Vehicles Archive

2012 Kia Sorento Review: Kids, Carseats and Safety

The 2012 Kia Sorento is a carryover from the all-new crossover SUV that debuted in 2011, but there are a few nice improvements.  Mainly, Kia has added an optional “GDI” direct fuel injection engine, increasing the power from 175HP to 191HP and increasing the fuel economy by a couple miles per gallon at the same time!  In front wheel drive trim, the new 4-cylinder engine delivers an impressive 22 city, 32 mpg highway and 25mpg overall based on EPA estimates!  The Sorento is a little roomier than its typical competition in the compact SUV class and almost as big as the smaller midsize SUVs.  Is that big enough for your family?  Read on!

I tested the EX AWD version with the Premium Package, including the third row seat, leather trim, power folding mirrors, power seats with memory, NAV with traffic, Infinity sound and a few other perks.  The downside of opting for AWD and/or the V6 engine is the lower fuel economy.  Mine was rated at 21/28/23 but managed only around 15-17mpg around town during my short time driving it.  Granted, this was for a very short number of miles in cold weather, based only on the trip computer.  Hardly scientific, I know.  If you get both the V6 and AWD, the price and fuel economy become similar to larger midsize SUVs.  For example, even with the 2.4 liter, 4-cylinder GDI engine, my AWD tester had a sticker price of $32,300.

Size is both a benefit and drawback of the Sorento.  The benefit is that the Sorento maneuvers around town and into parking spaces better than most midsize SUVs.  The price is right, too, so you get a little more space and an optional 3rd row of seating for no more money than most compact SUVs like Toyota RAV4 or Honda CR-V.  The drawback compared to midsize SUVs (like Buick Enclave or Honda Pilot) is that the shorter length comes right out of the legroom and cargo space in the 2nd and 3rd rows.  That means some seating compromises compared to midsize sport utes.


The second row of seating is barely larger than what you’d find in most compact cars.  There are shoulder belts and adjustable head restraints in all three seats, but no rear shoulder belts offer a height adjustment. 

All-New 2012 Honda CR-V Review

Trivia question: Without Googling it, who knows what “CR-V” stands for?

All-new fourth generation Honda CR-V is an impressive ride. It’s an ideal vehicle for those who want the function and flexibility of an SUV but without the size or the price. In fact, if I didn’t have three children, I’d strongly consider one as my next vehicle purchase. The peppy 2012 CR-V is a five-passenger vehicle that starts at under $25,000. And one of the nice things about Honda is that they believe that you shouldn’t have to buy the luxury model to get the options that make a vehicle functional – many of the items that people really want are standard on all trim levels, such as a multi-angle rearview camera and hands-free Bluetooth. Notable exceptions are the navigation system, leather seats, DVD entertainment system for the rear seat, and driver’s seat with 10-way power adjustment, all of which are available only on the EX-L model.

I rode in a 2011 CR-V right after my extended test drive of the 2012 model, and here are some of the things that I noticed right away: The seats in the 2012 are noticeably more comfortable, the center console is greatly improved, and steering and brakes in the 2012 are more responsive. I’m not sure what trim level the 2011 was, but the 2012 just felt more luxurious.

The Safest Family Vehicle for 2012? (No, it’s not a Volvo!)

Looking for a model that received top overall ratings from the NHTSA and IIHS crash testing programs?  Something big enough to protect your precious cargo but with better handling and visibility than a full size, truck-based SUV?  Something flexible enough to seat a big family and still have some room for cargo?

Here are two great options:

2011-2012 Honda Odyssey- Perfect crash scores all around and great seating flexibility for large families up to 8!

Don’t want a minivan? 

2010-2012  Buick Enclave, Chevrolet Traverse or GMC Acadia: 5 star overall NHTSA rating and IIHS Top Safety Pick!



We have a couple honorable mentions if you don’t need to seat more than 4-5 passengers:

2011-2012 Chevrolet Cruze- Compact car with good fuel economy and perfect crash test ratings all around if you don’t need a big family hauler.

The 2011-2012 Volvo XC60 with the innovative City Safety feature.  Our tester was finally scheduled to arrive back in June, but due to factors beyond our control we could not obtain one for review and unfortunately we cannot recommend it outright.

Not coincidentally, www.informedforlife.org rates these models very well, too!  There are plenty of other models that are very safe for your family.  You can find more great choices by checking out their website along with results at www.iihs.org and www.safercar.gov .  Looking for advice?  Check out our Car Safety forum, too!

2012 Honda Pilot Review: Kids, Carseats & Safety

Sometimes, it doesn’t take an all-new model to distance itself from the pack.  The previous Pilot was already a great choice for kids in the crowded midsize SUV market.  With a little “refreshening” plus a few feature changes, you can make a good thing even better!  That’s the case for the new 2012 Honda Pilot crossover sport utility vehicle.  With an EPA rating of 18 city and 25 highway in front wheel drive trim, Honda claims it is the most fuel efficient 8-passenger SUV on the market!  Honda also gave the EX-L and EX trim streaming audio and HandsFreeLink, a nice safety bonus to keep your hands on the wheel!  Improved noise insulation is a nice improvement, also, as are the larger display and multi-view camera on higher trim levels.

Many will appreciate the updated appearance.  It actually *looks* like an SUV.  Many buyers opt for an SUV over a minivan or station wagon, despite the many advantages of minivans.  Often, this choice is made because of the soccer mom/dad minivan image.  The funny thing is that many of today’s crossover SUVs are sleek enough that they look little different than a glorified minivan or wagon!  That’s not the case with the rugged-looking Pilot.  Some reviewers and buyers complain it is too boxy in appearance, but really, unless you actually need heavy duty towing or off-roading capability, isn’t that what sets apart a three-row SUV from a minivan?

Well, there is at least one other thing:

It puts the “Mini” back into the Minivan: The 2012 Mazda5 Kids, Carseats & Safety Review

Usually, seating more than 5 passengers and getting decent fuel economy are mutually exclusive. Most midsize or larger 3-row SUVs can’t even manage 20mpg combined, usually much less around town.  If you don’t mind a minivan, they do get a little better fuel economy than the midsize SUVs and much better than full-size SUVs.  Minivans also tend to be roomier and more flexible for seating lots of kids, but they’re really not-so-mini these days.  Many parents lament that they are too big for the garage, too big for parking spaces and too big for the pocketbook, too.

Some compact SUVs get a little above 20mpg combined. Hybrids like the Escape and Highlander do much better than that, but the Escape only seats five and the Highlander is all but priced out of the market.  So what’s left if you want something a little bigger than a compact SUV and don’t want to spend a bundle of cash?  The Kia Sorento LX is one option.  With front wheel drive and the fuel efficient GDI 4-cylinder engine new for 2012, it gets 22 city, 32 highway and 25 combined.  The Sorento LX isn’t cheap, at just over $26k sticker price with the third row option package it rivals the cost of some full size minivans.  The upcoming Ford C-Max may be another contender in 2012.  For now, the most economical option is the 2012 Mazda 5. It gets a very respectable 21 city, 28 highway, 24 mpg combined. Room for 6 is standard and it starts under $20k MSRP in Sport trim with a manual transmission.  A nicely equipped Touring version lists around $22k with an automatic and sells for closer to $20k street price!  My review Touring model added the Moonroof & Audio package and a rear bumper guard for a total of $23,180 MSRP.

Does it live up to expections?