Review: Kia Sorento

October 31, 2012

This is definitely the coolest product review I have ever been asked to do. If only I could keep it forever!!

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When I was asked if I wanted to review a car on BERF, my initial reaction was “no thanks, that’s not what my focus is on.” But then I got to thinking….now that we are a family of three, Matt and I are on the market for a new car, and we are hoping to buy a small to midsize SUV. This would be the perfect opportunity to help us decide what we’re looking for and features that are important to a new mom.

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I currently own a Honda Accord from the last millennium  – 1999. I got it in college, and It’s been a great car, but I have loved it to death and it’s on its last legs. My biggest gripe is that the power locks don’t work anymore and one of them only opens by hand, so every time I have to bring the baby to the car, I have to use my key to unlock the front passenger door and then wrap my hand through to the back door to unlock it manually and then open the door to put the car seat inside. It’s quite the process considering I always have my arms full of gear. My car is probably worth less than having this fixed, so it’s one reason we’re glad to be ready to buy another.

I’ve never been much of a car person and never really thought I needed anything beyond four wheels and a steering wheel (well, and locks that work! And a radio. But you know, basic stuff.) I knew that there were cars out there with bells and whistles, but I just assumed they were something only the fanciest cars have.

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In exchange for this blog post, I was given a 2013 Kia Sorento SX to test drive for a week. (I received no payment to write this post – just the use of the vehicle). It arrived on a Monday morning and I drove it all around town, on errands, on the highways and into the Virginia countryside. I knew nothing about Kias or SUVs prior to this experience. In fact, I don’t think I had ever driven an SUV before!! The model I drove was filled with bells, whistles, horns, chimes and more – SX is the highest trim level. This Kia retails for $35,875, which is definitely more than we are prepared to spend when the time comes, but I still liked sorting through which of these fancy features really do matter to me. Within 10 minutes of sitting in the driver’s seat, I knew it was going to be reallllly hard to give this car back!

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The first thing we did was put Mazen’s car seat in the back. As a pre-2003 Honda Accord, my car doesn’t have the LATCH system for car seats, so we have to use the seatbelts to secure it in. This is trickier than you think, and it’s hard to get the seatbelt as tight as the firemen demonstrated to us. The Sorento, being top-of-the-line new, is equipped with the LATCH system, which means the car seat base just clicks into some metal hooks hidden in the seat. This process took 60 seconds to do, and the car seat feels so much more secure and safe – even though it’s perfectly fine to just use the seatbelts alone.

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Another car seat tidbit – getting the baby in and out of the Sorento was SO much easier at SUV height than bending over to get him into my low sedan. Part of this is because the LATCH is only on the passenger side rather than a middle option, so I had less distance to travel and lean over and in my car the car seat is in the middle position. So with the height and the location, this was much easier on a mom’s back!

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Mazen seemed to love the ride and fell asleep almost every time we traveled. That might just be because he’s getting older. Or it could be because he liked the car : )

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One of the features I LOVED about the Sorento was the push button start. They keys just have to be in the car and the button turns the engine on. I was able to leave the keys IN MY BAG and start the car. SO convenient and so cool!! I really would love this feature in whichever car we buy. I never would have thought having to use a key to start a car would be a hassle, but once I didn’t need the key, now I realize it sort of is. Just because you always have other things in your hands when getting ready to leave the house.

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When I rode with Matt as the driver, I had the keys with me in the back seat in the diaper bag and he was able to start the engine and drive away without me having to dig them out and pass them up to the front seat. I just loved this!

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My second favorite feature was the Bluetooth that connected my phone to the Sorento’s speakers. This meant that I could make and receive calls THROUGH the car!! I normally wear a Bluetooth headset if I have to make a call while I am out, but this was obviously so much more convenient. I don’t use my phone while I’m driving, but this made making a call while parked or getting ready to go somewhere so much easier because, like with the keys, your phone could stay in your purse!! I absolutely MUST have this feature in whatever car we buy next.

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Controls on steering wheel made it even more hands free.

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Of course I loved having actual locks that worked. This was probably my third favorite feature, and I am dreading going back to my broken Accord!

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Another fancy feature I really liked – heated AND cooled seats. I used them both on different days. The cooling seats feel like an air hockey table – little bits of air blow through little holes in the seat. It definitely cooled me down on one of our warmer fall days. I used the heated seat at night coming back from Blue Mountain Brewery and loved it. It kept me warm + toasty when I wasn’t necessarily cold enough to be blasted with hot air from the vents. I can only imagine how it would feel on a freezing winter day.

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Real temperatures were on the display instead of just “make it hotter” and “make it colder.” This made it easy to remember your favorite temp.

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I also really liked the rear back up camera. Since I’ve never driven an SUV before, I’m not used to the size. In general, the Sorento didn’t feel that huge to me. I was pleasantly surprised at how car-like it felt. But backing up was still scary, and this camera was totally awesome to have back there.

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The Sorento also had a navigation system, which I was excited to try out. However, this was one part of the experience that I was disappointed in – as a smartphone user, I found the navigation to be a bit cumbersome. On my phone, I just have to say “Pippin Hill Winery” and Google Maps pulls up the address. But with the navigation, you have to know the physical address of the place. So to use the navigation for directions to the winery, I had to first look up the address on my phone. It would have been quicker to just use my phone in this case. I can see how in a few years this all might change though. And if you’re going on a long car trip and know the address in advance, I do think using this big screen in the car with the speakers (that doesn’t run down your phone’s battery) would be really nice to have.

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Similar to the navigation, I found the whole touch screen to feel a bit old school. The buttons just weren’t quite as touchy as smartphone buttons, but I really loved having digital radio controls, Bluetooth, etc. in general. Especially because of the steering wheel controls. Whoever thought of that was a genius! We enjoyed listening to music through the music auxiliary jack too –

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Loved the steering wheel controls that allowed me to flip through my preset stations

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A few other things I liked about the Sorento – the mirrors were HUGE and folded in when parked.

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There were TWO sunroofs that were sweet

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And the trunk was nice and roomy. Here’s my stroller and grocery bag sitting nicely. I really appreciated the cargo cover because my dad has always been anti-SUV because a thief can see right into the trunk. But not with a cover pulled over your valuables!

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When we went out for a bakery event, we were able to fit three Drader racks no problem. We could not have done this in our Accords! This is another reason we’re shopping for an SUV – as a back-up bakery vehicle to our business truck.

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I rode in the back seat with Mazen a few times and found it to be really roomy.

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I noticed how you sit more level than in a car. Car seats are more reclined, but these SUV seats were more comfortable because I wasn’t forced into an angle. It was easier to move around back there for this reason too.

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Another plus to having an SUV that I got really excited about was using the trunk as a changing table! The height and surface were both ideal for this. A sedan’s trunk or back seat are not. Luckily the Sorento was super clean too : )

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Although most of my experience was great, there were two things that bugged me a bit by the end of the week.

The first was that the trunk had to be manually opened. I’m used to popping the trunk in my Accord, and while it doesn’t open all the way, at least it’s not latched when I get back there with my hands full. I thought given the other bells and whistles that this trunk would open automatically at the push of a button, but it had to be opened with the handle. But I will say that opening it with the handle was very easy and once it was unlatched it rose up on its own. It was easy to close for this 5’2” gal too, which was good. Not too heavy.

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The second thing I didn’t really like is something that others probably would: the rearview mirror darkens automatically so you don’t get blinded at night. But I found this to be a bit of a safety concern for me because I had trouble seeing cars in it it was so dark at times. I would probably get used to this in time though.

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The Sorento is considered a mid-size SUV and actually has a third row that comes up in the back – sort of like a cooler version of a mini van. We didn’t sit in the back row, but I do think this is important to note for us since we might have more than one child in the next 5-10 years. I’m not sure yet if we’ll want to buy our next car with 2 rows or 3, but I’m glad to know this is an option and easy to pull up with one hand.

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I am sure the folding seats would have been useful during our moves. One major drawback of my Accord is that the seats don’t go down at all. Matt is always struggling to bring home lumber from Lowes and other big items unsuccessfully. So this would be nice to have. The biggest pro to an SUV!

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I don’t know much about engines, acceleration and the like, but I will say that the Sorento was a JOY to drive all week. When I pushed the gas, the car zoomed. In one week’s time with multiple visits to the countryside (4 to be exact) and lots of extra driving just to test out the vehicle, we went through half a tank of gas, which I didn’t think was too bad. I had the car set on “Eco” mode all week, which made have helped keep the gas mileage better. Gas mileage in a car is important to me, but not as much as it would be to someone who has a really long work commute or lives in a remote location. Since our environmental goal is just to drive as little as possible in our small town, we are still OK with upgrading to an SUV.

