The Kia Sorento has been a frequent guest on our top 10 best-selling SUV monthly roundups, running virtually neck-and-neck with the Toyota Highlander and out-selling its corporate cousin, the Hyundai Santa Fe, by a substantial margin. Although the two models now share a production facility in West Point, Georgia, product strategy and content differ between the two models. That difference is further highlighted following the arrival of the refreshed 2014 Kia Sorento.
Whereas Hyundai is taking a dual-model strategy with the short-wheelbase Santa Fe Sport and long-wheelbase Santa Fe, the Sorento sticks with a single wheelbase and the choice of five or seven-passenger capacity. Visually, the 2014 is similar to the 2013 model, certainly much more so than the 2012 Santa Fe was to the 2013 model, the changes to the Sorento under the skin and inside are much more significant.
On the engine side, Kia eschewed the turbo four-cylinder strategy Hyundai decided on for the Santa Fe Sport in favor of the 2.4-liter direct-injection four-cylinder that produces 191 hp and 181 lb-ft of torque as the standard engine and the 3.3-liter direct-injection V-6 shared with the long-wheelbase Santa Fe and Hyundai Azera, producing 290 hp and 252 lb-ft in the Sorento, as the optional one. Both are mated exclusively to a six-speed automatic transmission.
One feature shared with the new Santa Fe is electric power steering, replacing last year's hydraulic assist. Along with the change to EPAS comes the driver-selectable FlexSteer option, which gives the choice of three different levels of assist, Comfort, Normal and Sport.
Kia is saying that the 2014 Sorento uses an all-new chassis that,employs more extensive use of high-strength steel, resulting in a claimed 18 percent improvement in torsional rigidity. And thanks to the more compact rear suspension is more compact, there's more interior space.
New exterior details on the 2014 model include front LED positioning lamps, and new LED combination taillights. Buyers get the choice of three wheel sizes on the 2014 model, with 17-inch wheels standard, and 18 and 19-inchers optional.
Changes to the interior are more noticeable. A 7-inch TFT display sits in the middle of the gauge cluster on EX and SX models. The optional center touch-screen is a big eight inches, integrating navigation, SirusXM Traffic, Infinity premium audio system, Bluetooth connectivity, and UVO eServices. Previously, UVO was a mutually exclusive option to navigation, but Kia merged the two features in the new Sorento. Also new on the 2014 model are a programmable power rear liftgate, redesigned panoramic sunroof with one-piece sunshade, driver and front passenger air-cooled seats, 115-volt AC power inverter, and illuminated door handle pockets. The 2014 Sorento is also the first Kia model to offer a blind spot monitoring system.
Finally, the 2014 Sorento adds a new SX Limited model, following in the footsteps of the Optima sedan. Outside, the Sorento SX-L gets HID headlights, 19-inch wheels, and red painted brake calipers. Inside, it receives Nappa leather-trimmed seats, wood-trimmed heated steering wheel, heated rear seats, and a soft-touch headliner and pillar accents.
The 2014 Kia Sorento is due in showrooms in the first quarter of 2013, with the SX Limited model following in the second quarter of 2013.