2011 Kia Sorento

2011 Kia Sorento

Episode 2920
Auto Value and Bumper to BumperTire Rack "The Way Tire Buying Should Be"

It’s a clear sign of the times. Kia, responding to current market tastes, has redesigned their compact Sorento without its original body-on-frame SUV chassis, opting instead for a crossover utility unibody. Now Kia hopes this move will greatly expand the Sorento’s appeal. But does being more like a car, and less like a truck, make for a better Sorento?

Besides its chassis transformation, the second generation 2011 Kia Sorento is also the Korean brand’s first vehicle to have its assembly transferred to American soil. That takes place at a huge new facility in West Point, Georgia.

Still, Sorento enters an already crowded compact CUV segment, and faces stiff competition from other quality entrants like the Toyota RAV4, Nissan Rogue, and also new Chevrolet Equinox. Like the Equinox, the Sorento is called a compact, but it’s nearly mid-size both outside and inside. Using a chassis shared with the Hyundai Santa Fe, Sorento’s length of 183.9 inches is over three inches longer than before, if slightly lower for better aerodynamics.

The totally refashioned exterior echoes Kia’s new, bolder, front-end theme begun with the Forte. The grill and flared-back headlights form a continuous arch that is most appealing.

Based on the KND-4 concept from the 2007 Los Angeles Auto Show, the production Sorento has a similar sweeping profile and athletic stance. Roof rails are optional. The rounded rear-end also exudes lots of presence, with large LED taillights that extend into the liftgate.  Wheels are 17 and 18-inch alloys, with a mirror finish optional on top EX trim.

While the original Sorento offered a pair of V6s, the 2011 allows a more varied choice. Standard is a 2.4-liter inline-4 shared with the Forte SX. Output is 175 horsepower and 169 pound-feet of torque.

Optional is an all-new 3.5-liter V6 with a best-in-class 276 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque. But even with it, trailer towing takes a beating: 3,500 pounds, down from 5,000 last year.

A six speed manual is standard with the I-4. Kia’s first home-grown six-speed automatic is an option, and standard with the V-6. A single speed four-wheel drive system with locking center differential can be fitted to either engine. And, even with front drive, useful Hill Start Assist and Downhill Brake Assist are included.

Government Fuel Economy Ratings for our front-drive four-cylinder automatic are good at 21 city/29 highway on regular gas. We saw a respectable 24.3 miles per gallon in real world driving. But, you do pay for that efficiency on the track. Our I-4 Sorento huffed from 0 to 60 in a long 10.1 seconds. And the quarter mile dragged out to 17.7 seconds at 78 miles per hour. The Sorento felt breathless all the way down the track. Shifts were lazy and power-robbing.

The Sorento’s new unibody employs a MacPherson strut front, and multilink rear suspensions. Electronic Stability Control is standard.

Unfortunately, none of this helped inspire a high level of confidence in our handling tests. Steering was quick enough but with little feedback, and body roll was excessive.

The one bright spot in Sorento’s track performance was braking. The all-disc, ABS brakes delivered arrow-straight, near fade-free stops of a short 120 feet on average from 60 to 0. The pedal was firm with positive feedback.

On normal roads, the Sorento is a lot more self-assured. It’s comfortable and quiet, feeling well anchored at even elevated interstate speeds.

That comfort continues inside, where Kia used the extra body length for more cabin space and versatility. With both five- and first time three-row seven-passenger models, it’s now a big family-mover. The modern, tech-inspired dash is defined by overlapping gauges and practical controls. Our EX model’s well-padded seats came with standard eight-way power for the driver, and optional heat.

Standards include a tilt/telescoping wheel with audio and Bluetooth controls. Satellite Radio and a USB port are on board too. A 550-watt Infinity upgrade, navigation, and even a dual sunroof, are available. Our EX added push button start, and a backup camera with rear view mirror display.

Those in the 60/40 second row will find it quite roomy, with a welcomed increase in legroom. Kids will like the 50/50 split folding third row, but not adults. Behind the third row is 9.1 cubic feet of space that expands to 37 cubic feet when folded, and an excellent 72.5 with all seats down. A reversible load floor and handy underfloor compartment add to this CUV’s overall practicality.

And that practicality also speaks to Kia’s value pricing. In fact, the base price for the 2011 Sorento is down from last year starting at $20,790.  Sorento base prices top out at $29,690.

Combine that with Kia’s vastly improved quality reputation, and one of the best warranties going, and it’s no wonder they continue to chalk up sales gains. The new Sorento’s track performance may be lacking, but we have no qualms with its packaging. So, the 2011 Kia Sorento is indeed a better answer to what today’s family buyers want. And, yes, it’s a better Sorento, too.