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I actually hate driving and always hope Matt will volunteer, but this week I was the one volunteering. I really enjoyed driving the Sorento beyond just the fun features. I absolutely loved it from headlights to tail and now feel even more excited for Matt and I to start our research and test drive some other models. Being able to drive the Sorento for a week gave me a wonderful taste of size, features and upgrades to consider, and this model is definitely on our list.

I would love to hear some of your recommendations on what you have liked or disliked in the vehicles you guys drive. What prompted you to buy the car you did? What’s your favorite SUV?

{ 146 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Adriana October 31, 2012 at 11:21 am

My recommendation is an Subaru Outback. My husband and I researched a ton of cars and finally settled on the Outback. It is spacious and highly rated for its safety. It drives like a sedan but has the space and options as an SUV. I also love that is is an AWD vehicle. We had several other SUV’s in the past (Saturn VUE and Honda Pilot) and are so happy with the Outback.

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2 Hilary October 31, 2012 at 9:23 pm

Ditto! I love my 2010 Outback. Great price too. I have 2 kiddos now and it’s still perfect for our family. I can even sit in the back between the car seats if needed and there is tons of leg room (not so in my husband’s Jeep Liberty. It’s a company car – I would never buy a Liberty!). Funny side note – going to the hospital in labor my water broke in the front seat and I almost delivered my daughter in the car. She was born about 5 minutes after we pulled up to the hospital.

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3 Julia November 1, 2012 at 2:35 pm

I agree! We have a 2010 Outback and it is amazing! The best car we have ever owned!

What a fun opportunity for you!

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4 Jill Will Run November 8, 2012 at 4:34 pm

We have a 2010 Subaru Outback, that we purchased to replace our 2001 Outback. We love it, but it’s my husband’s car primarily and it’s a little bitter than I want to drive… so we’re probably going to buy a Subaru Crosstrek soon to replace my car! Subies are great cars!

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5 Emily Malone October 31, 2012 at 11:22 am

We have the remote button start, and I am also obsessed. :) I never ever take my keys out of my diaper bag because I enter and exit the house through the garage, and ours automatically locks when you touch the handle outside of the car. The little stuff makes such a difference when you have a little one in the car!

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6 KERF October 31, 2012 at 11:26 am

which car do you guys have? they don’t all have it which is sad!

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7 Candice November 4, 2012 at 8:19 pm

Mine has it too! Not an SUV, but we have a Nissan Altima and LOVE it.

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8 Marie October 31, 2012 at 11:30 am

Lincoln MKX – we LOVE it.

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9 Charity October 31, 2012 at 2:47 pm

We have remote button start too and as a new momma, I love it! I also just have to tap the handle and the doors lock and also I tap the trunk and it opens automatically. No pulling keys out of my purse ever! We have the Toyota Venza which is a crossover. Love it!

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10 Katy @MonsterProof October 31, 2012 at 11:34 am

It looked like you had the trunk release button on your key fob? We have a Traverse, and love it. We needed space for both a car seat and our 85 lb dog, and the ability to tow a trailer.

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11 KERF October 31, 2012 at 11:58 am

The button didn’t do anything… That is probably what it would be for

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12 Elizabeth October 31, 2012 at 12:04 pm

I have a Kia Optima. This is not meant to be an insult at all: did you try holding down the trunk button? I thought that my trunk button didn’t work for about a week until my husband pointed out that you have to hold it down, you can’t just press the button….. :) I felt pretty silly, but was glad to know that the button did work. Just a thought.

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13 KERF October 31, 2012 at 12:33 pm

I did – no luck

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14 Jessie @ Graze With Me October 31, 2012 at 11:34 am

The cargo cover is a good theft-deterrent, but it’s also a great safety feature to help keep items in place in case of a rollover. Imagine bags full of groceries & a heavy stroller flying over the backseat onto your child!!

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15 Katie October 31, 2012 at 11:42 am

My SUV is a Ford Edge and I love it – I agree with you about the automatic tailgate, mine is a 2009 and doesn’t have that feature which I really wish it did (especially with arms full of groceries!). You’re all about local. Buy an American car!

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16 JessE @ LoveLifeFromScratch October 31, 2012 at 12:01 pm

Agree! Buy American :)

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17 whitney October 31, 2012 at 1:12 pm

I agree! I love my Edge too! Mine is a 2010 and doesn’t have the the automatic tailgate feature eigher. That would be awesome…

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18 Nadeanne October 31, 2012 at 1:30 pm

Just because it is an American company doesn’t mean it was manufactured here. Fords are made all over. And I believe the Edge is made in Canada. There are also foreign car companies that manufacture in the US and employ US workers. So just do some research if that is something that’s important to you. The Kia Sorento, just based on a quick google search I did, is actually manufactured in GA.

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19 KERF October 31, 2012 at 2:29 pm

I’m watching CNN and actually just saw a commercial for Kia that said “made in Georgia” (or manufactured or something – I forgot the language). So you’re right!

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20 Rachel October 31, 2012 at 5:33 pm

I agree about American cars! I drive a Ford Escape and I LOVE it. It’s a great size.

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21 Elle October 31, 2012 at 7:32 pm

Yes! Buy from an American car company! I have driven many different cars over the years (foreign included), and will never buy anything but American in the future. We recently test drove a Ford Fusion hybrid and looooved it!!

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22 Julia October 31, 2012 at 9:36 pm

But what makes a car American? The company ownership? NPR just did a segment recently about this and there were two cars that were the most American in terms of keeping jobs local. Neither of them were American car companies. I also felt like I was supporting the US economy by buying a Ford, but I am afraid that it is more complex than that.

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23 Katie D. November 1, 2012 at 9:57 am

Agree – my Husband works for GM and some of their parts are made overseas and shipped/put together in America.However, as a Michigander, I do know that there is a huge impact on American made, even if some of the parts are from overseas! Some of the parts for many vehicles are made in my town! We have factories making seatbelt assemblies, horns and lots of hoses!

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24 Katie November 2, 2012 at 10:15 am

Yep, my dad worked for for for over 25 years, and I grew up in the Detroit area. My Edge was assembled in Canada but 70% of the parts came from US manufacturers – many of them from Michigan. I feel like buying from an American car company is important.

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25 jenna k November 1, 2012 at 2:53 pm

Yes, I agree. Foreign companies can still provide tons of jobs to struggling areas. Many of my friends from my small, rural hometown outside of Chattanooga, TN, are now working at the VW plant that recently opened in Chattanooga. In an area where good jobs are extremely hard to come by, this plant has been a blessing.

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26 Rachel November 1, 2012 at 4:04 pm

Well, of course it’s more complex than that, but since you can’t really buy your car and the parts separately, I feel like choosing an American-owned company is the best we can do.

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27 Megan @ MegGoesNomNom November 1, 2012 at 8:15 pm

Truth! American for the win!

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28 JenP October 31, 2012 at 11:48 am

We just bought a 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid and love it. It’s like a spaceship compared to my old Accord. So many bells and whistles and great gas mileage. It’s roomy enough for a tall family of boys (husband is 6’3″ and we’re assuming the boys will be over 6 feet all too soon). The only downside compared to an SUV, is that there is obvously no 3rd row option so we’re limited in how many of the kids’ friends we can haul around. I use it for commuting to work as well as family outings, so I didn’t want an SUV. It’s a great option if you are considering a sedan. We test drove the PriusV, which we liked but decided wasn’t big enough for a tall family. It would be great for a young family, though. Plenty of room for the stroller in the back.

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29 Carmina October 31, 2012 at 11:48 am

I’m confused when you say the trunk didn’t open automatically. Isn’t that what the third button on the key fob is for?

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30 KERF October 31, 2012 at 12:02 pm

I thought it was too but it seemed to be a placeholder button

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31 Amber October 31, 2012 at 12:15 pm

I have a Kia Sorento, and my third button also looks like it should open the back, but it actually just unlocks and pops open the back window. :)

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32 KERF October 31, 2012 at 12:33 pm

Ahh thanks for sharing that!

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33 Suzanne November 1, 2012 at 12:58 am

Yeah that button on my husband’s SUV (Ford) also just opens the window in the back. You have to unlock the doors and pull the handle to open the hatch (which is very heavy!).

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34 Dynamics October 31, 2012 at 11:48 am

Have you thought of getting a car that is battery and gas? Hybirds are great for running around town as it would run on the battery most the time. Better for the environment and better on the pocketbook not having to buy gas so often. I know Toyota has a great model as I am sure they all do. Something to look at.

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35 Mary October 31, 2012 at 11:59 am

I don’t have an SUV, but a British version of the Honda Civic. I love, love, love my heated seats though! It also has a huge boot (trunk!) which our greyhound is very comfortable in, and it won’t be a problem fitting the stroller in when we collect it (had a call to say it had arrived this morning! Very excited!)

