Kia’s popular mid-size crossover SUV, the Sorento debuted back in 2003 as a compact SUV. By 2009 it got the upgrade to a mid-size SUV, and that ushered in a new era of issues for the vehicle. As of 2020 they are rolling out the fourth generation of the vehicle and its popularity and reliability has increased greatly over earlier years. As popular as it is, the Sorento is not without its problems. Those 11 years of production and four generations have had some definite misses and there are some middle years that were full of Kia Sorento problems. If you have a Sorento or are interested in getting one, we’ll break down the issues you need to know about year by year so you can choose the best model year to fit your needs.
2003 Kia Sorento Problems
During its debut production year, the Kia Sorento had a serious problem with crankshaft pulley breakage. In fact, a class-action lawsuit was filed against the company for models with the 3.5L V6 engine. As of 2017, owners of the Sorento made between 2003 through 2006 could get upwards of $4,900 reimbursed for repairs if they filed a claim in time. If the issue was not fixed it could have caused a serious accident.
The debut year models also reportedly had issues with headlights burning out quickly. Additionally, there were many reports of faulty AC compressors that lead to noise and vibration when the AC was initiated. Less common were complaints of ignition coil malfunctions leading to engine misfires.
The 2003 year also had terrible safety ratings from the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety scoring just one star out of 5. Driver side and rear impact ratings scored poorly, and, in a crash situation, drivers were at great risk of leg and pelvic injury.
2004 Kia Sorento Problems
Many of the problems from the first year of the Sorento carried over into the 2004 year. That same crankshaft pulley issue that led to a lawsuit covered this year’s mode as well. Because these were all first generation, the headlights and AC issues had not been resolved by this year, either.
A number of drivers reported rubbing and grinding sounds while driving that were symptoms of an issue requiring an entire driveshaft replacement.
Incredibly, Kia had done nothing to improve crash test ratings over the previous year and again, driver’s side impacts scored very poorly with a greater risk for leg and torso injury.
2005 Kia Sorento Problems
The 2005 Kia Sorento suffered the same problems as earlier years. Remember, that crankshaft pulley lawsuit covered Sorentos until 2006. This year also had a few different complaints around the headlight issues, however. They addressed transmission issues in the 2005 model with a software update to the transmission control module. Noise issues caused by the timer chain tensioner also plagued the 2005 year. Kia had to release an updated tensioner to fix the issue. Unfortunately, the same crash test issues plagued this year’s model as well.
2006 Kia Sorento Problems
This was the final year affected by Kia’s class action lawsuit for that major and serious crankshaft pulley problem. Air conditioning was another sore spot for a lot of Sorento owners with the 2006 model. Either the compressor failed, or the air conditioning would just stop working altogether. Minor issues included things like faulty gas cap sensors and failures of the internal lighting. Additionally, some drivers discovered that if they didn’t use Kia-approved transmission fluid the transmission could suffer damage.
For the fourth year in a row, the crash test ratings of the Sorento were acceptable overall, but still rated poor on driver’s side and rear crashes.
2007 Kia Sorento Problems
No doubt 2007 Kia Sorento owners were disappointed to learn that this year wasn’t covered by the class action lawsuit to compensate owners for the crankshaft pulley when the vehicle still potentially had that problem. Fortunately, this was greatly reduced this year as Kia switched engines to a 3.3L and the headlight issue was also fixed with new headlights.
While internal issues were better handled with the 2007 model, there were some obscure reports that the door handles broke off this year's model or electrical issues like the four-wheel drive failing.
The 2007 model year saw a marginal improvement in crash test ratings. Side impact was still a problem, but rear crash ratings had improved greatly.
2008 Kia Sorento Problems
The 2008 model of the Sorento had a number of reported issues with speed control. These were actually on both ends of the spectrum with some drivers experiencing a loss of speed in the middle of driving and others experiencing unplanned acceleration. Others have had engine issues that ranged from stalling to serious engine fires. These were rarities but definitely cause for concern.
2009 Kia Sorento Problems
The 2009 model year had prominent issues with airbags including errors with the sensors that can identify when you have a passenger. The fix for that was often a full seat replacement, but not having it fixed meant it was possible airbags would not deploy in a crash as the computer did not realize a passenger was present.
There were two recalls issued for the 2009 year which affected a large number of vehicles. Nearly 1 million vehicles were recalled due to an issue with brake lights not working properly, and nearly 250,000 were recalled for an ABS module issue that could lead to engine fires.
2011 Kia Sorento Problems
The Sorento introduced its second generation in 2011 and this was the first model of Kia to be manufactured in the United States. The 2010 model year was only in Korea. The 2011, despite the change of production, proved to be a serious lemon for a lot of drivers and sites like CarComplains.com will warn you from buying this model year at all costs.
Not only did the 2011 year introduce different engine problems than previous years, it had baffling new ones. Many drivers complained that the doors could not be opened from the outside.
Recalls for the 2011 included ones for the vehicle unintentionally shifting out of park, electrical shorts that can lead to fires, and the brake light issue from previous model years.
