2023.09.07 Kia

Kia The New Sorento: Bold Change Once Again, Upgraded Presence

Sorento, the centerpiece of Kia’s SUV lineup, further emphasized its presence. Based on Kia’s design philosophy, ‘Opposites United,’ the automaker attempted bold and future-oriented changes. Here, the exterior designers talk about the new Sorento.
The new Sorento, based on the Opposites United philosophy, was expected to create a sensation in the mid-sized SUV market

Kia Sorento is Korea’s representative mid-size SUV that no one can deny; And Sorento’s history proves this. The 4th generation Sorento, launched in 2020, has ranked first in the midsize SUV market for three consecutive years, recording sales of more than 60,000 units annually in Korea alone. Sorento was constantly praised overseas as well. Various elements, such as continuously developing marketability and a design with a strong presence, attracted so many. And after the launch of its 4th generation, it became as ‘The new Sorento’ with a new design through a facelift.

The new Sorento was reborn with a greater presence based on the concept of ‘Bold for Nature’, one of the five themes of Kia’s new design philosophy, ‘Opposites United’. In particular, the more future-oriented and stronger design attracts attention while inheriting the well-made design elements of the past Sorento.

Senior researcher Hyun-sung Kim (left) of the Kia Design Strategy Team and researcher Jeong-gyu Park (right) of the Kia Future Design Team 1 completed the design of the new Sorento

Of course, the design process for The new Sorento was not easy. First, the existing Sorento, which has been loved for a long time, boasted a high level of perfection. Moreover, projecting a new design philosophy was not an easy task. However, many designers, including senior researcher Hyun-sung Kim of Kia Design Strategy Team, senior researcher Hyun-soo Kim of Kia Next Design Exterior Department, and researcher Jeong-gyu Park of Kia Future Design Team 1, worked tirelessly to create Sorento with a new image. Here, three exterior designers talk about the features that the bold design of the new Sorento houses.

Q. The exterior design concept of the 4th generation Sorento was ‘Refined Boldness.’ What is the new concept of The new Sorento, which reflects Kia’s new design philosophy ‘Opposites United’?

Senior researcher Hyun-sung Kim | The new Sorento has a futuristic and highly complete design by adding Kia’s new design philosophy, Opposites United, to the innovative proportions and design of the previous Sorento. The new Sorento’s exterior design concept is ‘Futuristic Boldness,’ one of the characters in Opposites United. Based on this, the design elements with a strong image create a more luxurious image of an SUV. In addition, delicate and sophisticated details are the key to change.

Senior researcher Hyun-sung Kim says that various attempts created new designs

Q. It seems like there were a lot of difficulties in the design work - considering the change in the core philosophy that runs through Kia’s design, the limitations of the facelift model with little change, and the pressure of being a globally popular SUV model.

Researcher Jeong-gyu Park | Designers must constantly challenge themselves; The design process of solving problems under limited conditions and environments is an extremely challenging task. Kia’s new design philosophy, Opposites United, is not only something completely new that Kia has never had before, but also represents the direction in which Kia will move forward. As the exterior designer of the new Sorento, I was surprisingly happy that the brand’s design direction had changed, because it meant that various attempts were possible. And this change in perception was naturally incorporated into The new Sorento. Thanks to this, we were able to complete a new design by breaking away from the strong image that the existing Sorento had.

Bold yet soft, the key element of the new Sorento lies in its atypicality

Q. Sorento is a key model in Kia’s SUV lineup both domestically and overseas. With SUVs being so popular, what design elements have you focused on that make it different from its competitors?

Researcher Jeong-gyu Park | The key to the existing Sorento’s design was a very strong and refined presence. But the new Sorento is different; Its distinguishing feature is its bold and concise design. In particular, to make it unique from its competitors, we spared no effort to express bold, but not extreme, and unconventional newness in design among numerous design elements. As a result, we were able to complete the image of a more confident and strong SUV by adding a bolder, more three-dimensional vertical form.

The grille exclusive to the Gravity trim (above) is bolder and more concise, while the grille of the regular model conveys the image of a beefy SUV with a three-dimensional pattern

Q. The change in the front appearance seems to be noticeable. Please tell us about the design features of the front, the overall atmosphere, and the specific features of each element.

Senior researcher Hyun-sung Kim | The key to the new Sorento’s front design lies in its overall layout. The previous Sorento featured horizontal design elements. On the other hand, The new Sorento focuses on a vertical layout. In particular, the volume of the hood and lamp layout, which emphasizes strength, have become more luxurious. In addition, the vertical headlamp with signature star map lighting creates a completely different image from the existing Sorento. Although this is a facelift model, this major change is similar to that of the full change model.

Researcher Jeong-gyu Park said that ideal and stable proportions are a characteristic of the rear of the new Sorento

Q. Compared to the front, the change in the design of the rear does not seem that big. What are the design features of the rear part?