Heated seats are the one thing I now won’t buy a car without!

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36 Jessica October 31, 2012 at 1:17 pm

Maybe I misunderstood you… But do you put your dog in the trunk of your car?

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37 Ellie October 31, 2012 at 1:58 pm

I do! The British version of the Civic is hatchback-y and you can remove the cover on the boot/trunk. This leaves a big open space with a huge window, so that’s where my dog rides when we’re on a long journey. :) We pop her bed back there and she loves it!

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38 Sara November 2, 2012 at 9:48 am

Really? I had wondered about that. We’re thinking about buying either a small SUV or a larger hatchback. I wasn’t sure if it was safe to put my dogs in the back though in case of an accident.

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39 Mary November 1, 2012 at 6:30 am

Yup, like Ellie says, it’s a hatchback, so you just remove the parcel shelf and it’s just a big open space.

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40 Penny October 31, 2012 at 11:59 am

We bought a Kia Sedona mini van back in 2003 and I drove it until last December. I pretty much hated it every single day after it was about 1 year old. Transmission went out twice, bearings went out, engine mount, lots of little knobs broke and fell off, door handle broke….on and on and on. It constantly had something wrong with it and we sunk lots and lots of money it in the last couple of years we had it. It has no resale value to speak of. It also had constant recalls from day one, for things to be fixed (which means leaving it at the dealership for a couple days without anything to drive!). I am sure I will never buy another KIA anything. I just had to post this because I don’t want people to go through what we went through. I am now driving a Toyota Camry and I love it!!!! My son has been driving a Camry for a couple of years, he loves it!! My husband has been driving a Toyota Celica for 10 years, he still loves it!! I am sold on Toyota!!

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41 KERF October 31, 2012 at 1:09 pm

I was a bit unsure of the brand when I heard which car I was getting at first (I knew nothing about Kia), but my contact (who works with many car companies, not for Kia) told me that 5 years ago is when Kia brought in a whole new design team from Audi and since then they have build a great fleet of cars. Still, I understand the sting of having such a bad experience!

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42 Penny October 31, 2012 at 1:35 pm

I’m so glad to hear that!

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43 Sara November 2, 2012 at 9:52 am

Yes. Kia has made a ton of improvements since 2003! My mechanic told me that used to be riddled with electrical problems but I’m not sure about now. Hyundai was the same way–they teamed up with Toyota I believe (one of their designers or something) and they have vastly improved over the years. The difference in my 2005 Accent vs. my mother-in-law’s 2000 Accent is amazing. Her car was like a tin can and it had tons of problems. My car has nearly 116,000 miles on it and I have NEVER had a single problem with it. (In fact, I still have my original brakes, shocks, etc.) Same w/ my husband’s Elantra (though it is newer, but we’ve never had a problem at all.) Same w/ my sister-in-law’s 2007 Elantra (no problems at all). Just thought I’d throw that out there. They’ve come a long way.

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44 emily October 31, 2012 at 12:05 pm

Sounds like a fun car!! If you’re in the market, I’d highly recommend trying out the Toyota Highlander. We bought one in anticipation for an expanding family and absolutely love its roominess. Even better, the price was right with our trade-in, and we got 0% financing. It’s a great car for families (especially those with dogs!).

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45 Sarah L. October 31, 2012 at 12:16 pm

Cool review? We have a 2.5 year old and 2 dogs, so an SUV is a must for us if we ALL want to go somewhere! Ours definitely doesn’t have all of the bells and whistles…maybe next time!
One question though – doesn’t the button on the remote that shows the batch hatch and says HOLD pop the back for you if you push it and hold it? I know that would mean having the keys accessible to enter the car, but you would need the remote to unlock the doors anyways…

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46 KERF October 31, 2012 at 12:33 pm

I held it down for a really long time…I think it was just missing this feature.

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47 Beth October 31, 2012 at 12:19 pm

We just purchased a new car in May (in preparation for the arrival of our first baby in June), and had it narrowed down the the Kia Sorento and the Subaru Forester. Although the Sorento does indeed have a lot of nice “bells and whistles”, we ultimately went with the Forester and I could not be happier. I just felt a lot safer in the Forester because at 5’3″, I had so much more side/rear visibility than in the Sorento.

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48 Sara October 31, 2012 at 12:21 pm

Maybe your key fob thing didn’t work properly? Most cars if you hold down the trunk button it pops up. We own Hyundais. (So do my in-laws, my friends, etc.) We have a Hyundai Elantra and my old Hyundai Accent. Expecting our first child, we’re hoping to replace my Accent (it’s a 2-door hatch) while I’m on maternity leave or close to it. (Summer 2013). I’ve contemplated a small SUV because we have two large dogs too, but I can’t justify the extra gas and cost since I drive 50+ miles to work every day. It sure would be handy though for all the reasons you mentioned! When replacing my car, we’ll probably go with another Hyundai or maybe a Kia Soul or a Honda Civic. We’re not really sure yet. Our mechanic said Hyundai, Honda and Toyota are the best cars out there. I’ve only driven a hatchback and really find it handy because there’s more space in the back and my seats fold down more than my husband’s so we can haul all sorts of things even in my tiny little car. (I brought home two end tables in it once and a chair). Good luck finding a new car! I completely understand–my car has no bells and whistles and I much look forward to having a newer car with a few! Can’t wait to see what you decide. We do like the Kia Sportage. It’s more in our price-range. I’ve rambled on about cars too long :-)

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49 Sara October 31, 2012 at 12:23 pm

Oh and I travel a good bit for work and we have to rent a car if we go more than 200 miles so I’ve driven a lot of smaller cars. Mazdas seem to handle very well in addition to Honda and Hyundai. Just my two cents!

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50 Janet October 31, 2012 at 9:37 pm

I had been a Subaru gal for years. Owned 3 over a span of almost 30 years. When the last one (an Outback) was giving out (219,000 miles), I couldn’t afford to replace it with another Subaru. I was heartbroken. Ended up getting a used Hyundai Tucson. Love it. It doesn’t have the bells and whistles that my Outback had but it gets great gas mileage. I like sitting up a bit higher too.

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51 Sara November 2, 2012 at 9:54 am

Thanks for your reply, Janet! I’m torn between the Elantra GT (the new five-door Elantra) or the Tucson. My aunt and uncle have had two Santa Fes and they loved them.

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52 Natalie Kirbo October 31, 2012 at 12:22 pm

I drive a 2011 Acura rdx, and I absolutely love it! It’s a small SUV (basically the same as a Honda crv), but its roomy, zoomy and gets great gas mileage! I highly recommend it!

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53 LindsayH October 31, 2012 at 12:23 pm

I am surprised you didn’t mention fuel economy or emissions, those are two of the biggest things for me in a new car.

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54 KERF October 31, 2012 at 12:31 pm

I did mention miles per gallon. I don’t know anything about emissions though.

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55 Kiersten October 31, 2012 at 12:26 pm

We have a Toyota Highlander and love it! It is consistently ranked at the top of Consumers Reports car lists. They sell a hybrid version too.

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56 Liz October 31, 2012 at 2:24 pm

Second the highlander

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57 Bethany October 31, 2012 at 12:41 pm

Hello there! I have been following your blog (both of them) for awhile now. I love your daily posts, your meal choices inspire me to eat healthy, and your baby is adorable! My husband and i are on the path to begining our family, and the car situation was a hot topic. I had a Toyota Corolla, which is a great car, but i really wanted something bigger and all wheel drive for when we have a baby. I went back and forth between a Subaru Outback and the Toyota Venza. We ended up purchasing the Venza on Friday. I love it!!! Its like a small SUV, but has a roomy hatchback for our 100 lbs chocolate lab, a very roomy backseat, etc. I love it beucase it doesn’t feel as big as a SUV, gets good gas milage for a SUV and is safe. Toyota’s are known to last forever, so thats what i plan to do with this! Hope this helps :)

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58 casey November 2, 2012 at 9:17 pm

Looove my Venza!

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59 Michelle October 31, 2012 at 12:52 pm

My husband & I recently purchased an SUV as well. In june we got the Toyota Highlander. The purchase was in anticipation of our needs for a family. I wish it had the trunk cover. Other than that, we love it!

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60 kiersten November 1, 2012 at 12:57 am

Mine has a trunk cover and its a 2002. Weird that the new models dont

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61 Sonya November 16, 2012 at 4:14 pm

We just bought a 2013 Highlander as we are expecting our first child in Feb. and it came with the trunk cover. Check under the mat in the cargo area, ours has a little cover that you lift and the trunk cover is stored in there. If not, I would call your dealer about getting one!

