Best & Worst Kia Sorento Years

We've taken a closer look at every Kia Sorento until this years model and categorized the best & worst years in this guide.

Choose the best Kia Sorento model year for yourself. Our ultimate guide explores the best and worst Kia Sorento model years for you.

In this comprehensive guide, we will investigate the Kia Sorento’s production history, isolating the model’s best, neutral, and worst years for you.

Our analysis is based on data and insights from numerous trusted sources, including owner-reported reliability surveys, safety ratings, and recall records, ensuring an unbiased and well-rounded perspective.

More specifically, we’ll describe each of the Sorento’s four generations, exploring their unique characteristics, innovations, and challenges, which will provide valuable insights for both current owners and prospective buyers.

The Kia Sorento, a mid-size SUV known for its affordability and feature-rich configurations, has been a staple of the Kia lineup since its inception. With versatile interior space, efficient powertrains, and many safety features, it’s favored by families and adventure enthusiasts alike.

Let’s dive into the different Kia Sorento generations.

Related:Best & Worst Kia Sportage Years

Table of ContentsShow

Kia Sorento Generations

The Kia Sorento’s lifespan has been divided into four distinct generations, each showcasing a unique blend of performance, design, and technological advancements.

To better understand how the Sorento has evolved, the table below presents an overview of each generation:

1st generation (BL)2003-2009
2nd generation (XM)2011-2015
3rd generation (UM)2016-2020
4th generation (MQ4)2021-Present

The distinct delineation of generations offers a useful snapshot of Sorento’s evolution. Each generational transition often brings significant changes that can be crucial factors for potential buyers.

Kia Sorento Best, Neutral and Worst Years

In forming our categorizations and rankings, we rely on multiple sources and metrics including, but not limited to:

  • Owner-reported reliability (surveys)
  • Annual maintenance costs
  • Safety ratings
  • Consumer Reports reliability scores
  • Consumer Reports owner satisfaction scores
  • NHTSA recalls, investigations, and complaints
  • Edmunds owner ratings
  • JD Power owner ratings
  • Kelley’s Blue Book (KBB) owner ratings
  • VehicleHistory owner ratings
  • owner ratings

The subsequent graph combines ratings from all these sources, offering a comprehensive overview of Kia Sorento’s performance over the years.

Kia Sorento Car Smite Score Combined Overall Score

Here’s how the Kia Sorento models are categorized based on our comprehensive research:

GenerationBest YearsNeutral YearsWorst Years
1st generation (BL)2003
2nd generation (XM)2011
3rd generation (UM)2017
4th generation (MQ4)2022N/A2021

The “Neutral Years” represent models that did not particularly stand out in either a positive or negative way. These models performed acceptably but did not excel significantly in any of the criteria compared to other years.

Remember, some factors contribute negatively like NHTSA recalls. The higher the number of complaints and recalls, the lower the car’s reliability score, dragging down its overall ranking.

Now, let’s dive into the specifics of the best, neutral, and worst years.

Best & Worst Years for Kia Sorento 1st Generation (2003-2009)

Kia Sorento 1st generation 2003 model
The 2003 Kia Sorento

In 2002 (the 2003 model), the Sorento debuted as a traditional, trucklike (body-on-frame) SUV that provided impressive value in terms of space, comfort, and features. It was a testament to Kia’s ambitions in the competitive SUV market.

The Best Years: 2003, 2004, 2009

The 2003 model Kia Sorento featured a robust 3.5L V6 engine, delivering 192 horsepower and 217 lb-ft of torque.

The 2004 model, continuing with this powerful V6 engine, introduced an electronic, full-time four-wheel-drive system that offered low-range gearing for off-road excursions.

In 2009, the Sorento saw significant improvements, including a newly standard 3.3L V6 engine and a roomier, more sophisticated cabin. It also included more modern styling and additional standard features, such as full power accessories and keyless entry.

The Neutral Years: 2006, 2008

The 2006 model year introduced a novel sporty trim level, the Sport, which offered ebony leather upholstery, heated front seats, automatic climate control, and other premium features.

The 2008 model saw the introduction of a more powerful 3.8L V6 engine, delivering 262 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque.

While these models offered excellent value for the money, they didn’t stand out as significantly as the best years, hence their categorization as neutral years.

The Worst Years: 2005, 2007

Despite its solid performance credentials and value proposition, the first generation of Kia Sorento wasn’t without its problems.

The 2005 model was particularly problematic, with owners reporting issues related to the vehicle’s airbags, electrical systems, and exterior lighting. Some owners also reported engine problems, such as engine misfiring, stalling, and failure.

The 2007 model, despite its five-star crash safety rating from NHTSA, also had its share of issues. It was reported to have continued problems with airbags, alongside other less frequent issues.

Best & Worst Years for Kia Sorento 2nd Generation (2011-2015)

Kia Sorento 2nd generation 2011 model
The 2011 Kia Sorento

The second generation of the Kia Sorento, introduced in 2011, signified a major shift from its predecessor. It transitioned from a truck-based SUV to a car-based crossover, bringing with it improved handling and fuel economy.

However, bear in mind that the overall rating of the second generation is lower compared to the other generations.

