The 2016 Sorento: Another Element in the Reinvention of Kia

Since 2009, the year that Kia began building vehicles in Georgia, including the Sorento, the company has been transforming itself in a significant way with an array of new products. Latest in the lineup: the 2016 Sorento.

Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia (KMMG) is located in the town of West Point. The $1-billion plant opened in 2009. Specifically, it started mass production on November 16. The first vehicle: a Sorento midsize crossover.

In 2012 KMMG had an additional investment of $100-million, which brought the annual capacity of the plant to 360,000 units. In addition to the Sorento, they build the Optima midsize sedan in West Point.

Two points about this:
• They are productive at KMMG
• The Sorento is popular

These are predicated on the simple fact that on July 11, 2013, they built the millionth vehicle in the plant. It was a 2014 Sorento SXL.

And they’ve been building Sorentos (and Optimas) there with consistency since.

Michael Sprague, executive vice president of Sales & Marketing for Kia Motors America, points out that Kia has been making massive investments in the U.S. In addition to the factory, they’ve established a proving grounds in California City, CA, and a new headquarters and new design center in Irvine, CA. This puts the investment overall to >$1.4-billion since 2002.

In August 2014, Kia announced that they will be investing another $1-billion to build a second production facility, this one in Mexico.

The point of all this is that they’re serious about what they are doing. And the Sorento is a serious part of their plans.

The Sorento was the first Kia made in the U.S., and the first Kia with sales of 100,000 units in the country.

That Sorento that went into production in 2009 was the second-generation product. The first Sorento was body-on-frame. The second, a unibody. The 2011 Sorento, the one built in Georgia, is a unibody.

And you might say: “Wait a minute: you said that the Sorento went into production in 2009, yet you just referred to it as a 2011.”

Yes, Spargue points out that that vehicle was available on January 2, 2010, so it was established as a model year 2011 vehicle. And the all-new Sorento is a 2016 model.

Steve Hirashiki, KMA product and project manager, who handles the Sorento, says that the vehicle design is a combination of work done by Kia designers at the company’s design centers in Frankfurt, Germany, Namyang, South Korea, and Irvine. He describes the work as “cross-pollination.”

A starting point for the design is the Cross GT concept that was unveiled at the Chicago Auto Show in 2013.

The key words that led the design were sleek, sophisticated and capable.

Said another way, the designers and engineers had a considerable task on their hands inasmuch as the intent behind the Sorento is that the vehicle is to address a wide bandwidth of competitors.

That is, Sprague and Hirashiki cite a number of competitors including the Chevrolet Equinox, the Ford Edge, the Nissan Murano, the GMC Terrain, the Subaru Outback, the Jeep Cherokee, and the Jeep Grand Cherokee.

The Sorento is new inside and out. 

Dimensionally, the 2016 is bigger than its predecessor: It has a 109.4-in. wheelbase, which is an increase of 3.1 in., and its width is 74.4 in., up 0.2 in. As it is lower than the previous model—66.3 in. vs. 66.9 in.—the stance of the vehicle is more planted.

The coefficient of drag is 0.33 thanks to careful attention paid to the airflow over the body, which resulted in things like a new rear spoiler, air deflectors front and back, specific taillight contours, and an underbody cover.

The increased exterior dimensions are translated into greater interior volume. The maximum interior volume for the 2016 model is 154.2-ft3; it is 151.4-ft3 for the 2015.

And the designers and materials people went at the interior of the new Sorento with an array of soft-touch plastics and high-resemblance plastic metallics.

Speaking of materials, Hirashiki says that they’ve increased the overall use of advanced high-strength steel in the vehicle to 53%. This helps not only improve the overall ride and handling of the vehicle, but also helps reduce NVH.

Speaking of the ride and handling, the rear suspension features a redesigned rear cross-member span that is longer than the previous model’s; this provides improved wheel travel over harsh surfaces. (There are also revised bushings.) There is a revised suspension geometry in the front. In addition to which, there is an H-shaped subframe, four-point bushing mountings, and hydraulic rebound stopper-type shock absorbers. While this is a unibody vehicle not meant for traversing Rubicon-like trails, Hirashiki says that the torsional rigidity is up 14%, and notes that there is an available all-wheel drive system that automatically routes power to the wheel with the most traction. There is also a 4WD Lock Mode that evenly splits power between the front and rear drive shafts.

The Sorento is available with three engines. There are two fours and a six. The base engine is an all-aluminum normally aspirated four that provides 185 hp @ 6,000 rpm and 178 lb-ft of torque @ 4,000 rpm. For the first time, there is a turbocharged four available. Again, all-aluminum, it provides 240 hp @ 6,000 rpm and 260 lb-ft of torque @ 1,450 to 3,500 rpm. And the all-aluminum six generates 290 hp @ 6,400 rpm and 252 lb-ft of torque @ 5,300 rpm. There is a six-speed automatic transmission across the board. (Vehicles with the V6, incidentally, are available in a three-row configuration.)

Given that the Sorento is to compete with vehicles even at the upper end of the midsize crossover category, there is an array of technology available for the vehicle, both in the form of safety—vehicle stability management, forward collision warning, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot detection, rear cross-traffic alert, surround view monitoring—and infotainment—the company’s UVO eServices offer a various of functions, including Apple Siri Eyes Free and Local Search powered by Google. The Sorento is available with an 8-in. capacitive-touch color screen; there is a standard 4.3-in. TFT color touch screen.

Michael Sprague says that since 2009, Kia has transformed itself. There have been 20 all-new or significantly redesigned products. The 2016 Sorento comes on the heels of the 2015 Sedona (they’re calling it a “multi-purpose vehicle,” not a minivan, but. . .) and the 2015 K900 luxury sedan.

Yes, this truly is transformation.