Last Updated Sep 25, 2009 10:12 AM EDT
Michael Sprague, vice president, marketing for Kia Motors America, said in an interview last spring that Kia considered changing the name, because the Sorento replacement is a car-truck crossover, and the older model is a straight-up SUV.
The 2011 Sorento is also the first model to be built at Kia's first factory in North America, in West Point, Ga.
Like other crossovers, the new Sorento is built on a "unibody" like a car, welded into a single piece. That produces a more carlike ride, even though the seating position is higher than most cars. Tradtional SUVs are built by putting a body on top of a ladderlike frame, like a pickup truck. That's more rugged than a unibody, but rides rougher.
The Kia Borrego, for instance, is a body-on-frame SUV, which was launched in the U.S. market a year ago. More recent launches include the Kia Soul and the Kia Forte.
With so many new models, Kia is adding market share in the United States, including a hefty 60-percent increase in U.S. sales in September, versus the year-ago month, helped by the U.S. "Cash for Clunkers" program. Year to date after nine month's, Kia's U.S. sales in 2009 were up 3 percent to 216,947, according to AutoData Corp.
A high level of standard equipment is a big part of Kia's appeal. Standard features on the new Kia Sorento include satellite radio and Bluetooth connectivity. Options include a push-button ignition, voice-activated navigation and rear backup cameras. There are two engines for the U.S. market, a 2.4-liter four-cylinder and a 3.5-liter V-6. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard. Front-drive is standard; all-wheel drive is optional.
The 2011 Sorento goes on sale in the U.S. market in January 2010.