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62 Amanda Darby October 31, 2012 at 1:12 pm

Hi Kath,

We just bought our new car because we will soon be a family of 3 (like in a week!). We have different needs than you since we live in the city and found even the small SUVs to be too big and difficult to parellel park because of the styling you can’t see out the back of a lot of SUVs. That said when originally were looking at SUVs, so we did test drive the Honda CRV, Hyundai Sante Fe, Toyota Highlander and RAV-4, and the Subaru Outback, Cross Trek and Forrester. We ended up like the CRV and Sante Fe the best for their price performance ratios. The CRV, while it has all the bells and whistles feel really cheap inside–even the top model, so it wasn’t the best driving experience for us. Plus, to get everything we wanted it was going to cost over 28k, might as well upgrade to a bigger SUV at that point and get more car for your money. The Sante Fe, while pricier at 32k we felt was a great deal, you got all the bells and whistles, great interior design, 100,000 mile or 10 year warranty, and lots and lots of room. I actually think we’ll get this car in a few years when we have baby #2. It’s coming out with a 3rd row seat in January and will be about the size of the Highlander (which we also liked, but it would have cost us 35k).

We ended buying the Hyundai Elentra GT. It’s a hatchback and we love it. It’s perfect for what we need for right now. And at 20K we couldn’t be happier. To be honest I wish it was a little bigger, but we are kickin it European style and making due with a smaller car for now. We decided if we saved 10k on a car we could rent a bigger car for long road trips which we take once or twice a year. Also, my parents have a truck we can borrow anytime for hauling stuff around. So again, for what we need it’s a great car.

Good luck car hunting!

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63 Jen October 31, 2012 at 1:21 pm

I’m surprised you didn’t mention the car’s safety ratings. I think that’s important as a new mother.

I know you didn’t find the back-up camera to be that important, but remember that you might like it more when Maze is outside playing.

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64 KERF October 31, 2012 at 1:23 pm

Oh I thought I said the back-up camera was totally awesome? Yes – very important for little kiddos. I’m just getting into car research and haven’t looked into the safety ratings yet. I was already overwhelmed with things to research : )

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65 Penny October 31, 2012 at 1:43 pm

I saw where you said you liked it alot. I was wondering about those camera’s, I think that would be awesome because I feel like no matter what car I am in, I can never really see well behind me. Maybe because I’m 5’3? Or maybe just because unless you’re back there you can’t be 100% sure! Love the new technology with cars these days! Thanks for the review!!

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66 Katie @ Talk Less, Say More October 31, 2012 at 1:26 pm

What an AWESOME review opportunity and definitely the perfect “test” drive. I recently bought a pre-owned 2009 Volkswagen Jetta and I am SO happy with it. While I don’t have kids to lug around with me, it’s got plenty of space and held a LOT of stuff when I moved from LA back to Chicago.

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67 Barbara November 1, 2012 at 1:55 pm

I have a 2009 VW Jetta Sportswagen. Lots of space, great mgp. Three years later, still a love fest with it.

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68 Leslie October 31, 2012 at 1:50 pm

My husband and I have nearly identical Corollas that are more than 10 yrs old, and we are expecting our first baby in the spring. My car, which actually has a better engine and has been more reliable overall, has manual locks and windows, and I truly never thought about the potential inconvenience of it until I read this post! While I’m interested in a larger car, I’m planning on doing research about the relative insurance cost of covering a sedan vs. an SUV vs. a van or station wagon. When my SIL needed a bigger car for her growing family, she had her heart set on a Toyota Highlander but ultimately got a van because it was a lot more affordable to insure. Just food for thought! Happy car shopping :)

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69 Kim October 31, 2012 at 2:22 pm

I had a brand new 2011 Kia Sorenta (not the SX, but not the basic one either) and my hubby and daughter were struck by a drunk driver going 70 mph in that car. I’m certain that car is the only reason they are alive today! The car folded in exactly how it said it would to avoid injuries. Luckily my daughter was safe and sound in her car seat, but her dad had some minor injuries.

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70 KERF October 31, 2012 at 2:38 pm

oh my gosh…i’m so glad they are ok! That’s great to know about the safety.

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71 Rachel October 31, 2012 at 2:23 pm

I have had my Jeep Compass for a year – it is a great midsize SUV! No third row, but it has a lot of other great features (fold down seats are my fave). IMO it is priced very well for its category and features. It is also super comfortable/roomy, but still has decent gas mileage, which was important to me because of my long commute. Definitely more comfortable than my old Accord!! The Jeep Patriot is basically the same vehicle just with a slighty different body style. I recommend checking them both out when you do your search! In the future when we have kiddos, I am eyeing the Nissan Armada – it is a beautiful large SUV with some awesome features.

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72 ashlynn October 31, 2012 at 2:31 pm

Honda CR-V! I have a 2005, and my parents have a newer model. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

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73 Allison k November 1, 2012 at 10:27 am

Yed to the CR-V love! I have a 2008 an adore it. But…because we have a dog( that rides in the car) if we hav more than 1 child…it won’t be big enough for the while family to go camping or on a road trip. In that event we would probably upgrade to the hOnda pilot.

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74 Marcy October 31, 2012 at 2:33 pm

Don’t overlook the benefits of a minivan! Once your children are 2 and up they will want to get in and out of the car themselves and the sliding doors on a minivan are perfect. Also, a minivan is easy to get into the third row, or fold the seats down to store lumber or bakery racks. Finally, minivans drive like a car, have all the features of an SUV but are easier for the kids and their friends and all the sports equipment to take advantage of. If you think they are not cool, you’ll be over this in about 5 seconds when you appreciate how well the minivan works with your family’s needs. Good luck!

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75 KERF October 31, 2012 at 2:38 pm

I have been egging Matt on to consider them (omgtheautomaticslidingdoorsiwantthemsomuch!) but he is resistant

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76 Amanda October 31, 2012 at 10:54 pm

I had a rental minivan while waiting for my SUV. I really think that my SUV has more functional room than a minivan!

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77 Laura November 1, 2012 at 11:43 am

I have 3 tall kiddos. We had a suburban for years, which I LOVED. When it was time to look at new cars we actually ended up getting the VW Routan (minivan). I was seriously anti-minivan, but in all honesty, I adore it!! We only have the middle model, but it has stow and go storage, push button doors and hatch (which also have sensors so no body parts can get pinched in the doors), the middle row seats are removable and the third row folds completely flat. As a mom, the features I especially love are the built in sunshades on all the back windows and the fact that the second and third row seats recline. It also has navigation, backup camera, satellite radio, steering wheel controls. The best part? When we were buying, there was a HUGE rebate, which made our brand new van less that 27k :)

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78 Jessica November 2, 2012 at 10:14 am

We have three kids and a minivan, and the sliding doors are worth their weight in gold. I can have my arms full of a baby, bag, purse, etc, and still open a door easily by pushing a button. I dont have to worry about my older kids banging their door into the car next to us. Seriously, awesome. We have a Pontiac Montana and I wouldnt recommend that model, I would love a Toyota Sienna. Have you or Matt seen them? They are as awesome as this Kia you guys drove.

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79 Jen in MN November 1, 2012 at 11:44 am

Have to second the minivan! No, it’s not “cool” but OMG the features and convenience are amazingly worth it!!!!! We have a 2006 Chrysler Town & Country (got it while preggo with #2) because we couldn’t afford a low-enough-mileage Honda or Toyota. Well, we LOVE the power sliding doors, power back hatch, and full stow & go seating! Within a span of several minutes, the entire back of the van (everything besides the 2 front driver & passenger captain’s chairs) can be made into a completely flat HUGE cargo-hauling area! It is a TON of space. Cheaper and better mileage (not great, but better) then most comparably-sized SUVs, too.

Seriously, tell Matt to get over it (-; and truly consider the minivan option. We’ve appreciated the convenience, flexibility, and ease of ours time and time again! As landlords who don’t own a pickup/truck, it’s saved my hubby’s butt on various homeowner/landlord errands too.

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80 Jackie November 1, 2012 at 9:37 pm

When I had my first baby, I got a small SUV. A year later, our second baby ended up being our second AND third baby (twins!). We outgrew our SUV instantly. We got a minivan that had three seats across the middle row. Minivans are great because they are designed with children in mind. I can not say enough good things about the sliding doors. It is much easier to get kids in and out of the car in a tight parking lot when the doors don’t open out. And when they turn 3 and want to do everything by themselves, you avoid having your child slam open a door into the car next to you! (I saw this happen many time at preschool drop off!) Things that may not matter much to you now will in a few short years. Extra seating also comes in handy. You will want the ability to separate siblings that might want to hit/kick each other on long car rides. There are times when you will want to seat them closer together (my oldest sits next to my infant so she can fetch toys, hand snacks, etc.) It’s nice to have options. A minivan is also roomy enough to allow you to get to the back row to buckle seatbelts. Some of my friends struggle with this in their SUVs. Minivans are definitely worth a test drive!