The Best Years: 2011, 2015

The 2011 model year marked a significant milestone for Kia, with the Sorento becoming one of the first vehicles to showcase Kia’s modern design language, featuring the company’s signature “Tiger Nose” grille.

It was also the first Kia vehicle to offer the UVO (“Your Voice”) infotainment system, an advanced in-car communication and entertainment system. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) named it a “Top Safety Pick” due to its robust safety suite, further cementing its reputation.

By 2015, Kia had worked out many of the issues from the earlier years of this generation. The brand continued to refine the Sorento’s feature set, making significant strides in comfort, build quality, and available technology.

Despite ongoing engine issues, Kia managed to rectify many of the structural, powertrain, and electrical problems experienced in earlier years.

The Worst Years: 2012, 2013, 2014

Unfortunately, this generation didn’t escape without some dark spots. The 2012, 2013, and 2014 model years suffered significant setbacks, particularly concerning their engines. Owners reported oil leakage and excessive oil consumption, leading to numerous NHTSA complaints.

Kia eventually announced a recall for more than 618,000 model year 2011-2014 Kia Optima, 2012-2014 Sorento, and 2011-2013 Sportage vehicles due to engine bearings wearing out prematurely, causing the engines to seize.

These persisting engine problems were largely responsible for these years earning the ‘worst years’ label.

If you’re considering a Kia Sorento from this generation, it’s important to note these issues and, if possible, choose a model from the ‘best years’ or ensure any potential purchase from the ‘worst years’ has had these issues resolved.

See NHTSA 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 Kia Sorento recalls and complaints.

Best & Worst Years for Kia Sorento 3rd Generation (2016-2020)

Kia Sorento 3rd generation 2016 model
The 2016 Kia Sorento

The third generation of the Kia Sorento (2016-2020) represents a significant leap forward for the brand, both in terms of design and technology.

The Sorento now featured a sleeker, more sophisticated aesthetic, paired with updated technology and improved safety features.

The Best Years: 2017, 2019

The 2017 Sorento model was a standout year, with robust safety features earning it a “Top Safety Pick” rating from the IIHS. It also offered a smooth, comfortable ride, high-quality interior materials, and a user-friendly infotainment system.

These elements, coupled with fewer engine complaints than the preceding years, earned 2017 its place as one of the best years of this generation.

Similarly, the 2019 model received high praise from owners and critics alike for its safety, reliability, and solid performance.

The vehicle also featured a refined cabin and an upgraded infotainment system with available features like Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, giving it a competitive edge over many of its rivals.

Neutral Years: 2018, 2020

The 2018 and 2020 Sorento models, while not quite reaching the same heights as their counterparts from 2017 and 2019, provided a reliable and comfortable driving experience.

Both models offered remarkable technology and safety features but didn’t notably stand out or have major complaints that would qualify them as ‘worst years’.

The Worst Years: 2016

The 2016 Sorento model, unfortunately, didn’t fare as well. While it was the debut year of the third generation Sorento, it was marred by engine issues including excessive oil burning, stalling, and engine failure.

These recurring problems, coupled with the numerous complaints lodged with the NHTSA, have marked 2016 as a year to be wary of when considering a used Sorento.

Best & Worst Years for Kia Sorento 4th Generation (2021-Present)

Kia Sorento 4th generation 2021 model
The 2021 Kia Sorento

The fourth and current generation of the Kia Sorento (2021-Present) showcases a complete redesign of the model, featuring sharper lines and a more upscale, modern aesthetic.

The new generation brings further improvements in technology and safety measures, aligning the Sorento more closely with premium SUV offerings.

The Best Years: 2022

The 2022 model stands as the high point for the fourth generation so far. After the initial launch year, Kia was quick to address early issues, and the 2022 model year delivered on the promises of the new generation.

The vehicle features top-notch technology and safety features, while owners praised its upscale interior, comfortable ride, and potent powertrain options. These factors, combined with fewer reported issues, make 2022 the best year of this generation.

The Worst Years: 2021, 2023

Despite the excitement around its launch, the 2021 Sorento unfortunately had several teething issues. This model year saw a number of complaints around power train issues, including transmission problems.

Meanwhile, the 2023 model, while offering substantial improvements over its predecessor, has been marred by a number of early complaints.

At the time of writing, these issues are still being evaluated, so it’s crucial to monitor customer feedback and recall notices if you’re considering purchasing a 2023 Sorento.

Kia Sorento Average Resale Values

The following graph illustrates the average resale values of Kia Sorento models over the years. This data gives potential buyers or sellers a clear snapshot of the Sorento’s value retention, a critical aspect of vehicle ownership.

Kia Sorento Average List Price


Now, you have a deep understanding of each Kia Sorento generation and model year. Don’t forget to consider the pros and cons before your decision.

Which generation of the Kia Sorento do you think strikes the perfect balance between reliability, innovation, and value, and why?

Share your thoughts and experiences with the Kia Sorento in the comments below.

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Jonathan Eckert

Jonathan is an ASE-certified mechanic with over 22 years of hands-on experience in the automotive industry. His expertise spans a wide range of vehicles, but he specializes in diagnosing and repairing Japanese cars. His previous workplace highly commended his meticulous attention to detail, and that's exaclty what he uses at Car Smite to craft the best guides for each purpose.