Making the Rough Smooth

Words: Stephen Smith

Pictures: Stephen Smith and Supplied

One of the problems with being a motoring journalist is that people ask your advice when it comes to car-buying time. It’s not easy advice to give as it depends on budget, brand preference, a degree of risk aversion and all sorts of other, sometimes hidden, criteria. But when someone asks me to recommend a seven-seater SUV, I almost always ask if they’ve considered a Kia Sorento.

If you’re looking for a great seven-seater SUV look no further than the Kia Sorento

WHAT IS IT? The Sorento is the larger of Kia’s SUV range, available in both five-seater and seven-seater configuration. When the third-generation was launched locally earlier in the year, Kia South Africa decided to limited the range to just two models – one in 4×2 and the other in all-wheel-drive (AWD) with a slightly higher spec level.

WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE? A long wheelbase and pliant suspension mean that the ride quality of the Sorento is relaxed, comfortable and just right for longer trips. Light steering takes the workload out of city driving or, heaven forbid, parallel parking. A single engine is offered in the new Sorento and it is a 2,2-litre turbodiesel unit that produces 147kW and 436Nm, which is more than enough for a vehicle of this type.

Smooth and refined, the engine is paired with a six-speed automatic gearbox, making the driving experience even more relaxed. In the case of the AWD model, the system is a part-time one. In standard mode, the Sorento operates as a front-wheel-drive vehicle, but whenever a loss of traction is detected, power is sent to the rear axle as well. There is a manually selected 4×4 lock mode, which splits the torque 50/50 between the front and rear axles for better stability.

Unfortunately this mode operates only up to a speed of 40km/h, after which it disengages. I say unfortunately because it’s nice to be able to lock 4×4 on for driving in sand or on loose gravel roads, both of which are usually done at higher speeds. That said, it will be very adequate for most jobs, and getting you out of a spot of bother. A full complement of electronic driving aids, including traction control, are standard on both models.

Kia Sorento (3)WHAT’S IT LIKE INSIDE? Kias have come a long way and nowhere is this more evident than the quality of their interiors. Even more impressive than the quality of the finishes is the length of the standard specification list.

Leather upholstery is standard across the range, as are climate control, cruise control, Bluetooth, and too many more to mention. The AWD model even has heated and cooled front seats! As you’d expect, all the usual safety features are present, including dual front, side and curtain airbags.

The cost
The 4×2 is priced at R407 995 and the AWD costs R490 000. It’s a lot of money, but it’s even more car, which means it’s very good value for money. A five-year/150 000km warranty and five-year/100 000km maintenance plan are standard.

The verdict
It’s very hard to find fault with the Sorento. I would recommend it without hesitation to anyone looking for a seven-seater SUV.

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