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81 KERF November 1, 2012 at 10:24 pm

Matt, please read these minivan comments!!! :)

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82 Christy November 4, 2012 at 10:16 pm

Totally agree…consider the minivan now even though you don’t “need” it yet. We are a family of 5…soon to be 6. Upgraded from a corolla to a pilot when we had #2 figuring we could use the third seat if need be. Big mistake. The third row is barely functional…hardly any leg room, too narrow to fit a booster (you have to hold the seat UP with child in it because the buckle is underneath and good luck unbuckling the kid without triggering the seatbelt lock mechanism. Now that my kids are in school and we car pool and have sports and play dates, it is a major pain to bring extra passengers in the pilot. The odyssey has a flat fold and removable seats, the mid row slides so you can configure your interior a variety of different ways and the sliding doors……oh the sliding doors. I have the child locks on now because #2 flung open the door while pulling into the garage scraping the car and the garage. But then I cannot use the circle drop off at school while the child lock is engaged. Seriously if you think you have your hands full now….just wait till you are toting sports bags and poster board and teacher snacks and your own purse….

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83 Susan Mc November 7, 2012 at 3:56 pm

Add me to the “get over it and get a minivan” list. We went from a Honda CRV to a Chrysler Town and Country and couldn’t be happier! The boys are bigger now and love that they’ve got captain’s chairs instead of being crammed into a bench seat together. The stow and go seat are to die for… if you need a back-up vehicle to haul stuff it’s perfect, it’s like a cargo van w/all the seats down. The CVR was always a mess to take camping (once we added gear and 2 dogs) but in the van it’s a dream. We had the top of the line CRV and I agree with the comment that the finishes seemed “cheap”… road noise was awful too. The bells and whistles in the van are awesome… c’mon Matt! Come to the dark side!

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84 Cristin October 31, 2012 at 2:41 pm

I’m a Honda girl, in a Honda family. I’ve had my Civic since 2003 and this year was the first “work” it has needed. A new AC fan thingamajig for $140. And I’m at 107,000 miles.
Have you reviewed the new CR-V? They completely revamped the style and mechanics. My parents just bought the 2013 and love it. It’s considerably less than the Sorento, also. And has plenty of bells and whistles. :)
It’s not American, but Hondas seem to outlast my friend’s Fords and Chevys.

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85 Charise November 13, 2012 at 8:29 am

I know I’m way late to the comment party on this post, but I wanted to reiterate/expan on what a few other commenters have said – just because the car company itself isn’t American, doesn’t mean a lot of the parts aren’t, or that it isn’t designed and/or built in America by American employees. My husband is an R&D engineer for Honda, so when we buy our Hondas/Acuras, we are directly supporting his job (can’t get more “local” than that, right!? ;)) and the jobs of the many thousands of others who work at the R&D and manufacturing facilities in our area and several other places in the US, as well as the US-based suppliers they work with. According to my hubby, almost all cars have parts from both the US and around the world, and many foreign car companies manufacture cars here, and some US companies build some of their cars out of the US as well (e.g, Canada or Mexico).

And +1 on the Hondas being way more reliable and longer lasting than any other brand I’ve driven in the past!

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86 Elisabeth October 31, 2012 at 3:02 pm

I drive a Honda Accord (2006), too, and love it! However, I definitely understand the appeal of an SUV. My mom has a Chevrolet Equinox & really likes it – I’ve driven it & some of those features you mentioned are so handy :)

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87 Lora October 31, 2012 at 3:17 pm

I just wanted to comment on the navigation. See on the screen where it says POI Search? That’s where you would just enter the name of the place you want to go. You don’t need any addresses. You could have just typed in the name of the winery in that section and it will pull it up for you. I have nav in my car and I never have an address handy!

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88 KERF October 31, 2012 at 6:14 pm

Hmmm. I tried that but it didn’t recognize a few of the places…but I could have just been using newer places (which Pippin Hill and Blue Mountain Brewery are). But thanks – hopefully I can get that working next time!

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89 Becca October 31, 2012 at 3:29 pm

I bought a 2011 Sorento– I was in the market for a safe, small SUV that wouldn’t break the bank. I bought it right when the Sorento was rising to the top of the Consumer Reports small SUV list (where I think it’s stayed), and I tried the Rav4 and Forester and hated the way they drove- to me, THEY felt harder to handle and more like trucks/unstable. Kia also offers a 100,000 (60,000?) mile warranty, which is huge. Mine has a few bells and whistles (Blutooth is standard in Kias, whereas you have to pay more for every extra in a Toyota, etc.) and I love it so far. We’ve driven it many miles, it fits nicely into parallel parking spots in Cville, and it has been easy to maintain. I’ve always been a Toyota girl, but the price couldn’t be beat for a safe, roomy car.

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90 jen October 31, 2012 at 3:30 pm

it would be so hard to give that car up :) we had a VW beetle for the first year and half of our daughter’s life. talk about back breaking! getting her in and out of the car was so hard..not mention the lack of space. when we found we were expecting our 2nd we were finally able to trade it in for a 4 door car. but now we are expecting our 3rd and i would give anything for a minivan. i don’t even care how lame that is! when you spend as much time as we do getting in and out of a car with small kids convenience is all that matters!

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91 Lauren @ Lettuce Eat Cake November 1, 2012 at 9:39 am

Thanks for posting this, Jen. I currently drive a 1999 Beetle in great shape, and I love having no car payment! My hubby and I want to start a family within the next couple years, and I keep wondering if I’ll be able to make my Beetle work with a baby. I might have to rethink it given your response…

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92 Melissa October 31, 2012 at 3:58 pm

I have a 2011 Ford Edge Limited. I’ve owned 3 Edges and LOVED them all. I am short 5’2 and I love that the vehicle drives like a car but I sit up a bit higher so can see. I have pretty much all the bells and whistles you mentioned in your post…and my tailgate does go up with a touch of a button. Its wonderful.

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93 Claire October 31, 2012 at 4:52 pm

We have three kids and in Australia they have to be in car seats unti they are seven years old, meaning we needed a car with plenty of seats. We got a Honda odyssey. Not sure if it is available in US, but it is like a station wagon with a third row of seats. The third row fold down at the press of a button for a huge boot. All of the 5 back seats have anchor points for car seats although it sounds like you use a different system over there as it is illegal here to attach a car seat for an under 4 yo with just the seatbelt. Anyway, we avoided a SUV due to high emissions and fuel useage. The Honda odyssey is only 4 cylinders. Also SUVs are very dangerous in crashes to other vehicles, i.e. you might be safer but other road users aren’t, which didn’t sit well with me. Our biggest consideration was safety features. Side curtain airbags in all three rows of seating, electronic stability control and anti lock brakes are so important and there is no way I would put my kids in a car without these features. My favourite feature for kid friendliness is having leather seats – an absolute must for ease of cleaning inevitable messes.

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94 bea October 31, 2012 at 5:03 pm

I’m on my second Ford Escape. I love it! I bought a 2008 one since it worked better for my budget. They are a great car, have the latch system, fit 3 people in the second row and the seats fold flat for moving stuff. I’m 5’9″ so for me I need a car that fits me comfortably, and this one does. The newer models have it so that if you stick your foot under the back fender the back will open up hands-free.

If you are test driving smaller SUVs, try the Escapes.

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95 Brittany November 1, 2012 at 7:59 pm

I second Ford Escape! I just purchased a 2013 Ford Escape Titanium… as a result of a terrible accident I was involved in wherein my 2010 Escape was totaled. I honestly credit the fact that I walked away from the accident with only minor injuries to the Escape. (And the 2013 is incredible- it doesn’t even look like the same kind of car/SUV!)

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96 Rina October 31, 2012 at 5:05 pm

This is such a cool post, Kath! My husband and I just bought a new car and we were only looking at mid-size SUVs. The Kia was one of the choices but we ultimately went with the Nissan Murano. The Honda CRV was also up there, along with the Honda Pilot, and Ford Edge. All comes down to the little details of what is important to you, balanced with the deal you can get (maybe trade-in value on your car?)

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97 Kimberly October 31, 2012 at 5:55 pm

So, wait…you sit in the back seat with the baby all the time when Matt is driving?

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98 KERF October 31, 2012 at 6:12 pm

Well a lot of the time he sits in the back while I drive. But it’s kind of hard to reach his toys and pacifier from the front seats!!

