2014 Kia Sorento SX: Brand Anxiety
I'm not embarrassed to admit that a curious thing happened when I took delivery of our 2014 Kia Sorento SX: I felt a touch of self-consciousness about driving a Kia. But before you accuse me of being a snob, allow me to indulge in explaining a little about myself. I've been a car nut for as long as I can remember, and as a kid I sang "Happy Birthday" to my Matchbox cars simply because it seemed like the right thing to do. I autocrossed in high school and eventually pursued my dream of writing about cars because nothing made me happier than driving, dreaming and obsessing about all things motorized.
Confessions of a Car Snob
Somewhere on the road of my automotive travels, I started gravitating toward European cars. BMWs and Mercedes-Benz beaters passed through my garage, and a few years ago I took great pleasure in buying a 1980s-era Porsche 911 in Florida and driving it cross-country. Though I tested and wrote about numerous modern Korean cars (and was generally impressed by their progress since the dark days when they entered the U.S. market with subpar cars decades ago), I still never considered myself a Kia driver. Until now.
The Great Experiment: First Impressions
It was no accident our 2014 Kia Sorento long-term tester came with a fully loaded equipment list. Can you blame the Korean automaker for putting its best foot forward? Off the bat, I was impressed by the Sorento's looks -- not surprising, since its design was overseen by Peter Schreyer, who had previously bolstered his reputation by introducing cleaner, more purposeful designs at Audi. The Sorento is by no means the sharpest looking car in the Kia lineup -- that distinction goes to the Optima sedan or Sportage crossover -- but its somewhat bulky exterior proportions are countered with a well put-together interior outfitted with nicely finished materials and comfortable leather seats.
But when it comes to the Kia brand, so far I still can't completely suppress my inner snob. When someone asks me what I drive, my answer usually sounds something like this: "I drive a Kia ... but it's really nice!" That defensive response is usually made even weaker when I rattle off a laundry list of the Sorento's generous features, including a backup camera, heated and ventilated seats and a panoramic sunroof. That the Sorento drives reasonably well and offers solid competition against its Japanese and European counterparts certainly conflicts with my trepidation.
The Verdict: Only Time Will Tell
If this old-school car snob can side with the Kia Sorento, anyone can -- but it's too early to tell if I'd spend my own money on a Kia. Stay tuned for future updates on how the Kia Sorento holds up, and whether this redesigned crossover is well-built, reliable and fun enough to drive to make me fall in love with Korean cars.