Researcher Jeong-gyu Park | The rear design process wasn’t easy either; There were several limitations compared to the front. However, while maintaining the solid and strong image of the existing Sorento, we strived for more ideal and stable proportions - like the tail lamp, for example. The signature star map graphic - the same as the headlamp - is used, and design elements that continue from the front create a more harmonious design. The same goes for the bumper design. The skid plate and black color incorporating the new module configuration completed an authentic design that harmonizes function and formative beauty.

The new Sorento’s signature star map lighting combines vertical and horizontal elements

Q. Since EV9, it seems that the signature star map lighting has become Kia’s representative design element. Please explain the characteristics of the signature star map lighting design featured by The new Sorento and the star map graphic on the tail lamp.

Senior researcher Hyun-sung Kim | The signature star map lighting is Kia’s new signature design, and is also an element that well represents the automaker’s design direction. The horizontal and vertical elements of the signature star map lighting in the headlamp of The new Sorento harmonize with each other, creating a progressive yet high-tech image. I think this image will have a strong presence on the road. The signature star map graphic applied to the tail lamp is also similar. Although there were limitations, we completed it in a way that best expressed the image of the new Sorento. Its three-dimensional composition is one of the elements that expresses the direction of Kia’s design.

The two researchers said that the balance of the Sorento’s side design is close to perfection

Q. The existing Sorento looked solid both front and rear, and when viewed from the side, it looked sleek due to the low overall height and character lines. Tell us about the features and changes in the side design of the new Sorento.

Researcher Jeong-gyu Park | The existing Sorento had a low hood point, conveying a sleek image like a sports car. On the other hand, the new Sorento has a high hood point, which is intended to change the image of the existing Sorento and emphasize volume. The bumper design also has a wide range of changes. This is not just to change the image, but to capture the presence of Sorento and the new direction of Kia’s design. In addition, the vertical headlamp connected to the raised hood point and the character line that extends from the side to the tail lamp further enhance the design completeness of the new Sorento.

18-inch black alloy wheel exclusive to hybrid model (top) and 20-inch black alloy wheel exclusive to Gravity trim (bottom)

Q. The change in wheel design is also noticeable. Please explain the characteristics of the changed wheel design - as well as the direction set to harmonize the overall design elements.

Senior researcher Hyun-soo Kim | When it comes to wheel design, harmony and unity with the overall design are most important. No matter how cool the design of the wheel is, if it does not match the body design, it looks awkward and uncomfortable. A wheel design that doesn’t match the rest of the car is like wearing nice Italian shoes with sweatpants. The design that harmonizes all parts, including the front, rear, and wheels, enhances the sense of unity of the entire vehicle.

The new Sorento’s wheels are like a bridge connecting the existing internal combustion engine-centered design and the Opposites United philosophy. At the same time as using the body’s dynamic design elements, we tried to implement a simple and geometric design based on a new design philosophy - hence a design that intensively processed the outer surface. As a result, the wheels looked relatively large and at the same time emphasized their presence. In the case of the optional 20-inch wheels, the sleek shape of the car body was used as a design element. The center cap makes the spokes look longer and hides the bolts, creating a clean and luxurious image.

On the other hand, the 18-inch wheels have a strong shape and the wheel color of the hybrid model is black. Additionally, we designed it considering aerodynamic performance to increase the efficiency of the hybrid model - such as reducing the opening area and ensuring a flat section. At the same time, the staircase-shaped design enhances the three-dimensional effect of the spokes.

Q. Which of the design elements of the existing Sorento has the new Sorento inherited?

Researcher Jeong-gyu Park | The predecessor’s design boasted outstanding perfection - the balance of the side design was particularly dazzling. The new Sorento maintains the side design of the existing Sorento while adding drastic changes to the front and rear. To achieve this, it was important to design the front and back so as not to spoil the existing high-quality side design. In particular, we focused on completing visual harmony through the character line that extends from the end of the hood to the headlamps, doors, and tail lamps.

The two designers completed the design by thinking from the consumer’s perspective rather than simply pursuing novelty.

Q. Tell us about the message you want to convey to consumers through the exterior design of The new Sorento. Also, briefly define the exterior design of the new Sorento.

Senior researcher Hyun-sung Kim | For designers, always pursuing new things is a very important value. However, I think it is also essential to consider things from the consumer’s perspective. The design philosophy is not simply to show customers, but to present a new experience that customers can see and feel for themselves by combining things that are easily accessible in our lives. And this is how Kia treats its customers; Opposites United is a philosophy that represents Kia’s new direction, as well as the attitude and commitment of Kia Design Center members towards customers.

Researcher Jeong-gyu Park | The new Sorento is a facelift model of the best-selling Sorento, which was much loved by customers. This inherits the strengths of the existing Sorento, while its unique and bold design shows freshness, presence, and high completeness at the level of a new model. I believe that the new Sorento will serve as a milestone that indicates the new direction Kia is moving in.

by Inhak Heo

Photography by Daeil Choi, Beomseok Kim

HMG Journal Operation Team


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