And so are Kia. Meet the new Sorento.
Handsome ain't it? The new 2nd generation Sorento one of the boldest styling statements to come from Korea, following in the footsteps of its smaller brother, the Soul. The front end certainly has a lot of visual impact at first glance, thanks to a forward swept face and sharp, angled headlamps. There's a classy yet edgy application of chrome on the grille's rim, complemented by a stylish front bumper, all reminiscent of the current Lexus RX series.
Towards the side, there's the classic SUV profile, along with a high beltline creased from front to back, complete with a matte black set of fender flares that flow all around the car. There is a pair of large LED taillamps on the clean rear tailgate, with the muffler tips neatly tucked behind the rear bumper.
The exterior design is indeed striking, and inside, its the same story. The prevalent themes include black and beige textures, trimmed with dark graphite and brushed aluminum. The triple gauge cluster is bezelled in chrome, with one of the most intricate displays I've seen on the gauge face. Anatomic grips on the steering wheel are great to the touch and fits the palm perfectly, and the shifter with manual mode is positioned well on the center console.
Unlike the first generation model, the Sorento comes with seating for seven in a 2-3-2 arrangement, thanks to the growth of the SUV on all fronts, now measuring 4685mm long, 1885mm wide and 1745mm tall. The 2nd and 3rd rows both fold flat, a feature similar to that of its cousin, the Hyundai Santa Fe.
It's also very well equipped apart from the usual slew of power features (locks, windows, mirrors), as it features dual airbags, ABS, EBD, dual zone automatic climate control, projector headlamps, power-folding mirrors, cruise control, and a key-in-your-pocket fob, making the Sorento's start-up a push-button affair.
The audio unit is the same as the one in the Kia Soul, and retains its iPod integration features and USB/Aux connectivity, as well as the aggressive red backlighting over much of the dashboard. There's even a mood light that illuminates the inner door panels at night. Everything feels very well built, and there's plenty of storage space to go around with a large center console box, a spacious glove box, large pockets on the doors, seatback pockets, and even floating console in the middle, similar to that of Volvo's.
Pop the hood and there's a 2.4 liter, twin cam, inline four petrol engine inside, which, strangely enough, is rather small for the capacious engine bay. Equipped with continuously variable valve timing on both the intake and exhaust cams, the Sorento's 2.4 liter powerplant produces decent figures for its displacement with 174 PS of grunt and 226 Nm of torque. The engine is mated to a smooth 6-speed automatic transmission, and can be commanded via a manual-mode gate on the center console.
Sitting in the driver's seat, the bolsters do a great job to hug the body tightly and comfortably. With the key in my pocket, I step on the brake and start the engine via the start/stop button on the dashboard, quietly springing the motor to life. Punch the throttle from a standstill and you'll quickly realize that the engine's size is somewhat small for the body, what more when fully laden. 174 PS of power will have a difficult time dealing with nearly 1.7 tonnes of curb weight, a figure that makes for roughly 100 hp per kilogram on the power-to-weight scale. With a small engine vis-a-vis the body, fuel economy is also bumped down, as a light right foot in urban conditions yields just 6.3 kilometers to the liter. The shorter break of the ratios for each of the 6 gears does very well to make up for the lack of power, but it has to be said that the upcoming 2.2 liter CRDI with the variable geometry turbo is truly needed, especially since is produces upwards of 197 PS (on Euro-5 diesel) and a whopping 437 Nm, the latter nearly torque the figure of the 2.4 liter petrol.
The Sorento does make up for the lack of power with a high level of refinement. If you've driven or owned the 1st generation Sorento, chances are the drive of this 2nd generation model will be a different experience altogether. This is because unlike the original, the new Sorento is a true crossover SUV, doing away with the body-on-frame, the favorite of true SUVS, and opting for a more car-like, unibody construction.
Gone is the ride of old, and replaced instead with city-friendly levels of comfort and smoothness. Also, the noise insulation easily suppresses exterior, wind, and tire noise as well, helped along by the Kumho Solus tires, providing a decent balance of grip and silence. As expected of the SUV, handling is somewhat on the softer side of things and the steering is a bit vague, but the 4-wheel disc brakes are quite powerful, digging into the tarmac quite well to slow the heavy Sorento down.
Overall, the Sorento does present itself as a great, stylish SUV for families. Tagged at PhP 1,790,000, the Sorento is on the high end of the price range, considering the the hot-selling Santa Fe 4x4 CRDI is available for under PhP 1.7M. However, with the combination of great comfort, a striking modern design, a colossal warranty and innovative features, it won't be surprising if the ambitious all-new Sorento can be a force to be reckoned with in the market.