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99 the 3volution of j3nn October 31, 2012 at 6:33 pm

We have a Cadillac SRX crossover, which is basically an SUV. Navigation and energy outlets are definitely a feature I look for in a vehicle. We’ve had several Suvs: five Jeep Cherokee Limiteds and a Ford Explorer. The latest jeep was an 08 and that was a really nice vehicle. I think you’d like Jeep vehicles. The mid models woukd have everything you’re looking for. Also, try to get an automatic trunk door so you can do it remotely.

The next SUV I’d like to get is a Range Rover.

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100 Karin October 31, 2012 at 8:54 pm

I have a Mini Cooper Countryman and I love it! It might be smaller than you’re lookin for though, it only has four seats. But it’s super fun to drive :)

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101 Brittany October 31, 2012 at 9:31 pm

The car my parents had when I was a kid (ages 4-16. I learned to drive in) had the same problem with the power locks. We did the whole arm twisting thing or my older brother would have me crawl in back through the front to unlock the door. But we started to roll down the window and open it from the outside. It worked so well. For years it worked for us. If you aren’t able to reach in back to unlock the door, I suggest rolling down the window. You would be surprised at how well it works!!

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102 Sarah October 31, 2012 at 9:36 pm

We’re a Mazda family. We were a one-car family driving a Mazda3 hatchback until I went back to work after maternity leave (walking and public transit for the rest of our transportation needs). Now we need to be able to share daycare dropoff and pickup duties, so we needed a second car. We loved our Mazda3 so much that we considered another one, but we wanted a little more space, especially since we’re hoping for another baby in a year or so and would like to be able to accommodate visiting grandparents, too. We shopped around and ended up with a Mazda5 for our second car. It’s basically a mini-minivan – 6 seats, sliding doors, handles much more like a car but also has a little more height and visibility, which I like. The rear seats fold 50-50, so you have flexibility in terms of carrying people vs. stuff. There’s not a ton of space for stuff with 6 people in the car, but enough for an umbrella stroller and groceries, or with only 4 or 5 there’s the option to fold a seat or two and fit in quite a bit of stuff. (Also, the folding rear seats are incredibly easy – just a tug on a strap and they fold flat. I can do it while holding the baby *and* a bag of groceries. :) )

It gets pretty good gas mileage, and you can get it with a manual transmission, which we wanted and which seems to be rare for larger cars these days.

Anyway, I know it’s not an SUV, but it’s a great family vehicle that meets many of the same needs you have, so I thought that you or some of your readers might be interested!

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103 Kate October 31, 2012 at 11:08 pm

Toyota Rav 4–best car I ever had. I have had mine since 2000. There has not been one problem with this care not one. My sister bought a new rav 4 in 2010 and LOVES it. My other sister bought hers in 2011 and loves it. I will ride my Rav into the ground and when it finally dies, I will get another Rav.

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104 Kay October 31, 2012 at 11:51 pm

We bought the Nissan Rogue last year and really love it. It is a mid-size SUV (along the same lines of a Rav or CRV) and was the mid-range one in that group of Rogue’s so has heated seats, back up camera and Blue-tooth. I really love it. It is great on gas (i commute 60 minutes a day, and is small (easy to park) and sporty. I downgraded from a Dodge Grand Caravan that I drove for 10 years. My only complaint is that I think it would be great for no more than two kids. I think more than that and it would be too small. There is no third row seating, but the back seat is very roomy.

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105 Suzanne November 1, 2012 at 1:09 am

My husband’s SUV also has the rearview mirror darkening feature. But there is a button you can push on his rearview mirror that brightens it again. It is near that green light (which I think indicates the darkening feature is on) on the mirror itself. Not sure if it was the same in this vehicle though.

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106 Marie November 1, 2012 at 1:15 am

Mazda CX9- hands down! I actually loved my CX7 just a little bit more but the back seat was too cramped with my RF car seat. If you’re really set on a smaller SUV, I have several friends who love their CR-Vs. The back seat is deceptively roomier than I imagined and they have had really good luck in terms of reliability over the long term (kind of expected since it’s a Honda). And, yes, if supporting the American economy is important to you, you will have some due diligence to do, as prior commenters have said, it is not as cut and dry as you might think. My husband’s Mazda 6 proudly sports a Manufactured in the USA sticker on the window. That can not be said for some Fords.
Also, a comment on the LATCH anchors to use the seat in the center position. You will need to check the car seat manual and the manual for your (upcoming new) car, but most allow for the seat to be placed in the center position. You just use the inside anchors from the two sides- there isn’t a separate set of anchors. I found it clunky to lift the carrier in and out of that position too at the beginning, but once I switched to a convertible RF seat I find that it is way more convenient to have the seat in the middle. That way if it is raining or snowing, you can hop in and close the door to shelter yourself from the weather while securing your child. Also handy when you’re in a parking lot and don’t want to stand there with the door open.
Good luck with car hunting!

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107 KERF November 1, 2012 at 1:53 am

Great tip on the car seats!

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108 Jen November 1, 2012 at 10:23 am

I was curious about the LATCH in the Kia after Kath mentioned it in her post, and upon Googling, it looks like you can only use LATCH in the outside seats in this particular car. But Marie is correct that you should always check your car manual to see how to install the car seat and which position is safest.

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109 Colleen November 1, 2012 at 1:23 am

Drove a ’99 Honda Accord all through college and beyond. I now have a 2012 Kia Sportage and I LOVE it! Much cheaper than the Sorrento, too.

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110 Michelle @ Turning Over a New Leaf November 1, 2012 at 1:35 am

We’re in the market for a new vehicle soon. We have a mid-size SUV right now (1996 Jeep Grand Cherokee) but are hoping to trade that in for a larger, newer SUV. Safety is always #1 priority for both of us. My husband has worked in auto mechanics for a decade, and we’ve both known far too many people who have died or have serious life-long injuries from car accidents with poorly constructed vehicles. I’m pretty sure we couldn’t live with ourselves if someone we love was in a car accident in our vehicle and was seriously hurt or killed because we chose gas mileage over safety (vehicles constructed primarily for gas efficiency *typically* trade off sturdy, steel construction and safety to accomplish this).

So, our number one priority is safety. Next is fuel mileage. We live in Texas and our families live on opposite ends of the state–and we always drive. Of course, we consider 18mpg to be an acceptable fuel mileage for the level of safety we require in a vehicle. It’s what I get now, and well-maintained SUVs tend to run about that same rate, if not a little better. Third, we must have a working air conditioning. Can’t sufficiently cool a 120 degree car interior by rolling a window down when it’s 105 degrees outside!

Beyond those, my husband and I have are own little desires. His are more practical for his purposes. He works on our cars, so he’s got his own mechanic-related preferences. Beyond those, I’m pretty simple. I want space. I grew up in SUVs, learned to drive in an SUV (1994 Chevy Suburban. OMG. That thing was a mammoth. I do not recommend). The car I drove before I got my Jeep was an old granny car: 1984 Oldsmobile Delta 88. I want leg room and space for my family and their luggage. I do a lot of traveling, and flying is way too expensive in most cases, so we need a place to carry everything!

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111 Megan Infantino November 1, 2012 at 1:46 am

That was a great opportunity you had there. My husband and I actually just traded in our car. We had a 2007 Cadillac CTS (for only a year) after we got rid of my baby (2007 Pontiac Solstice) once we got pregnant. My husband traded in my Pontiac last year (with my permission of course) while I was at work. I HATED the Cadillac. The first week was nice (ya know.. having a new (to me) car and all) but after that, it didn’t appeal to me and I wanted my Pontiac back. Anyways, I made it a whole year with the car and actually found it to be a big pain in the butt with the baby. It was big and all, but I didn’t fit the baby (and the stuff that goes with babies) great. We had to move the seats way forward to fit the car seat, the trunk could ONLY fit the stroller, it was a gas hog (and I drive 80+ miles a day to work)… it just didn’t work for me.

So my husband and I have been scoping out SUVs and nothing really appealed to me except for the Tahoe. However, I knew that car was a major gas hog compared to my cadillac and I wasn’t about to make that step. So we actually looked at the Chevy Volt. The first time I saw the Volt was when I was working for DCF. Someone who worked in the building behind us had one and it was visually appealing to me. So we test drove it and loved it. Electric car = big plus to me with all the driving that I do. However the price was a shocker to me. But, the price that we will end up paying for it (car payment, gas, oil changes, etc) should even out to what we were paying monthly with the cadillac. So we went for it. And while it is smaller than the cadillac, it ACTUALLY fits the baby and everything a lot nicer. Hard to believe. We had it a week and so far, I LOVE IT.

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112 Katie D. November 1, 2012 at 10:02 am

I’m a bit bias (my husband works for a GM Dealership) but the GMC Terrian and GMC Accadia both are great!

