Crossover & Midsize

The 1 Kia Sorento Model Year You Should Avoid at All Costs

When you buy a new vehicle, you assume it won’t have any catastrophic problems. Some owners of the second-generation Kia Sorento, from model years 2011 through 2015, ran into just that when their SUVs developed serious engine problems. Of those five years, though, the 2012 model year was the worst. Here’s a look at what happened.

Why the 2012 Kia Sorento is the worst

The Kia Sorento on display at the Paris Motor Show
Kia Sorento | John van Hasselt/Corbis via Getty Images

CarComplaints.com, which collects consumer concerns online, is one spot to get information about problems with different vehicle models. The site found that engine problems are the biggest issue for the Kia Sorento across all model years.

Although the 2011 Kia Sorento has the most overall complaints on CarComplaints.com, the most common problem for that year is just that doors won’t open from the outside. CarComplaints.com named the 2012 model year as the worst since problems could have higher repair costs and problems might appear at lower mileage. For 2012, 73% of the complaints were about engine problems, with catastrophic engine failure as the most commonly named engine problem.

As CarComplaints.com says, “As long as catastrophic engine failure at under 60,000 miles is the top owner complaint, it’ll be pretty hard to recommend the 2012 Sorento.” Owners said the most common solution to their problem was to replace the engine, and typical repair costs were $5,240. The Sorento had been redesigned for the 2011 model year, which introduced a number of new problems. Complaints skyrocketed from 1 for 2010 to 174 for 2011.

Improvements since 2012

Since the 2011 model year, complaints have slowly trended down, but engine issues continued for several model years through the remainder of the second generation. The engine problem complaints continued for 2013. The most common complaints submitted to CarComplaints.com are engine stalls/shuts down while driving and a blown motor.

The 2014 model year also has engine problems, with engine blown and car hesitates upon acceleration the most commonly reported to CarComplaints.com. Although there have been fewer total complaints, the engine problems continued for model year 2015, when engine failure while driving have been frequently submitted to CarComplaints.com. 

Kia recalls

In 2017, Kia recalled 2012–2014 Sorento models along with 2011–2014 Optima vehicles and Kia Sportage models from 2011–2013 as a result of all the engine failures. According to Forbes, Kia dealers will inspect and replace engines as needed plus reimburse owners who already paid for repairs.

Both Kia and Hyundai used engines that left metal debris inside during manufacturing. If the debris clogged oil passages, the engine could fail. Class-action lawsuits were filed against both Kia and Hyundai over the engine problems.

Third-generation Kia Sorento

With the release of the third-generation Sorento, the engine problems started to be resolved but not in the first year. There are also engine problems for the 2016 Sorento, with engine failure still being the most submitted issue. Finally, for the 2017 model year, overall issues have dropped substantially, and steering problems have become the most reported problem. To date, only six and seven total problems have been reported to CarComplaints.com for 2018 and 2019 respectively.

Starting with the 2017 model year and since then, Consumer Reports has given the Sorento a four-out-of-five score for reliability and a three-out-of-five for owner satisfaction. This compares to 2012, when Consumer Reports gave the vehicle a two for reliability and a one for owner satisfaction. The most common problems they found then were with the engine and suspension, which were both rated one out of five.

Reviews of the 2020 Kia Sorento

The 2020 Sorento has a 74 overall score from Consumer Reports, which calls the SUV “refined” and says it has a “comfortable ride.” They rank it 14 out of 30 midsize SUVs. It hasn’t been fully tested yet by Consumer Reports, but the 2018 has been. Engine major is now rated five out of five.

Kelley Blue Book also reviews the 2020 Sorento well, with a 4.1-out-of-5 KBB Expert Rating and a 4.7 out of five KBB Consumer Rating. There is a choice between a four-cylinder or a V6 engine. While Kelley Blue Book calls the four-cylinder engine “weak,” it says the V6 gets “good power.”

Buyers considering the Kia Sorento should plan to look for a third-generation model. If buying an earlier model, the 2012 is definitely one to avoid.