Engine issues included numerous reports of stalling and unexplained noises. Ironically, this was the year the Sorento finally scored well across the board on crash tests. All in all, this was a problematic year for the Sorento.
2012 Kia Sorento Problems
If the 2011 Kia Sorento was bad, the 2012 mode was worse. In fact, some have called it the worst model year of all. Widespread and catastrophic engine failure brought this model year down. The solution was a complete engine replacement or rebuild in many cases, which we’ve explained in the past can be very costly.
There was a recall related to bearing wear that caused engine seizures but that was just one case and didn’t cover the spectrum of engine problems. Costs to fix the problem went over $5,000.
At the end of the day, if you’re looking for a Kia Sorento to buy, you absolutely must avoid the 2011 and 2012 model years. They’re just not worth the potential hassles.
2013 Kia Sorento Problems
Though 2013 had fewer complaints of engine failure than the previous two years, it still had enough of them, many occurring before the car had even travelled 32,000 miles, to make it a risk not worth taking. The 2013 model year also fell under the same recall as the previous year with bearing wear, plus a separate recall that covered cracking or chipping brake-shift interlock mechanisms. The car would shift out of park and roll unexpectedly as a result.
2014 Kia Sorento Problems
Kia had to recall a number of 2014 Sorentos due to an issue with the front axle that could have led to the axle breaking. This was in addition to Kia’s pervasive and now multi-year issue of serious engine failures.
Electrical issues with the 2014 Sorento included complaints that the battery would die after sitting for a while, and also that the power door locks had issues working all the time.
2015 Kia Sorento Problems
The third generation of the Kia Sorento premiered in 2015. The engine was vastly improved for 2015 and, while not without its problems, was much better than previous models. Issues with stalling, dying, and not turning over cropped up in his model but in much lower numbers than you would have seen in 2012, for instance. That said, the turbo engine was not as fuel efficient or powerful as many drivers expected.
For those looking for a powerful off-road-friendly vehicle, the 2015 Sorento was less able to handle off-road fun than similar models in its class. The only recall for this year was on a limited number of models that may have had a high-pressure fuel pipe leak.
2016 Kia Sorento Problems
Engine failure remains a concern in 2016, but there were a number of recalls for this model year as well. Over 8,000 Sorentos had to be recalled due to a faulty bracket weld in the suspension that could increase crash risks. There was also a recall for poor welds in the frame around the back seat, and an issue with seat belts not latching correctly. Additionally, there was a recall regarding trailer brake lights that stayed on even when the brakes were not applied and also acceleration issues.
Kia also told some owners to avoid using cruise control on inclines and declines as the engine seemed to be trying to brake on its own in those situations.Overall, 2016 had more issues than 2015 but less than he several years prior to that.
2017 Kia Sorento Problems
By 2017 Kia had finally seemed to work the wrinkles out much better than the previous decade of vehicles had done. There were engine issues, but far fewer than previous years. A very small number had to be recalled because of an improperly heat-treated crankshaft that could lead to engine stalling, and the same high-pressure fuel pipe leak from previous years, as well as the trailer light issue. These recalls affected relatively few models, however.
Steering problems proved to be one of the biggest issues with this model year, mostly related to alignment problems and the car wandering at highway speeds. Another prevalent issue related to lights that had a bad habit of turning on and off while driving.
2018 Kia Sorento Problems
If you’re looking for a used Kia Sorento, then 2018 may be the best model year you could invest in. Across the board this year had the fewest overall problems for drivers between 2003 and 2019. Engine problems are limited and not more significant than what you might expect in any similar model, and the two recalls were also for a very limited number of affected vehicles.
The first recall related to an inflator component that may have detached during deployment while the second, relating to a mere 97 vehicles, dealt with the potential for the steering column to separate.
Overall, 2018 was a great year for the Sorento and a Top Pick for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
2019 Kia Sorento Problems
On CarComplains.com the biggest issue reported with the 2019 Kia Sorento is with interior issues like heated seats not working or inconsistent speaker volume. Some engine problems have been reported, but not in a way that sets the Sorento apart from any other vehicle on the road. Other small issues included problems with cracked windshields. Overall, customer satisfaction with the 2019 Sorento is high.
2020 Kia Sorento Problems
Though the 2020 Kia Sorento has not been around that long, so problems have not cropped up in any discernible numbers. In fact, the only complaint the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has fielded for the 2020 Sorento model is one dealing with the transmission shifting erratically when the engine is still cold. Based on the track record of the 2018 and 2019 Sorento, however, it seems likely that the 2020 will continue to pose few problems for drivers.
Is a Kia Sorento Worth It?
No vehicle is perfect over the lifespan of the model and the Kia Sorento is no different. As you can see, the first and second generations were wrought with serious issues that make them worth avoiding. Newer models are definitely superior and for the last three or four years, the Sorento has been a top-performing vehicle with few complaints overall. If you need a reliable, safe and affordable SUV, a newer model Sorento would be. Now that you're aware of how the problems have broken down from model year to model year you can weigh the pros and cons of a Kia Sorento with a much more informed opinion.