Upscale Aspirations: Kia Sorento 2.2 SX

Kia wants you to believe that they’ve moved up. With a new logo, tagline, and even dealership look, the Korean automaker says they’re rocking a more premium vibe now. Beyond all the marketing speak, the proof lies squarely in the pudding, or rather, in the cars. If there’s any chance anyone would take Kia’s aspirations seriously, they’d have to back them up with some great cars. First out of the gate is this: the 2022 Sorento—a mid-sized SUV that brings snazzy style, dizzying tech, and real space in the segment.

Priced at P2,588,000, it serves as a test of what people think of Kia’s new positioning versus what the brand is worth. Removing all brand prejudice, the Sorento’s actually a bold, head-turning SUV. The design looks fresh in a sea of ubiquitous 7-seaters, and attracts attention on more than one occasion. It paints a heavy presence with its big grille, large lighting elements, and liberal spattering of chrome. There’s no way you’ll lose it in the car park.

Inside, Kia’s managed to give the Sorento an interior that’s not just hardwearing, but of good quality. There are still some hard plastics, but it takes prodding around to find them. And they’re in areas where you don’t usually touch or get in contact with. The areas that you do touch and feel on a daily basis are filled with soft, plush plastics with chrome, piano-black, and even matte wood trim peppered throughout. All the switchgear operates with precision too, and everything feels solidly put together.

Moreover, the Sorento’s packed with things families will actually find useful. There’s a good amount of power points, USB sockets, and even air vents to go around.

Kia also managed to cram a large array of in-cabin tech without making the experience gimmicky or confusing. Thankfully, there’s no overreliance on the touchscreen here; it’s all about tactile switches. Not only do regular functions like the climate controls, heated/vented seats, and drive modes get dedicated buttons, but even more obscure functions like the camera and the driver assist functions do so as well.

That’s not to say Kia’s forgotten to add some razzle-dazzle. In this top-trim Sorento SX, the analog gauges are replaced by a 12.3-inch digital cluster. It’s crisp and clear, and allows a degree of configurability. The central screen is snappy and has neatly organized menus. It even comes with wireless Apple CarPlay. And yes, there’s also a wireless charger neatly tucked in a bin in front of the shifter.

The front seats are lofty and provide plenty of support. The spec sheet only indicates eight ways of movement for the driver, but in reality, there’s more. Aside from the electric lumbar adjustment, even the cushion length can be adjusted to accommodate those with longer hips. Meanwhile, the second row is equally generous, and can actually sit three abreast thanks to the minimal floor hump. Onto the third row, getting in and out is easy with the second row’s power-actuated latch. From there, expect a livable amount of space with ample head- and legroom.

When not in use, the third-row collapses into the floor easily, revealing a cavernous cargo hold. The load area itself is usefully square. Plus, the second-row can be folded remotely thanks to switches in the luggage compartment.

For 2022 Kia has opted to simplify the Sorento’s powertrain combo to just one: a 2.2-liter 4-cylinder diesel driving the front wheels. The SmartStream D, as the engine’s called makes 202hp and 441Nm of torque. It’s far superior in refinement compared to other diesels in this price range. It’s the segment’s benchmark. It’s also rev-happy for a diesel, though there’s no need to mash the throttle since there’s great pull even at low revs. The accompanying 8-speed dual-clutch is well-matched to the engine as well. Aside from its high levels of refinement, it helps bump up the fuel economy to 10.63 km/L.

Sitting atop a new platform, the Sorento’s made to eat miles effortlessly. It makes short work of expressways with its cossetting ride and impressive levels of NVH. Being a tall and heavy car, body lean is pronounced when pushed. With the engine’s copious low-end torque, it’s easy to cause the front wheels to spin. This SUV’s in desperate need for standard all-wheel drive. Thankfully, there’s not much torque steer. The steering is light, but there’s some precision, allowing drivers to place it confidently on twisty roads. It also tracks straight and true on expressways.

In terms of safety features, the Sorento has leveled up tremendously. Not only does it come with a full suite of active and passive safety features, but there’s also a suite of driver aids like autonomous emergency braking, blind spot indicators with rear cross traffic alert, and lane keep assist.

Removing the badges, the Sorento is a great mid-sized SUV. Save for the lack of all-wheel drive for this top-of-the-line SX, it drives well enough, is roomy, and is made with great craft. However, once the badge’s factored in, some will find it expensive. Look beyond that though and you have a commendable SUV that offers way more than its traditional competition, the pickup-based passenger vehicle or PPVs. Only time will tell if all this talk of becoming a more evocative brand will work, but if the all-new Sorento’s any indication, they’re on the right track.

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