2007 Kia Sorento Holds its Own1
Updates Just in Time
At the 2006 New York auto show, Kia used its commercial spokesman to help introduce an updated version of the Sorento and remind us all of our SUV rights; AutoPacific and VehicleVoice correspondents were on hand to see the show. Though the exterior changes are subtle, the Sorento due in showrooms in late summer 2006 gets the power and interior updates it will need to remain competitive against a crop of new entries.
Sorento Trying to Maintain or Improve Position in Viciously Competitive SUV Segment
Sorento competes in the Standard Mid-Size SUV segment wnere its most direct competitors are the Nissan Xterra and the new-for-2007MY Dodge Nitro. Xterra and Nitro offer truck-based platforms and are standard in rear-wheel-drive form rather than front-wheel drive. The Sorento, Xterra, and Nitro are cross-shopped against car-based entries as well, including the recently launched Toyota RAV4 and new-for-2007MY Suzuki XL7 and Ford Edge. (The XL7 was introduced at the New York show, too; click here to see our comments on that model.) Hyundai’s Santa Fe is also all new for 2007, though it doesn’t use the same platform or engines.
All in all, this is a model year with lots of either new or relatively fresh product in the Standard Mid-Size SUV segment (as defined by AutoPacific), making it an exciting time to choose among them. More horsepower is available, much of it without sacrificing fuel economy as dramatically as before, and many entries are larger.
AutoPacific has said since its launch that the Sorento is a nicely done package offered at a nice price, a view also supported by real-world responses to the company’s annual survey of new owners. Customers liked Sorento much that it won AutoPacific’s coveted Vehicle Satisfaction Award in its first year. But with the 2007 model year, many Standard Mid-Size SUV entries include standard or optional V6 powerplants delivering 250HP or more. Sorento’s previous 192HP 3.5L V6 would have left Kia at a power disadvantage, for which price may not have been able to compensate.
While exterior changes are just enough to let you know there is something different about this year, the Sorento’s interior updates bring nicer wood and metal interior trim materials, the revised center stack and instrument panel gauges give the Sorento a more refined, less clumsy look and atmosphere.
Improvements Keep Sorento In the Running
The 262HP 3.8L DOHC 24v V6 brings Kia near the front of the class in terms of power output, though advancements from other entries still give a slight power edge to the upcoming Ford Edge (265HP) and the new-for-2006MY Toyota RAV4 (269HP). Its five-speed automatic transmission, with a self-shift feature, is dead on for the field, though the Ford Edge gets another gear. As Kia points out, the Sorento now offers more power than the Highlander V6, Explorer V6, or 4Runner V8. While this is true, those entries do not compete as directly with the Sorento.
On the outside, Sorento’s changes are not dramatic. Headlights are redesigned, the front grille gets a new insert, front bumper and fascia are new, the bodyside cladding is revised, and the taillights and rear fascia were redesigned. The look remains clearly Sorento. Wheels, both optional seventeen and standard sixteen inch, are also new for some models.
Climbing inside, changes are more obvious. There is a new center console with an updated radio head and HVAC controls, a revised gauge cluster, and a new floor console. Trim materials were updated with upscale wood and metal, there are front active headrests and a new lever for easier reclining in the second row. A button for locking/unlocking all doors is added to the passenger’s side controls.
What does not change is the long list of standard comfort and safety equipment. Sorento continues to include on the standard list front and full-length side curtain airbags, ABS, four-wheel disc brakes, stability and traction control systems, and a tire-pressure monitoring system. Standard convenience features include nice touches like heated mirrors (though power operation is not standard), cruise control, a ten-speaker stereo system, cargo cover, roof rails, four twelve-volt outlets, and keyless entry with an alarm, all items not typically found standard on a base model. Stepping up trim levels adds features like power driver’s seat, leather seats, heated front seats, automatic headlamps, and more. Not available at any level are a navigation system or a rear-seat DVD system, not unusual for the segment.