  • Engine: 2.4-Liter Inline-4
  • Horsepower: 175
  • Torque: 169 Lb Feet
  • 0-60 MPH: 10.1 Seconds
  • 1/4 Mile: 17.7 Seconds @ 78 MPH
  • 60-0 MPH: 120 Feet
  • EPA: 21 MPG City/ 29 MPG Highway
  • Mixed Loop: 24.3 MPG
2023 Mazda3

2023 Mazda3

Still The Same Mazda3, Just A Bit Better

Episode 4304
Auto Value and Bumper to BumperTire Rack "The Way Tire Buying Should Be"

When the fourth-gen Mazda3 arrived for 2019, it grew a little more stylish, a lot more upscale; and loads more practical too, adding all-wheel drive into the mix for the first time. How does it get better than that? Well, for ’23 the 3 adds an engine update that promises to deliver more power and better efficiency. Time to speak truth to this power.

The Mazda3 has always been a great compact car, big on both fun and value, and has earned numerous MotorWeek Drivers’ Choice Awards over the years. This current-gen has been on the road for 4-years now, and it gets even better for 2023.

Starting with the powertrain, the base 2.0-liter I4 has been eliminated leaving just 2 versions of the 2.5-liter 4-cylinder, turbo and non-turbo. Base versions get a 5-horsepower bump to 191-horsepower, along with updates for its cylinder deactivation system. The 2.5 Turbo fits standard all-wheel drive and outputs the same 250-horsepower and 320 lb-ft. of torque as last year; provided you use Premium gas. Max ratings drop to 227-horsepower and 310 lb-ft. with Regular.

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A 6-speed manual transmission remains available in front-wheel drive 3s, but AWDs come exclusively with a sport-tuned 6-speed automatic. We found it well-sorted and seemingly always on the same page as us whether we were shuffling through back roads or sitting in traffic. There is a softer overall feel compared to Mazda3s of old, which you’ll appreciate when encountering harsh pavement, but it still feels plenty agile when called upon.

That softer feel certainly carries over inside, where it has gotten much quieter, and quite nicely finished, consistent with Mazda’s Audi-like premium intentions. All 3s get an 8.8-inch center display, and all of the fingerprints on our test car’s screen signifies most people assume it’s a touchscreen. It’s not, however, as inputs are made with a rotary controller on the console. It’s not the most intuitive system, but once you’re past the learning curve, it’s tolerable.

The rear seat room doesn’t have the roomy feel of the Subaru Impreza, but space is certainly more than adequate compared to the rest of the compact set. Rear cargo space for this hatchback rates a good 20.1 cubic-ft. with trunk space in the sedan coming in at 13.2 cubic-ft. So yes, the Mazda3 remains available in both sedan and hatchback, but we still prefer the 5-door hatch both for its practicality and for its sporty looks. Top Turbo Premium Plus gets gloss black aero treatments including a roof spoiler and front air dam.

At the test track, power from the 2.5-turbo felt more than adequate off the line, using all-wheel-drive grip to bite into the pavement and get up and go to 60 in 6.0-seconds flat. There was virtually no turbo lag, and the engine felt nicely refined with its power delivery. Transmission operation was equally as smooth and kept the power flowing quite effectively throughout the ¼-mile, which ended in 14.5-seconds at 95 miles-per-hour. We really appreciate a well-tuned 6-speed in this world of overactive 8 and 10 speed automatics.

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While there was definitely some understeer to manage in our handling course, the 3 turned in quickly and provided real, sporting feedback through our cone course. I-Activ AWD features G-Vectoring Control Plus, which uses both engine torque vectoring as well as selective braking to minimize body roll, and preserve the lively feel we’ve come to expect from Mazda. In panic braking runs, the pedal was soft, but that kept ABS pulsing to a minimum; and the results were great, as we averaged a very short 106-feet from 60, with minimal nose dive and stable, straight stops.

Government Fuel Economy Ratings for an all-wheel drive Turbo are 23-City, 31-Highway, and 26-Combined; we averaged a good 28.4 miles-per-gallon of Regular.

Obviously by eliminating the previous base engine, prices have taken a jump for ’23, but so has everything else. Still they remain more than reasonable. The base S now starts at $26,855, with the top Turbo Premium Plus at $37,815, with many options in between. And sedan prices are even more sensible, starting at $23,715.

Like most brands, Mazda seems to be going all-in on SUVs; as the 3 is the last family sedan and hatchback in their lineup. And it would be a real shame if that were to change. As the 2023 Mazda3, the hatchback in particular, is just about the perfect car, offering utility vehicles levels of practicality along with better than average luxury, plus handling performance that few crossovers can match. So, long live the Mazda3!


As Tested

  • Engine: 2.5-liter Turbo-4
  • Horsepower: 227 | 250
  • 0-60 mph: 6.0 seconds
  • 60-0 Braking: 106 feet (avg)
  • MW Fuel Economy: 28.4 MPG (Regular)
  • Transmission: 6-speed auto
  • Torque: 310 lb-ft. | 320 lb-ft
  • 1/4 Mile: 14.5-seconds at 95 mph
  • EPA: 23-City / 31-Highway / 26-Combined