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This sport utility vehicle arrives with changes. Fully redesigned for 2011, the Kia Sorento is no longer an SUV that drives more like a truck than an easy handling sedan.

This year’s Sorento has a carlike feel and joins the crossover SUV class that is fairly crowded these days. There are many reasons why the Sorento deserves a good look, most notably its attractive exterior, new engine, lots of standard features, and of course the topper – price.

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There aren’t many solid SUVs that one can drive off the lot for right around $20,000. Yet that can be done with the Sorento, which offers its base model at that appealing price.

Although the Sorento SX driven here for a week was much pricier at $32,195, it’s still a pretty good deal for an SUV that offers lots of value. If price is a major factor, don’t get scared off because the next Sorento level down from the SX is $24,795 for the EX.

The Sorento, which comes in four trims, can be considered competition to a couple of perennial industry leaders – Honda CR-V and RAV4 by Toyota. Yet the Sorento is more of a midsize than those two, even though Kia likes to make the comparison to the compact SUVs.

2011 Kia Sorento SX

Power: 3.75-liter, V6, 276 horsepower
Mileage estimate: 20-26 mpg
Price: $32,195

And the reason why is the Sorento is longer than both the RAV4 and the CR-V. It also has a better third row than the RAV4, while its Honda rival doesn’t even offer seating for seven. Not that the Sorento provides a roomy third row; it just happens to be a little more tolerable for its occupants than similar SUVs.

The ebony black Sorento driven here was eye appealing with its stylish grille and newly designed headlights. Also new is the punch that a Sorento can provide. Three of the four models feature a 3.5, V6 with 276 horsepower that is capable of going 0-60 in 7.4 seconds.

The base model reportedly has some pep as well with a 2,4-liter, 4-cylinder that has 175 horsepower. However, it apparently labors a bit when a full load is aboard.

All four models feature enviable handling for a modestly priced crossover. If there is a complaint, it’s the Sorento feels the bumps and uneven pavement a bit too much at higher speeds.

The Sorento cabin is well thought out and provides easy-to-learn climate and audio controls. This crossover is also a good one for short or long trips for passengers in the first two rows, while the cargo room is ample. A downside with the Sorento interior is too much hard plastic.

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