From Sorento to K900: Kia Celebrates 20 Years in the U.S.

The big reveal inLake Tahoe of the Kia Sorento.

Kia’s original trademark song, “How do you like me now?” evolves to a new slogan: “We are brand new.”

“Kia is celebrating its 20th year in the U.S. In 1994, we started with two vehicles. Can anybody tell me how many people were at our first press event?” asked Michael Sprague, Executive Vice President, Sales and Marketing at Kia Motors America.

The answer? “NOBODY showed up at our first press event and we now have 12 great products!” he said. “Since 2002, Kia has invested $1.4 billion in the U.S. (at Kia’s plant in Georgia).”

We were at the reveal of the Kia Sorento SUV in Lake Tahoe, California, and the excitement in the air was palpable.


In April 2014, Kia sold its 5 millionth car in the United States!

Kia celebrates a strong presence in the U.S.

Yes, Kia is no longer a myth in the American marketplace —the company sold its five millionth vehicle in the U.S. in April of 2014. The Sorento, the first Kia made in the U.S. and one of Kia’s three best sellers, was also the manufacturer’s first vehicle that sold 100,000 units in one year.

And this year Kia launched the Kia K900, the company’s first plunge into luxury. The K900 has already racked up some impressive recognition: the Consumer Guide Automotive’s Best Buy Award for a premium large car; International Car of the Year by Road & Travel Magazine; and  appointed Urban Car of the Year (the runner-ups were Mercedes C Class and Hyundai Genesis).

Scott McKee, Director of Corporate Communications, noted, “It’s no longer just about price. It’s everything you get with a Kia.”

Witness the evolution of the 2016 Sorento

 2016 Kia Sorento

Introducing the 2016 Kia Sorento, The Sorento, the first Kia made in the U.S. and one of Kia’s three best sellers,.

The lowdown: Our route took us from Lake Tahoe altitudes to the desert in Reno in 60 mph winds and blinding downpours. That, my friend, is a perfect way to preview the power of the 2016 Kia Sorento.

Test Driving The Sorento From Lake Tahoe Altitudes To The Desert In Reno In 60 Mph Winds And Blinding Downpours.

Test driving the Sorento from Lake Tahoe altitudes to the desert in Reno in 60 mph winds and blinding downpours.

Our favorite model was the Sorento SXL 2.0 Turbo AWD in titanium grey with burgundy Nappa leather ($45,305 with $895 destination included). Yes, $45,000 but truly top end. Bottom line, our test car had all the right ingredients — a smooth and pliant drive, guts to get you going on the highway, a lovely interior, spaces for everything and everyone and plenty of style.

Interior: Orth Hedrick, vice president, Product Planning KMA, said; “We spent quite a bit of the budget on the interior design. Any point you can touch is premium and soft even with the base LX model.”


Kia Motor Company brought a whole lot of Sorentos to test drive. Lake Tahoe supplied the rain.

Kia also improved the cargo area with carpeted luggage panels so the surfaces don’t get dinged up. New options include heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, 14-way power driver and 8-way power passenger seats, driver’s seat thigh extension, a 4-way headrest with one-button adjustment, dual-zone HVAC, panoramic sunroof, and Nappa leather trim seating surfaces, similar to those found in Kia’s K900.

Rear passenger space has been improved by 0.5-inch plus a flattened second-row center floor adds space. Access to third-row seating is improved by 1.5 inches and overall cargo volume increases with space behind the 3rd row increased from 9.1 cu.-ft. to 11 cu.-ft.

The engine:  The front- or all-wheel drive Sorentos come with a choice of three engines, including a 2.4-liter inline-4 GDI, a 3.3-liter V6 GDI and a new 2.0-liter inline-4 GDI turbocharged powerplant.


Welcome to Reno, the biggest littlest city in the world, and hello Kia Sorentos with your impressive lines, safety features, improved cargo space, and choice of three engines!

The music: An available 630-watt, 12-speaker Infinity stereo system with an 11-channel amplifier, audiophile sound and Clari-Fi technology. Clari–Fi works in real-time to rebuild audio details lost in digitally compressed music via an algorithm that reconstructs the material to restore to the listening experience. Yes, friends, it does work— music sounds crisper and cleaner.

Technology: In the 2016 Sorento, the infotainment system, UVO eServices, offers four additional services: Geo-fencing, Speed Alert, Curfew Alert and Driving Score3. With the introduction of the Kia App store4, select apps can be downloaded for free from iTunes or Google PlaySM6. And there’s so much more….

Driving Dynamics: Engineers increased the use of high-strength steel for torsional rigidity and made improvements in NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) with additions like installing smooth underbody panels to improve wind noise. Optional driver aid technology includes; Vehicle Stability Management, Forward Collision Warning System, Smart Cruise Control, Blind Spot Detection, Rear Cross Traffic Alert15 and Surround View Monitor.


When driving the pouring rain, we were thankful for the Kia Sorento’s safety features added as standard equipment for improved dynamic control and safety.

Safety: Features include seatbelt anchor pretensioners and six airbags. All Sorento models come standard with active safety features such as Electronic Stability Control, Traction Control System, Brake Assist System, Hill-start Assist Control Electronic Brake Force Distribution and Antilock Braking System. Additional technologies such as Rollover Mitigation and Cornering Brake Control (on AWD models) were added as standard equipment for improved dynamic control and safety.

“In 2010 we were marketing to tech savvy moms …we are looking to evolve – to be more 50/50 buyers,” offered Michael Sprague, Executive Vice President. But, when all is said, he remarked, “Women are 80% of all vehicle purchases.”

As tested: Sorento SXL 2.0 Turbo AWD. $45,305 with $895 destination included.

Price range: Base model Sorento L 2.4L I4 FWD – 6 A/T $24,900 up to 3.3L V6 AWD – 6 A/T $43,100.

Kia provided the Sorento for review; opinions expressed are my own.

Photo credits: Vinnie Richichi.

Holly has written about travel, cars, culture and health since she bought the first generation Macintosh. Her portfolio includes... More about Holly Reich