Somethings to consider are where it can be serviced at/ease of getting parts and if there are known issues (some are notorious of going through ball joints, etc).

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113 Katie @ Cabbage Ranch November 1, 2012 at 12:33 pm

After my daughter was born 2 1/2 years ago, we purchased a Honda CR-V (an older model) which has been an absolutely great car and a good size for commuting, etc. Happy, right? *cue birth of second child* Now we’ve discovered that our RF infant seat won’t fit in the middle next to our daughter’s FF seat (both too wide). No problem, we thought, one car seat on each side should fix that…. except then we discovered the RF seat (though standard sized) is so big it doesn’t allow the passenger seat to slide far enough back for an adult to comfortably sit in the front passenger seat! We never would have thought to check this out before, but for that reason- and a couple other converging factors- we just purchased a bigger SUV. I went from 2-door coupe to soccer mom giant in lightning speed. This is how the downhill slide starts- first the huge SUV, then mom jeans, then helmet hair.

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114 KERF November 1, 2012 at 2:40 pm

Helmet Hair, lol !

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115 Rebecca Z November 1, 2012 at 12:34 pm

We just got the 2013 Mazda CX-5, it’s a lot cheaper than most of the small SUV models out there and has a lot of bells and whistles without a high price tag. The base model is only $21K, I got the one for $25K and it has the back up camera, side view blinkers, built in bluetooth and the same controls on the steering wheel. I loved that it was a small SUV since it was my first one and didn’t feel to intimidating also didn’t look too much like a “mom” car..it’s a little sporty than most SUV’s in my opinion…good luck with the search!!

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116 Sarah November 1, 2012 at 2:57 pm

I have a 2012 Kia Sorento. I didn’t spring for the highest trim level but mine still has the back up camera, Bluetooth and heated seats. It’s such a great car! And you can’t beat the warranty! I was actually in the market for a used SUV but when I went to the dealership with my crappy little Nissan Versa hatch back, they ran the numbers for a trade-in and I was very pleasantly surprised. They even let me take it home for a couple of days to make sure I liked it. I haven’t had any problems what so ever, the gas mileage is great, it’s safe, and there is plenty of space in the trunk for a stroller and groceries. I highly recommend. :)

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117 jenna k November 1, 2012 at 3:00 pm

this was a very cool post to read, even though i won’t be buying a new car for years. one thing i really wish my car had is an iphone plug-in for music. mine’s unfortunately just a year or two old to have that.
one handy thing i’ve noticed in my dad’s car: remote start. being able to start your car a few minutes before you leave your house seems like a dream on miserably hot or cold days.

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118 Fancy November 1, 2012 at 3:05 pm

I loooooove my Subaru Forester! We bought it when I was 8 months pregnant and it has been an absolute DREAM with a baby. Highly, highly recommend!

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119 Amanda M November 1, 2012 at 5:45 pm

I have a Chevy Equinox. *Great* car! It’s Chevy’s verion of the Sorento or Ford Edge. My favorite part is it has Eco mode, so I can get around 30 mpg, or turn it off when it snows and I need the extra power. Yes, it drives like a dream up here in Alaska, and I take the thing on the worse roads imaginable and I’ve never gotten stuck or had an issue. I’ve let others drive it and everyone that has ended up loving it. Someone actually bought an Equinox after that because she loved it so much. Mine was about mine was about $25k so a great deal for the amount of vehicle I got.

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120 Kristine November 1, 2012 at 6:01 pm

We just bought a 2012 Honda CRV EX and I love it! I had a Civic for years and have become a Honda-phile ;-) It has many of the bells and whistles you mentioned (rear view camera, Bluetooth, heated seats, reliable temp controls, auxiliary hook ups, steering wheel controls). We didn’t spring for a navigation system and haven’t missed it since we have smartphones. We also have gotten awesome gas mileage – which you can monitor on one of their screens. Up to 32 mpg on the highway, which is great for an SUV. It doesn’t pop the back automatically, but it’s pretty easy to unlatch.

We drove it across the country in August and had no problems with it. Drove like a dream. ;-) I also loved that we could buy a protection plan for the length of our lease and have our oil changes and routine maintenance paid for.

We are in Durham so you are welcome to come take a hassle-free test drive next time you’re in town. :)

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121 KERF November 1, 2012 at 7:31 pm

I’ll be in Durham for Christmas ….would love to test drive : )

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122 Kristine November 1, 2012 at 11:55 pm

Awesome! Just shoot me an email-we’ll be in town since I have to work.

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123 KERF November 2, 2012 at 4:49 am

Ill keep that in mind!

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124 Sydney November 2, 2012 at 2:25 am

A lot of folks have mentioned it above, but you should look at a Subaru. They are always the right choice :)

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125 lauri November 2, 2012 at 7:38 am

Fun post! We went car shopping right before Miss B was born bc there was no way my pontiac grandam was going to hold the both of us, 2 dogs and a baby! We test drove about 4-5 different suvs, but Iknew all along that I wanted a honda pilot. I wanted a suv I could keep and drive for 7-10+ years (hopefully) and that had fairly good resale value. I love my 2009 pilot (I always buy used but in VERY good condition!!) A couple things you didn’t mention: leather seats! This was a MUST for us with dog hair and baby messes!! Never buying fabric seats again, too hard to clean. And a dvd player, this wasn’t a MUST for us, but it is a nice feature. We’ve both enjoyed it on long trips and Ithink B will enjoy it as she gets older. Whenever you are test driving cars, Iwould take your stroller/other big gear and see how it fits… some of the smLler suvs (ie honda crv) were too small w/ baby gear and we would’ve outgrown it by baby #2 (but we also have big doggies!). Oh, and be sure to bargain a good deal!!! I had a set monthly price that we could afford and didn’t budge. Even as we were about to sign paperwork I was able to get them to drop the interest rate to make sure our monthly payments were in budget! Haggling sucks, buuuut it seems to be part of the game at most places (except carmax, definitely price compare w/ them and other dealerships though!)! Good luck!

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126 lauri November 2, 2012 at 7:49 am

Oh, and I always change B in the back! Sooo much easier and cleaner than using a store bathroom ‘changer’! I keep a diaper caddy back there with everything we might need (wipes, diaper cream, changing mat, few disposables ‘just in case’, etc).

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127 Jessica November 2, 2012 at 10:17 am

What a great post! I wish I could read a post like this on every car I consider in the future to buy!
This car looks AWESOME.

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128 Nicole November 2, 2012 at 10:44 am

I looked at the Sorrento and really liked it but I went with the Hyundai Tucson instead. It had almost all of the same offerings for a decently lower price. I’ve had mine a year and still LOVE it :)

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129 Lorrie Lawson November 2, 2012 at 10:52 am

Ford Edge 2013 I just got one 2 months ago and I LOVE it. I had an 2001 Escape (with close to 00,00 miles) and wanted to stick with that, but my husband wanted the Edge. Glad we went with that, I now love this car as much as the Escape, maybe better. It is much nicer car with all the bells and whistles. Back up camera, heated seat, Sync program and tons more. It also has the automatic open truck which is really nice. Didn’t think I would care for the keyless start, but I have gotten used to it and actually like it. We did go with the Edge over the Escape because he got a hole in one at a golf tournament and the prize was a 2 year lease on a Ford Focus, but you could also take the money and turn it into a purchase of a Ford or Lincoln. So that’s what we did.

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130 Donna November 2, 2012 at 11:29 am

We love our Hyundai Santa Fe! (a step up from Kia in quality). We had an Acura SUV before, and I thought I’d miss it, but both my husband and I prefer the Santa Fe. It is luxurious, roomy, gets good gas mileage, reliable (no problems with it), and the price was excellent! Check it out. It has a ton of room in the cargo area. My husband just bought himself a Hyundai Genesis, their luxury vehicle.

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131 Rachel November 2, 2012 at 1:00 pm

We are expecting a baby in February and just bought a new Prius. Luckily for us we can be a one-car family (my husband and I work at the same place) so we are thrilled to be able to save so much on gas and reduce our environmental impact. So far we’ve been spending about $40 less per month on gas (at least).

The standard Prius is very roomy, but you could even look into a Prius V if you wanted extra cargo room. It has as much as most mid-size SUVs and the gas mileage is awesome, around 42mpg! Something to think about since I know that green living is important to you.

