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Kia Sorento 2.2 SX 4×2 AT: K-posh

It’s the luxury SUV you didn’t know – until now

LET’S FIRST AT THE END: It’s an injustice, really, that the Sorento is seemingly lost in the din of the colossal brawl of household names in the midsize SUV space. Because, well, the three-row entry to the land of K-pop and K-drama deserves its airtime for a myriad of reasons.

At first glance, the Sorento may put you off because, with the exception of the new Kia logo on the current interpretation of the signature Tiger Nose Grille, you might mistake it for a European vehicle – make that European luxury vehicle. It’s a compliment, of course, because while you weren’t watching, the South Korean automaker had been working hard to up its game among an ever-increasing number of competitors, especially those beyond the Philippine Sea. Western. If you don’t believe me, check out the brand new Carnival.

There’s both solid weight and character to the Sorento, with a cohesive exterior that doesn’t scream kitsch or “hey, look at me.” But once you do, the handsome front fascia draws you in, especially when you turn on its impressive all-LED lighting package (multi-reflector headlights, DRLs and fog lights). The rear end of the vehicle is equally stunning, with a long high-mounted brake light (yes, LEDs inside) attached to the rear spoiler that protrudes from the roof. The rear combination lights (say it with me, “LED”) are angled vertically – a stylish yet cool take. The trapezoidal design formed by all the crimps and sheet metals also serves to invite the viewer to contemplate the Sorento. Speaking of which, you won’t miss the oversized “SORENTO” written in matte silver on the lower portion of the power tailgate.

The Sorento also gets a healthy helping of the aforementioned matte silver for accents – such as the rear and front skid plates, exterior door handles, a section of the rocker panel.

The Sorento is powered by Kia’s Smartstream diesel mill – a 2.2-litre CRDI VGT inline-four. It promises up to 202 hp at 3,800 rpm and 441 Nm from 1,750 to 2,750 rpm. Drivers can access that goodness via an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission that drives the front wheels (19-inch alloys fitted with 235/55 tires). Several driving modes are available to the driver depending on the need for power versus the need to save on expensive things (read: fuel): Eco, Comfort, Sport and Smart. The other modes are self-explanatory; Intelligent mode apparently checks your driving style and preferences, and automatically adapts performance and handling accordingly.

For most of us, it’s inside that the Sorento will noticeably earn its price tag. This high-end variant of the 4×2 we tested costs 2.618 million pesos, while the cheapest admission price is 2.418 million pesos.

If you ask, yes, the Sorento will grab your attention and hold it the moment you step inside. The leather-covered seats offer power adjustment for the driver and front passenger. The driver has eight ways to adjust the seat as well as four-way lumbar support with memory and cooling; the front passenger gets eight-way power and cooling. There is even a heating function if the front occupants need it. The air conditioning system also has secondary vents below the main ones on the side and center.

Second-row passengers also benefit from the love of business class. In addition to spacious leg and elbow room, there are adjustable head restraints, and the entire row can also be slid forward and backward; the seatbacks can be reclined towards your buttocks. Among the best things about the Sorento are the very user-friendly features and touches that show the designers applied a bit of critical thinking and, truth be told, common sense. For example, second-row occupants don’t have to fight for real estate to charge their mobile devices. The left passenger can plug directly into the USB slot on the driver’s seatback, the middle driver can plug under the second row air vents, and the right passenger can reach forward and plug directly into the front occupant seatback. Everyone happy.

The third row is outfitted with its own amenities, for good measure. Convenience begins with the push of a button atop the second-row seatbacks, which will recline them and help slide them forward for entry. Separate air conditioning vents for left and right occupants (with a sleek air control knob located for the right passenger) are present, along with dedicated cupholders for both and even a trash can. There is also a 12 volt outlet, just in case. That said, taller passengers might want to perish at the thought of occupying that third row. Like many in the segment, this is reserved for smaller riders.

Going back to the front, there are also three USB ports, which can help you pair your phones via Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, as well as charge them. A wireless charging tray is additionally on the SX. Infotainment on the Sorento is based on an eight-inch touchscreen; Bluetooth connectivity is available if you need it. Your music or content will find expression on four woofers and two tweeters.

In front of the driver is a 12.3-inch all-digital instrument cluster. My favorite part of this feature is a very thoughtful and intuitive security key. When you engage the left turn signal, the circular speedometer image switches to video of the left side of the vehicle (via a rear-view mirror-mounted camera). When you activate the right turn signal, the tachometer displays images from the right side of the vehicle. It saved me from a potential collision one time, when a biker was sliding around the side of the SUV and was in my blind spot until he showed up on camera (and the detector icon blind spot indicator on the rear view mirror was lit) .

Therein lies the Sorento’s strongest and most valuable trait – its considerable suite of safety measures. There’s a robust lane-keeping assistant, forward collision avoidance, rear cross-traffic alert, 360-degree camera coverage (with a simulated overhead view feature that’s perfect when parking), and a a host of other niceties that, again, help everyone who drives it love this Kia.

If you look at this segment and this price, now is the time to add the Sorento to your list.