Kia Sorento first drive

Kia Sorento

Kia Sorento Originally launched in 2002 as a rugged body-on-frame workhorse SUV the new third generation Kia Sorento is far more sophisticated,

more expensive and is the flagship of the South Korean Kia range.

Being the range flagship it is claimed by Kia that the new Sorento is leading this phase of the brand’s transformation in terms of engineering, refinement and quality. It is their first new model to be produced under Kia’s Global Quality Strategy which will influence the new Cee’d, Sportage and Optima ranges which will become more sophisticated products.

The new Sorento is a large seven-seat SUV with a EU6 compliant 2.2-litre turbodiesel engine and all wheel drive as standard. The CO2 emissions are slightly lower and it offers better fuel economy with more power. It is also longer, lower, wider and so roomier, more practical and versatile and it also looks more European in its styling. It is all backed up by Kia’s much praised seven year, 100,000-mile warranty.

In a bold claim Kia says, “The new Sorento will see the brand match and surpass not only customer expectations but also the world’s best car manufacturers for engineering, technology, refinement and quality.” A huge claim given that the Sorento now has to compete with similar vehicles from premium brands such as BMW, Audi and Land/ Range Rover as well as other more modest SUVs such as the new Honda CR-V, The similar Hyundai Santa Fe, Nissan X-Trail, Mazda CX-5, Mitsubishi Outlander and the aging Mitsubishi Shogun.

The new Sorento range currently comprises of six models. All use the revised R-family 2.2-litre 197bhp turbodiesel engine which has 441Nm of torque from 1,750rpm. The six variants are KX-1 manual, KX-2 and KX-3 manual and automatic and KX-4 auto. All transmissions are six-speed units with an intelligent all-wheel drive system that switches driving torque to the wheels with most grip as and when needed.

Getting to the crunch though, with all this new image and sophistication prices have risen by around 5% across the range which now starts at £28,795 and rises to £40,995. That is pushing the top spec KX-4 close to premium brand territory although a fully specced Sorento is still £2,000 less than a base spec BMW X5.

Kia Motors UK expected to sell around 3,000 new Sorentos in its first full year of sales but demand has pushed up that forecast to around 5,000 registrations. They expected the KX-2 to be the most popular when in fact 60% of early adopters have gone for the even higher spec KX-3 and KX-4 versions. There is a slight sales advantage for manual versions over automatics.

As the prices and on-board technology sophistication have increased so has the vehicle’s size. It is now 95mm longer at 4,780mm with an 80mm longer wheelbase, a 15mm reduction in height and a 5mm increase in width. The result of these changes, despite it being slightly lower in overall height the headroom is more and legroom has been increased in all three rows of seats. There are now 90-litres more luggage space which ranges from just 142-litres with all seats in use to 605-litres with five seats being used to 1,662-litres with both the middle and rear rows of seats folded to give a long and flat load space. For those owners that tow, manual versions have a 2,500kg braked towing capacity and the figure for automatic transmission models is 2,000kg.

The new Sorento has a sleeker swept-back profile, a rising belt-line and deeply sculptured door panels between front and rear flared wheelarches. The doors open wider which helps improve access for the second and third row passengers. The two rear seats offer enough legroom for adult passengers which is not always the case with such seven seat SUVs. However folding the rear and middle rows of seats is not such an easy or clever operation as the solutions provided in dedicated new generation MPVs such as Ford’s latest Galaxy, S-Max and Grand C-Max models or the Citroen Grand C4 Picasso. The Sorento’s seats are quite heavy to fold and lift back into position and the head restraints need to be removed or manually folded away and then the load area cover also has to be removed and stowed in the small load space if the rear row of seats are in use.

When it comes to carrying seven people a dedicated MPV still is the best solution over a seven seat SUV if you can put up with the family bus image. But of course the SUV has a better lifestyle image and usually has the advantage of all wheel drive if that is an important function. At the rear of the Sorento is a huge tailgate which does give easy access to the load area and there is no sill that forces items to be lifted over it before they can be placed on the load floor.

