awarded by the International Motor Press Association, and the Golden Quill from the Washington Automotive Press Association. John has three adult daughters and has been married for more that four decades to Mary Ann, Distinguished Professor of Mathematics at East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania.