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.
XL7 Was the Star, But SX4 Made U.S. Debut in New York
Suzuki’s First Mid-Size SUV Offers Real Room for Seven
Suzuki‘s show stand at the New York auto show introduced two new entries for their 2007 model year lineup, one at the entry level and one to sit at the top of the range. The SX4 was officially introduced at Geneva in March and its small size means it will be a lower-volume vehicle for Suzuki, so the XL7 had top billing in New York. VehicleVoice and AutoPacific were there in the audience and got to take our first look at the new entries.
Has Suzuki Finally Solved the Equation for Success?
Point, Counterpoint… more Point: With these two new entries it appears that Suzuki may finally hit stride in the United States. Well styled and well priced, the concept for each of these new SUVs seems to be on target. No longer does Suzuki have to apologize for weirdly styled and packaged SUVs. These are mainstream and competitive – at least from a styling and package perspective. In the final analysis, it may be how well they drive.
SX4: AWD for $15,000
The SX4 is based on a European Suzuki product called the Swift, which is a small front-drive car. Suzuki is targeting the $15,000 to $18,000 price ladder for this entry product, though pricing will be finalized closer to launch. The powertrain is a 2.0L DOHC four-cylinder, standard with a five-speed manual or optional with a four-speed automatic. The SX4 slots in below the Grand Vitara and functionally takes the place of the Aerio all-wheel-drive wagon, which is being dropped. We covered the SX4 in a previous VehicleVoice blog entry.
The real news for Suzuki in New York was the XL7, which the company reinvented with help from GM, losing the small, truck-based package and gaining a product that seems just right for the market today. The XL7 takes advantage of Suzuki’s involvement in the joint GM-Suzuki CAMI plant in Ontario, Canada. The previous Grand Vitara was kicked out when GM started building the Theta-based Chevrolet Equinox at the facility. In the form of the XL7, Suzuki adds a variant of the Chevrolet Equinox, though the XL7 takes the package further and offers more seats and more power.
With a new platform also comes a minor change to the name: The old, truck-based version was spelled XL-7. With the 2007MY, Suzuki dropped the dash and the model is now just XL7.
Suzuki’s new small Post-Modern SUV (or crossover, or sport wagon) joins its North American lineup after an introduction at the 2006 New York show in April, 2006. Sales are scheduled for late Summer 2006 in the States, and the U.S. and European spec versions will carry similar styling. The SX4 is the result of a joint project between Fiat and Suzuki, with production by Suzuki at their plant in Hungary and using a Suzuki platform. (The Fiat, called Sedici will, of course, not be seen Stateside.) While this product is well-suited for international markets, its appeal in the States is likely to be limited and largely driven by a combination of value-pricing and its relatively fuel-efficient 2.0L DOHC I4 drivetrain. North American buyers will choose between a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission.