2011 Kia Sorento- Click above for high-res image gallery

Perhaps the most important fact about the all new Kia Sorento isn't that it's a "right-sized" compact CUV. If Kia's boundless enthusiasm is any indication, the most important fact is that the 2011 Sorento is the first Kia designed and built in entirely in the USA. In fact, Kia claims that their all-new West Point, Georgia manufacturing plant will not only create 2,500 jobs (eventually – 1,200 for the moment), they say it is the most advanced Kia manufacturing facility in the world.

Then there's the vehicle they just started building in Georgia sixteen days ago, the 2011 Sorento. Kia's calling it "right-sized," and pointing out that Americans are leaving their biggie SUVs in droves and moving to CUVs, specifically compact CUVs. But not that compact – the Sorento is designed to sit five adults comfortably or seven full-size persons "occasionally." That's our kind of euphemism! The Sorento, however, is not just a schlepper. It's got a MacPherson struts in front and a multi-link suspension setup for the rear.

Coupled to a 276 horsepower V6 and an all-new built in-house six-speed automatic, the Sorento is able to get up and boogie a bit. Or at least as much as a top heavy CUV can boogie. Check out our First Drive of the Kia Sorento (a pre-production model from Korea) for more details. Long story short, a base Sorento will start at under $20,000 – about $1,500 less than the outgoing body-on-frame model.

Hyundai's making a big media push, taking out a Sorento ad in Times Square that will be visible when the ball drops on New Year's Eve. They're also put together a short commercial some of you may have seen in movie theaters over the weekend. This spot, featuring a young all-American boy on a bicycle, will be airing until January. Kia is also co-sponsoring the Chick-fil-A and the Outback college bowl games. As Kia mentioned repeatedly during the presentation, they feel the brand's got some momentum going. If the Sorento drives and works anywhere close to where Kia says it will, they might be right.

Live photos copyright ©2009 Jonny Lieberman / Weblogs, Inc.

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