Starting price: $23,950 (includes $800 delivery)
Base engine: 2.4 liter, four cylinder, 175 horsepower
What's new: Direct fuel injection -- more power for the same gas or less
The Sorento is Kia's first U.S.-built SUV model, assembled in a new factory in West Point, Ga. For the 2012 model year, it gets an optional 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine with direct injection. The gasoline direct injection, or GDI, engine is part of an option package that adds $1,650 suggested retail to the base model price. It comes standard on better-equipped models. Direct injection uses computer-controlled squirts of fuel to create more efficient and complete burning. That produces more power and lower emissions for a given amount of gasoline.
With automatic transmission and GDI, the Sorento gets an EPA-estimated 22 mpg city and 32 mpg highway. Without GDI, the base model gets 21 mpg city and 29 mpg highway. In comparison, the Kia Borrego is similar in size and concept to the Sorento, but the Borrego is built on a heavier, traditional truck platform. With a six-cylinder engine, it gets only 17 mpg city and 21 mpg highway, but it's being phased out.