OK, OK. I know that title has been used for about every traditional SUV that has evolved into a Crossover SUV in its latest incarnation and that is just what the 2011 Kia Sorento has done. Sorento becomes thoroughly modern with the introduction of its 2011 model.
The first generation Sorento; Kia’s first entry in the mid-size SUV arena, was a traditional SUV It had body-on-frame construction, was based on rear wheel drive architecture, had a traditional shape, carried five passengers and was powered by a V6 engine. Many people thought the Sorento was based on the Hyundai Santa Fe, but that was far from the truth.
The first year the Sorento was on the market it won AutoPacific’s Vehicle Satisfaction Award for best-in-class Mid-Size SUV. Clearly, its owners liked the product.
Now comes the all, new Sorento…
AutoPacific’s 2008 Vehicle Satisfaction Awards results are in. AutoPacific’s awards collect the opinions of OWNERS. There is no subjectivity added by AutoPacific at all.
Truck-Based Traditional SUVs Most Satisfying
As usual, there are expected winners and unexpected losers, but let’s take a look at some overall results that will surprise many of you.
The vehicle type with the highest Vehicle Satisfaction Score is the Traditional Sport Utility Vehicle category. These are truck-based SUVs like the Cadillac Escalade
, Toyota Sequoia
, Ford Explorer
, Toyota 4Runner
, Kia Sorento
, HUMMER H3
and Toyota FJ Cruiser
. In fact, the Toyota Sequoia was the top scoring vehicle – car or truck – in AutoPacific’s 2008 Vehicle Satisfaction results.
Car-Based Crossover SUVs More Satisfying than Cars, Minivans, Pickups
The second highest scoring category was the Crossover Sport Utility Vehicle category. These are car-based SUVs like the Audi Q7
, BMW X3
, Acura RDX
, Buick Enclave
, GMC Acadia
, Hyundai Veracruz
, Suzuki XL-7
, Ford Edge
, Saturn Vue
, Toyota RAV4
and Nissan Rogue
. Crossovers are the response by the automakers to make more user-friendly SUVs and in 2006 Crossover SUVs began outselling Traditional SUVs… a trend that will not be reversed.
Rated substantially behind SUVs are Cars, Minivans and Pickups.
Clearly, even in times of high and increasing fuel prices, SUVs are here to stay. Their Swiss Army Knife utility guarantees they will be a central part of a high many family fleets in the future. The continuing jihad against SUVs has failed again!
The all-new Kia Borrego, introduced at the 2008 North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January, is Kia’s new flagship SUV. Named for California’s Borrego desert or the big horn sheep found there, Kia’s new range topper appears to be a fully competitive traditional SUV. No crossover here.
Over the years, Kia has shown an uncanny ability to plan, style and implement trucks that hit the center of their product segment target. The first example was the Kia Sedona, quickly followed by the Kia Sorento mid-size SUV. The Borrego promises more of the same.
Clearly, the Borrego benchmarked the high volume body-on-frame Premium Mid-Size SUV of the era – the Ford Explorer. Borrego even looks similar. It is nicely styled. Conservative. Will not offend anybody.
Code-named HM during development, the new Kia Borrego is the first (large) mid-size SUV from Kia and features a body-on-frame construction. With seating for up to seven occupants, Kia identified a very quiet ride as a key for acceptance and long term customer satisfaction. Incorporating the latest NVH engineering, Kia targeted enhanced refinement as a goal. The Borrego’s third-row seating is designed to comfortably accommodate two adults. The operative words here are “comfortably” and “adults”.
The Kia Borrego will be manufactured in Korea and go on sale in its home market early in 2008, with sales in the USA and other export markets beginning in the late spring or early summer. The Borrego will be available with a choice of V6 or the company’s first V8 gasoline engines (depending on market) and will boast Kia’s largest-ever towing capacity.
Has Kia Missed by Producing a Traditional SUV Rather Than a Crossover SUV?
Showing Kia’s commitment to designing products to suit specific markets, the Borrego is primarily intended to meet the needs of consumers in the USA and there are no plans to market this model in Europe. But Borrego is introduced just as the American market is quickly shifting away from traditional SUVs and towards crossover (car-based) SUVs. The Borrego certainly will be competent in off-road and towing situations, but those are just occasional use prerogatives (to lift a phrase from Jeep). Next time around, Kia should test the crossover market, after all, the benchmark Ford Explorer will become a crossover SUV at its next major model change (see Explorer America).
Heritage from 2005 Kia Mesa Concept
The Kia Borrego styling is derived from the Kia Mesa concept vehicle first shown by Kia at the Detroit Motor Show in 2005 and is larger than Kia’s popular Sorento model.
We’ll drop in more information and additional photos from the showfloor next week.
Kia’s Lineup Expands for 2009
Kia’s display concept at the 2007 North American International Auto Show was a concept called the Kue, but their announcement about last year’s concept is bigger news. At the 2006 North American International Auto Show, Kia showed a four-door SUV called Soul. This year, Kia announced that the Soul will be built in Korea and imported for U.S. sales. No specifics were given, other than the plan to have it in dealers sometime during 2008 (2009 model year).
Does Kia have room for three SUVs? It may seem illogical to need SUVs on top of SUVs, but Soul could be to the Sportage what Ford’s Edge is to their Escape. With more SUV look than substance, this entry could have the cargo/people hauling advantages of a box but reduce the fuel-cost disadvantage.
Many of the concept’s more outrageous elements, like the fold-out laptop computer, aren’t likely for production, but a 2.0L four-cylinder engine and a front-drive-base are good bets, as is optional AWD. Bluetooth, advanced ambient lighting, power liftgate, and an advanced audio system with auxiliary inputs are some features that might make the transition. Cost is a bigger deterrent for those features than technology or engineering. Kia claimed the concept Soul’s rear-hinged second door setup met safety standards, but we’re skeptical about the likelihood of anything but traditional, forward-hinged doors in real life. (For more about concept Soul’s features and images, click to our 2006 concept report here
Dodge showed concept and production versions of Nitro at the Chicago Auto Show, in 2005 and 2006 respectively (click for our coverage of the 2006 reveal). In September, VehicleVoice and AutoPacific correspondents had our first opportunity to drive it. Starting at Broadway Pier in the San Diego Harbor, we drove the Nitro on a long, winding route to Palm Springs.
Related to the Jeep Liberty
and built in the same facility, Nitro is bigger, has an all-new suspension, and is optimized for the on-road side of life. Entering this segment late, Dodge’s best opportunity for creating a buzz was exterior styling or innovative new interior features. Dodge saw an opportunity for an in-your-face look with a decidedly male-oriented bias and went for it; the brand’s established in-your-face attitude would be best supported by an aggressive, in-your-face mid-size SUV and there aren’t many of those out there already. Nitro competes with soft-road or crossover SUV entries including Toyota RAV4
, Saturn VUE
, and latest Mitsubishi Outlander
as well as with more traditional SUVs Nissan Xterra
, Kia Sorento
, and Jeep’s own Liberty. In this arena, only the Xterra wears strongly masculine styling.
Updates Just in Time
Sorento Trying to Maintain or Improve Position in Viciously Competitive SUV Segment
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 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.