Kenmore Elite 71032 French Door Refrigerator Review
This thin French door's performance is all freezer and no fridge.
The Kenmore Elite 71032 (MSRP $2,949) is the Sears-exclusive brand's slim take on a French door fridge, and the 25 cu. ft. model is designed for narrow spaces. We enjoyed its fit and finish, and found it an easy fridge to use, with only a few missteps in its design. But when we got to testing, we found a few performance issues in our lab tests. While the freezer exhibited stellar results, the fridge disappointed. This Kenmore has a lot going for it, but we're not sure that makes up for its shortcomings.
Design & Usability
A thinner French door.
The 71032 comes in the standard French door setup, but compared to larger models everything seems a little squished together. Thin shelves keep it from feeling too cramped. Unlike some of the other Kenmore French doors we've tested, those spill-protected shelves don't slide back, but they do slide out a few inches to improve access. We appreciate the door-mounted icemaker, since it frees up space on the top shelf. Despite the thinner physique, the 71032 still has tons of space, and the doors can easily accommodate gallons of milk and bottles of champagne.
We weren't particularly pleased with the crisper drawer movement. Not only did it not slide smoothly, but it didn't close very well, either. That presented a problem for the humidity test, as we found out.
The freezer features two drawers: a large trough-like one with a movable divider, and a shallower drawer with a removable tub. Unfortunately, access isn't ideal in this setup. The top, shallower drawer doesn't roll out very far, necessitating more reach than we're comfortable with. In the bottom trough, items can easily get buried at the bottom.
Water, ice, and an energy saving function are controlled via the front control panel. It looks presentable, even though the buttons themselves can be less-than-responsive.
Performance & Features
Good news and bad news.
Let's start with the good: The freezer performed admirably, freezing our test blocks ridiculously quickly, and holding them very consistently at the target temperature—the best way to prevent freezer burn. And when we unplugged it, it stayed freezing for one and half days. That's a sign of good insulation.
The fridge, however, was a different story. In our temperature tests, the 71032 ran warmer than its target temperature and fluctuated significantly. Oddly, the fridge was warmest at the middle, instead of down at the bottom where fresh produce prefers higher temps. Speaking of those crisper drawers, they completely failed to lock in moisture, hemorrhaging water from our hypothetical veggies. If the freezer is a masterpiece, the fridge is incomplete.
For in-depth performance information, please visit the Science Page.
Everything but the fridge
The Kenmore 71032 might be a tempting choice, especially if the hole in your kitchen is 33 inches wide. Good looks and a nice fit and finish complete the package. But a lackluster fridge compartment keeps us from giving the 71032 our recommendation. If you do choose it, keep a portable thermometer on hand to ensure temperatures don't rise above 41ºF, and make sure you use your produce while it's still fresh.
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