The new Sorento is the best car Kia has built and reflects a level of luxury and sophistication unheard of in a Korean car a few short years ago…
Words: Stephen Smith
Pictures: Stephen Smith and Supplied
The Kia Sorento is a big car. It’s also a big car for Kia, because it’s the best vehicle that the Korean company has ever built. It’s a car that shows that Kia has arrived, that Kia is quality, that Kia can challenge anyone. While I may be prone to exaggeration, rest assured that in this particular case I am not.
Firstly, the dimensions. With an overall length of 4 780mm, width of 1 890mm and height of 1 690mm, the Sorento is (for reference) 75mm longer than a Toyota Fortuner, 50mm wider, but 160mm lower.
These generous dimensions allow the Sorento space for seven seats (although the two front-wheel-drive models come with five), and even the rearmost row can seat two adults, as long as the journey isn’t too far. These proportions also mean liberal legroom and headroom for everyone, and a bit of a boot even when all seven seats are in use. When the rearmost seats aren’t in use they fold flat onto the floor, while the second row of seats can be slid forward or back depending on the legroom versus luggage-room requirement ratio.
The first generation Sorento, launched in 2002, was a rugged SUV with a low-range 4×4 system and a body-on-frame chassis. While this made it a formidable off-roader, which in turn made it a lot of fans, Kia soon realised that the SUV market was tending towards more refined motoring. The second generation reflected this, but the low-range transfer case disappeared and the body-on-frame chassis was replaced by a monocoque design. This refinement has been accelerated with the third generation, which has now reached a level of luxury and sophistication unheard of from a Korean car a few short years ago.
The sophisticated cabin makes use of premium, soft-touch materials, including leather, but it’s the feeling of space, as well as the great design and layout, that really stand out. Comfy seats and high levels of standard safety and comfort specifications finish off an interior that will astound ‘German-über-alles’ car buyers.
The Sorento is available with an all-wheel-drive system, which delivers a high level of stability and confidence in poor driving conditions and on low-grip surfaces, balancing torque distribution to the front and rear wheels depending on the specific requirements. The system is further enhanced with a 4WD Lock mode, which splits torque distribution evenly between front and rear wheels and gives greater traction and even more predictable handling in snow, on sand and on other slippery surfaces. The ground clearance is 185mm and the AWD models come with low-profile, 19-inch tyres, both of which are the limitations in how far off-road you could safely take your Sorento. Good news, though, is that there is a full-size spare, and it’s attached to the bottom of the car to free up more luggage space.
As good as the Sorento is, there is one glaring disappointment – the standard infotainment system. In an age where colour touch screens are becoming customary in high-end cars, and can even be found in cheaper runarounds, the small, 3,8-inch monochrome screen in the Sorento is disappointing and fiddly to use. A 4,3-inch colour touchscreen replaces this in the more expensive models, but even that is small by current trends.
Two engines have been included in the Sorento range, but it is the 2.2-litre turbodiesel that excels. With power of 147kW and torque of 440Nm it manages to get the two tons of Sorento hustling along quite nicely, but still returns fuel consumption figures of around 7,5ℓ/100km. The petrol option, powered by a 2,4-litre engine (127kW and 225Nm), uses more fuel, feels less sprightly, and is only available with a 6-speed manual gearbox and in front-wheel drive. But it’s much cheaper.
What’s the new Sorento like to drive, you ask? The diesel engine is excellent, full of torque but also quiet and smooth. The ride quality is car-like, as you’d expect of a modern SUV, although the electrically assisted steering does lack feedback. The automatic gearbox has three driving modes (eco, normal and sport), and produces its best work in sport mode.
Prices start at R429 000 and go up to R692 000 for the Sorento 2.2 CRDi SX AWD. It’s a great car that will win over countless people who take it for a test drive, but the difficulty will be persuading people to test drive a Kia that costs almost R700 000. All Sorentos come standard with a 5-year/100 000km warranty. The 2.4 LS comes with a 4-year/90 000km service plan while all other models come with a 5-year/100 000km maintenance plan.
- Name: Kia Sorento 2.2 CRDi EX AWD
- Body type: Large SUV
- Engine capacity: 2.2-litre turbodiesel
- Power output: 147kW
- Torque: 440Nm
- Gearbox: 6-speed automatic
- Price: R657 000