Kia Sorento  Kia Sorento  Kia Sorento  Kia Sorento  Kia Sorento

The interior quality, fit and finish of the Sorento is a notable improvement with lots of plush soft feel plastic trim most of it of good quality. Part of the fascia panel looked less premium quality on my KX-2 test model where there were a number of blank spaces where higher grade models have switches. Hidden away is a much higher level of sound insulation material for a vastly improved interior ambiance in terms of reduced noise intrusion. The front seats are supportive with a good range of adjustment.

The KX-2 specification level is relatively high for what was expected to be the most popular choice and that still might be the case in the longer term when the initial rush to be an ‘early adopter’ has been completed. The KX-2 model specification includes 18-inch alloy wheels, rear spoiler, roof rails, privacy glass, headlight levelling, automatic lights and wipers, projection headlights, cornering lights, LED daytime running lights, heated door mirrors, black faux leather upholstery, heated steering wheel and front seats, cruise control with speed limiter, electric windows, DAB radio, Bluetooth, 7-inch touchscreen with sat-nav, reversing camera and parking sensors, air conditioning, on-board computer, hill start assist and electronic stability control. Other spec items on higher grade models include rear cross traffic alert, smart park assist, lane departure warning, blind spot detection, self dimming headlights and a sunroof.

When it comes to performance the 2.2-litre, 197bhp turbodiesel engine is responsive thanks to the impressive 441Nm of torque delivered from 1,750rpm. It pulls strongly during acceleration with zero to 60mph taking just 9.0-seconds which for a large SUV is very acceptable. With that amount of torque mid range speed gearchanging is minimal thanks to the flexibility of the power delivery. Top speed is 124mph and officially this unit with the six-speed manual gearbox will return 46.3mpg in the Combined Cycle but on test the figure was a much lower 34.9mpg which was disappointing. Although improved over the previous model the CO2 emissions are still relatively high at 161g/km so VED road tax is £180 every year. Company car drivers will pay 30% Benefit-in-Kind tax. Whilst the new Sorento has come a long way in terms of added specification there is still some way to go before its fuel economy and CO2 emissions become the main reasons to buy one.

In terms of ride comfort and handling it is better news. The Sorento offers a very acceptable blend of good road manners, tight cornering control, and not too much body roll with a compliant comfortable ride. I would prefer more feedback from the steering but that is a minor point. The 4×4 system is not intrusive as in normal driving condition it deliver 100% of its torque to the front wheels but when conditions require it will automatically redistribute the drive to a maximum 60-40% front to rear. Venturing off road drivers can select lock mode which gives a 50-50% torque split at speeds up to 25mph

Overall the new Kia Sorento is a big step forwards in most areas especially refinement and quality. With its high UK sales demand it seems Kia have got it spot-on with the new Sorento and customers are not put off by the price hike or running costs.

MILESTONES: Kia Sorento 2.2 CRDI KX-2, manual, 5-doors/7-seat SUV. Price: £31,995.
Engine/transmission: 2.2-litre, 4-clyinder, balancer shaft turbodiesel with intercooler, EU6 compliant, 197bhp, 441Nm of torque from 1,750rpm, 6-speed manual with intelligent 4×4 traction. Performance:

124mph, 0-60mph 9.0-seconds, 46.3mpg Combined Cycle (34.9mpg on test), CO2 161g/km, VED road tax £180, BIK company car tax 30%. Insurance group: 25.

Warranty: 7-years/100,000-miles. Dimensions/capacities; L 4,780mm, W 1,890mm, H 1,685, boot/load space 142 to 1,662-litres, braked towing weight 2,500kg. For: A very roomy 7-seater SUV, smart interior, comfortable and compliant ride, responsive torquey engine, well equipped. Against: Top of the range model is very expensive, real life fuel economy well short of official figures, relatively high CO2 emissions, BMW 4x4s are better handling on- road, Land/Range Rover models are better off-road, it’s sells in a tough and competitive market sector where perceived brand image is important.  Miles Better News Agency

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