2011 Kia Sorento

Some big changes are coming to Kia's crossover SUVs for 2012. On Monday, the automaker announced revisions to the Sorento and Sportage for the new model year. Kia is shuffling features between trim levels, adding a new optional entertainment system, and expanding the range of powertrain choices available on the Sorento.

The most notable change comes to the automaker's midsize Sorento, which will be getting a revised base engine to ring in the new model year. The crossover's 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine gets a boost in power from 175 horses to 200 thanks to direct injection technology. Already utilized in Kia's midsize Optima sedan, the technology – which Kia dubs "GDI" for Gasoline Direct Injection – simplifies fuel injection for extra power and better fuel economy.

Also new to the Sorento and its smaller Sportage stablemate is Kia's new UVO multimedia and infotainment system, which will be optional on both vehicles. Co-developed with Microsoft and first shown at last year's Consumer Electronics Show [LINK: http://www.autotrader.com/research/auto-show/76439/2011-consumer-electronics-show.jsp], the system offers voice recognition and a 4.3-inch, full-color touch-screen with hard-drive music storage and a back-up camera.

Most of Kia's other 2012 changes are specific to the Sorento, including new interior lighting, an available memory driver's seat, and – for the first time since the Sorento's 2010 redesign – an available manual transmission. Unfortunately for the race driver-wannabes among us, the stick is only available with the SUV's new four-cylinder engine, leaving its 276-horsepower V6 coupled to a six-speed automatic, which is optional on the four-cylinder.

While other changes for Kia's 2012 crossover lineup were minor, one final noteworthy revision is an updated seating fabric. Manufactured by U.S.-based YES Essentials, Kia says the new seating material is anti-static, anti-bacterial, and even stain-resistant – a good mix for on-the-go families with young children, and perfect for a pair of crossovers aimed squarely at that growing demographic.

The updated Sorento should be arriving in dealer showrooms now, with the revised Sportage scheduled to follow by the end of June. They will be joined by the 2012 Sedona minivan, which enters the new model year unchanged.

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Jeffrey Archer is fortunate to have turned a passion for cars into a career. His wide-ranging automotive experience includes work for automakers and dealers in addition to covering the news. When not writing, he spends his time searching for unique cars on AutoTrader.com.

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