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132 nancy November 2, 2012 at 2:50 pm

I have the 2011 Kia Sorento and it’s perfect for me. We traded in my minivan for the Sorento as our kids were older and it was time to get something more appropriate for teenagers. We already owned a Kia (a Sportage) and so were already sold on the brand. I can tell you they stand behind what they sell. The 2011 Sorento had some issues and, as a result, mine has spent some time in the shop. BUT every single thing they replaced or repaired was done completely under warranty and they even provided me with a rental when they needed to keep it for an extended period of time (someone from the factory wanted to see it before they gave it back to me). I love the room in the back (think of the tonnage I haul from the grocery store feeding 3 teenagers) and I love love the pop up 3rd row of seats. You never know when you are going to pick up your kids and you end up taking someone else’s along too. Just pull up the seats and you are good to go. We have been very pleased with the gas mileage too, particularly on the highway. For a car that size it is very fuel efficient. We are careful car buyers and we always aim to keep our cars for 10 to 15 years. We have been very happy with our Sorento and I recommend them to anyone looking for a crossover style vehicle that is moderately priced. We got an excellent deal on the car (no where near MSRP) and when I looked up the current value recently in Kelly Blue Book I found that it is valued at nearly what we paid for it over 2 years ago. Great deal all around :)

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133 Stephanie November 2, 2012 at 4:35 pm

I have 5 kiddos, and when they were all small, we were a Dodge Caravan family. Mine are all teens now, and most driving for themselves, so I gave up the “mom-car” for a smaller SUV. I got a ford Escape, and I am IN LOVE with it. It has all the bells and whistles, rides like a car, and has excellent safety features. The gas mileage is good, too.
I have to say though, for small kids, a mini van is the way to go. They are designed with small kids and families in mind. I could never have schlepped all my kids and their gear around in a smaller SUV.
The only thing the Escape has over my vans is the cargo room is so much more. But the trade off is less roominess for the kids.
But I don’t care. I did my mini van time, and now I have a car just for me :)

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134 Sonia the Mexigarian November 2, 2012 at 5:35 pm

whatever you do, don’t get a Chevy. Everyone I know (my husband included) has had their “new” Trailblazers pretty much fall apart on them within the first year or two of purchase. I think that’s why they don’t make them anymore. ha. Some even had random parts from other car companies in them! Locks failing, gas gauge out of whack, cylinders failing, trunks refusing to open, entertainment system completely conking out, etc. One time it completely shut down with no warning while we were driving down a windy mountain road. scary stuff. My husband still has his because (from 2006), well, he wants to get as much life as he can out of it before it runs into the ground in the next year or so.

I suggest Toyota. My entire family has them, [except for me, I have a Nissan sedan]. My sister has a Toyota 4Runner and the structure of the car saved her life when she rolled it into a ditch, avoiding a deer earlier this year.

As for the Prius, that many Bay Area CAians love, the environmental impact of manufacturing the battery alone isn’t worth it. Google it.

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135 casey November 2, 2012 at 9:14 pm

Kath, I have a Toyota Venza and after 3 years I am in live with it still! It is a crossover, but still very roomy. Lots of leg room. It does not have 3rd row seating. Lots of upgrades you can get, but the only one I wish I jad was a sunroof. My only complaint is if its dark when I back up I feel like I can’t see. Check out the Venza, 25mpg!

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136 Leanne November 2, 2012 at 10:06 pm

We love our 2005 Honda CR-V! We had it pre-baby with 2 dogs and now with a 3 year old and still 2 dogs. We are not ready to replace it but we were in for service and checked out the 2013 CR-V just for kicks… very nice! One small feature that I really liked and wished I had when my daughter was little was that the sunglasses holder flipped down to a mirror so that you could see your child in the rear seat if needed without having to use one of those stick on mirrors (that are illegal).

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137 Kim November 4, 2012 at 3:39 pm

My parents have a Toyota Rav4, which is probably in the same small/midsize SUV category. They absolutely love it, and while I prefer to drive smaller cars, the visibility and turning radius is awesome in their car. You can also get optional 3rd row seating, and it’s a Toyota! We opted for a Toyota Matrix this year, as there’s just the two of us (for now!) and my husband is a soils engineer, so the lack of carpeting in the trunk area is awesome! The seats fold down flat and makes it have a ton of cargo space for a small car. It will likely turn into his work car if our family grows much, though. We tested a Kia and liked it, but were so uncertain of the brand :(.

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138 krista November 6, 2012 at 3:09 pm

I think my huge 2004 Tahoe has made me high maintenance, because there’s no way I could fit my family of 4 in anything smaller on our road trips. (Maybe when the youngest doesn’t require a pack N play and stroller). My husband’s work car is a Ford Escape and even with free gas anywhere we go, we take my Tahoe because that thing is tiny! I know it’s supposedly an SUV but the back room is not much and it feels like I’m sitting on the ground when in it.
I plan to replace mine next year with a newer Tahoe. Mine has no issues at 140K miles but this momma is ready for a change!

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139 Tara November 6, 2012 at 5:40 pm

No suggestions as our vehicles are a 1998 and 1996 with over 200K miles each, but my Jeep Cherokee has the exact same locking issue as yours! The power locks still work, but the rear driver’s side door has to be locked/unlocked manually by me reaching around to do it. So annoying, and as due in 9 days I can just imagine how much more annoying it would be with full hands and an infant carrier. Ugh. I wish we were in a place financially where a new car made sense, but no payments and a nice emergency fund is more important right now.

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140 ariana November 7, 2012 at 4:06 pm

Before my lil one (now 7mo) was born, we had decided to try being a 1-car family (we’d been fine for a year and half with just one car, living near the metro here in DC area)… it lasted about 8 weeks after baby was born. Long story short, we did a bunch of research and i’ve been happily driving a new-to-me 2010 Honda CRV since the end of May! I completely related to your comment about the HEIGHT of the vehicle when getting baby in/out! i’ve been really happy with the CRV, and loved that we were able to get it with all the bells & whistles in this used vehicle (which we couldnt have afforded in a NEW car)! good luck with your car search!

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141 Meredith November 9, 2012 at 9:05 am

We have a 2012 Toytoa Highlander Limited and love it. It has all the bells and whistles that you mentioned with the Kia and once you get used to having those bells and whistles, it’s hard to go back to something more “standard”! Now, if it were my husband’s choice, we would have the Honda Odyssey minivan. He’s obsessed with those things! I just don’t think it’s something to consider when we only have 1 child. :)

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142 Tina November 9, 2012 at 2:07 pm

I have to share my LOVE of my minivan. We first bought a Dodge Grand Caravan right before our twins were born in 2001. I drove it for 11 years & now my 18 years old drives it when he’s home from college. I test drove other vehicles & looked around for about 2 years. I couldn’t go back to a car, the crossover didn’t have enough space for me & the large SUV’s were more truck like & therefore everything comes with ‘truck’ pricing, especially tires & gas. Nothing came even close to comparing to my van. Finally in August I bought my new car-a 2012 Grand Caravan. Our old van had seats that you had to actually remove from the van, which was great, but the new one’s seats all fold into the floor. You can use the ‘holes’ under the seats to hold things while the seats are up which is great for traveling. It has radio controls on the steering wheel & you can get the power doors, which I didn’t since my kids are much older. I got the mid-level one which was 25K out the door, which blows away any SUV & crossovers out there. There are lots of upgrade options also, but that’s just not me, I don’t need them. There are lots of people who won’t get a minivan because its not cool, but personally I think unless you’re an actual rock star, once you start popping out kids, you cease to be cool. Just my two-cents-good luck in your search! :)

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143 Amelia November 9, 2012 at 4:10 pm

We got a Prius V (the new Prius wagon) and love it. But I am a huge fan of the Toyota Highlander too – it has all these bells & whistles and drives so smoothly. Haven’t tried a Kia but after your review I’m tempted!

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144 Chelsea November 22, 2012 at 9:04 pm

I just recently got a Kia Forte 2013. Its not an suv but a sedan and i love it. I am leasing it and in 3 years if I choose to I can trade it in for another new kia. I’d love to try the sorento because by that point ill probably have kids :)

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145 Ryan Wilson June 14, 2013 at 7:05 pm

Kath,

We bought a 2011 Kia Sorento LX (base trim but same car you reviewed). After 105K miles in 2-1/2 years, no problems and it is just as tight as when it was new. I am in sales and the miles are highway.

We also have a newer 2012 Jeep Liberty, which I love the ruggedness of in winter weather. The rest of the time though, it really can’t compare to the spaciousness of the KIA.

I think you had a pretty fair review of the car, the only downsides to the Sorento are that you have to move the seats up a little to accommodate rear facing car seats, if you are over 5’8. Many GM models have rear seats which can slide forward or back, like the GMC Terrain. That said I still think the Sorento is a good choice for reliability and safety, and gas mileage also.

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146 Ryan Wilson June 14, 2013 at 7:07 pm

Also, I am told that the new 2014 Sorento has 2″ more legroom in the back seat.

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