Kia's latest advertising slogan claims that the brand has "the power to surprise." For many SUV shoppers, the surprise may be how well equipped, stylish and elegant Kia SUVs and crossovers have gotten. Kia began as a bicycle manufacturing company in Seoul, South Korea in 1944, moving to automobile production in 1952. Kia hit US shores in 1992. After a few bumps, Hyundai bought a controlling interest in Kia in 1998. SUVs have been a big part of Kia's success, and continue to be a major cornerstone in the company's strategy for the US market.
Sorento was born as a traditional mid-size body-on-frame SUV back in 2003, and will be reborn as a 2011 model year unibody crossover vehicle when it emerges as the first vehicle off the line at the brand new Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia (KMMG) plant in West Point, Georgia. Sorento gets two engine choices. S, LX and EX I4 come with a 2.4 liter inline 4-cylinder engine that's good for 172 hp and 166 lb-ft of torque, while the EX V6 gets (you guessed it) a V6 that produces 273 hp and 247 lb-ft of torque. Both engines get hooked up to a new 6-speed automatic transmission with Sportmatic, which allows you to step through the gears without a clutch. The base Sorento can be ordered with a manual 6-speed. Both engines can be ordered with 4x4 or 4x2 (front wheel drive) drivetrains. Curb weight is between 3,605 lbs for the base Sorento up to 3,935 lbs for the loaded 4x4 EX V6. Base prices for the 2011 Kia Sorento have not yet been announced, but will probably land in the mid-$20,000 range with a 5 year/60,000 mile basic warranty, a 10 year/100,000 mile powertrain warranty and EPA fuel economy estimates of 20 mpg city/28 mpg highway (FWD V6).
First introduced in 1995, Sportage underwent a makeover in 2002, and stands pat. Two powertrains are available for the compact SUV: a 2.7 liter 24-valve DOHC V6 pumping out 173 hp and 178 lb-ft of torque, and a 2.0 liter inline four-cylinder that produces 140 hp and 136 lb-ft of torque. The I4 can be ordered with either a 5-speed manual and four-wheel drive, or a 4-speed automatic and front-wheel drive. The V6 comes with the automatic and a choice of front-wheel or four-wheel drive. The Kia Sportage carries base prices from $16,695 to $23,400 with a 5 year/60,000 mile basic warranty and roadside assistance, a 10 year/100,000 mile powertrain warranty and an EPA estimate of 19 mpg city/23 mpg highway.
The latest addition to Kia's lineup of SUVs, Borrego is a mid-size (technically) body-on-frame SUV with a ton of features. Borrego is available with two engine choices: a 3.8 liter V6 (276 hp/267 lb-ft of torque) and a 4.6 liter V8 (337 hp/323 lb-ft of torque). The V6 uses a five-speed automatic transmission; the V8 is hooked up to the same six-speed automatic that you'll find in the BMW X5. The 2009 Kia Borrego arrives in showrooms with base prices ranging from $26,245 to $32,995, a 5 year/60,000 mile basic warranty, a 10 year/100,000 mile powertrain warranty and EPA estimates of 15 -- 17 mpg city/20 -- 22 mpg highway (depending on engine and drive choices).
I've claimed Rondo as an SUV, though some would call it a minivan and others would call it a station wagon. Rondo is a compact, six-passenger, three-row vehicle that is the closest competition for the Mazda5. Rondo EX V6 is motivated by a 2.7 liter 24 valve double-overhead cam V6 that sends 192 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque to the front wheels through its five-speed automatic transmission. There's also a 2.4 liter in-line four-cylinder engine available that makes 175 hp and 169 lb-ft of torque with a four-speed automatic. The Kia Rondo carries base prices from $17,495 to $22,295, including a five year/60,000 mile basic warranty and roadside assistance, a ten year/100,000 mile powertrain warranty and EPA fuel economy estimates of 20 mpg city/27 mpg highway (I4) and 18 mpg city/26 mpg highway (V6).