2021 Kia Sorento Sport+ Diesel: Car Review.

This Car Review Is About: Kia’s redesigned, inside and out, Sorento, specifically the Sport+. This sits one step below the range-topper GT-Line, which does have a couple of nifty features, plus a higher level of seat trim. However there’s little, in real terms, missing, for most drivers here. It’s a four model range, (S, Sport and Sport+, and GT-Line) all autos of course, with petrol engines driving only the front wheels or a diesel and AWD combination. The auto for the petrol is the normal torque converter type, the diesels run a dual-clutch.

How Much Does It Cost?: Kia’s spec sheet shows $57,390 driveaway for the vehicle supplied, including $695 for the sparkling Mineral Blue premium paint.

Under The Bonnet Is: 440Nm and 148kW from a 2,151cc diesel. That torque is spread from 1,750rpm to 2,750rpm. 5.3L/100km is the quoted highway figure, we saw a best of 5.7L/100km. Combined fuel consumption is quoted as 6.1L/100km and urban as 7.4L/100km from the 67.0L tank. Our overall figure for our 70/30 urban/highway run was 7.2/100km. The engine is a new design as such, weighing around 19 kilos lighter thanks to the integration of alloy in the process.

On The Outside It’s: Heavily facelifted, not unattractive, and big. 4,810mm in overall length, it stands 1,700mm in height with roofrails, and has a solid stance with a width of 1,900mm and a wheelbase of 2,815mm. Length and width are up by 10mm, and the wheelbase is increased by 35mm compared to the predecessor. Overhangs, though, have been reduced.

Kia’s signature “Tiger grille” now has LED headlights on either side, with multi-focal reflection emitters and LED driving lights in a cool boomerang angle. The indicators are also LED. The overall styling is sharper, edgier, and the leading edge of the bonnet is a sweeping curve that has the top section finishing over the front wheels. Effectively, Kia has taken the ovoid look of the previous model and applied a rasp to the curves, then filed them to a fine edge. It looks great and menacing in all black paint.

A striking motif, and one not to our tastes, is a new Kia signature and it’s the fin on the C-pillar. In alloy-look plastic, it’s a jarring, discordant look in comparison to the otherwise appealing lines. At the rear are new vertical styled lights that evoke a certain American two door sports car. Gone are the broader, horizontal, clusters from before. Another off styling choices is the location of the tab for the powered rear door. It’s right at the bottom of the metal, not in the much easier to access number plate recess. Underneath this is a restyled valance that hides the exhaust tips nicely.To help differentiate between the models, wheel sizes vary. The S has 17inch alloys, the Sport pair have 19s, and 20s underpin the GT-Line. 235/55 Continentals wrap the wheels.

On The Inside It’s: A very good looking place to be. Aside from being a seven seater, with tilt and slide centre row seats, there’s a completely new look for the dash. The airvents have a strong resemblance to the tail lights from a 1960s HR Holden, there is a double widescreen look to the driver’s display and touchscreen, and a better looking centre console.The seats are superbly comfortable, with support and comfort of just the right mix. the front seats in the Sport+ are both heated and vented in the GT-Line only, with the Sport+ having heating only, however the second row seats also get heating. All windows are one touch and there is a “pinch” safety function that stops upward movement if an obstruction is detected.

From the driver’s seat, adjustable ten ways electrically, the dash immediately ahead has the familiar analogue dials and colour info screen, however the housing is all new. the almost redundant binnacle sits over a broad, rectangular housing which runs in one unbroken line to finish level with the passenger side of the centre console. that extension now houses a 10.25 inch ultra-widescreen touchscreen. Here the screen itself defaults to a map and audio split, with the map quite dark. A subtle arrow tab allows for the audio screen to go full width. In the GT-Line a 12.3 inch LCD screen replaces the dials seen in the Sport+

New haptic touch controls underneath this replace the more familiar press or rocker switches for most of the basic aircon controls such as fan speed, the actual a/c engagement, and fresh or recirculating air. They’re a bit hit and miss in operation as more than once (ok, quite a few times) it took two or three attempts to touch the right one on the go. Convenience features come from auto on headlights, auto wipers, and a tab for opening the tailgate.On the dash and doors are pieces of pressed alloy look material, and there is a diamond look for the embossing. This is mirrored in the seat trim for the Sport+. For the third row there is switches to fold the centre row, and a aircon dial plus a pair of USB ports, one for each side. This echoes the front console having three, one for Apple and Android access (which also have voice recognition), the other two specifically for charging on the go. The centre row seats have their own console airvents and a pair of or charge ports, one USB and the other a 12V.Audio quality is amazing. The DAB tuner has better sensitivity than others, including some other Kia products, and there is something in the speaker mix that brought forth notes previously unheard. There’s depth, a great soundstage, and enough punch to please.

Those second row seats have their own party piece. In the cargo section and on the bottom of the sides of the seats are a pair of buttons. The rear buttons fold them, the seat mounted one fold and automatically slide the seats forward. Handy is the word here. Boot space has grown; fold the second and third row and there is 2,011L, up by a huge 349L compared to the previous model. With the third row folded up, it’s a smallish but up by 45L, 187L, growing to 616L if the third row is folded.Noise insulation is solid. During our test drive, the cicada season was in full flight (no pun intended) and the decibel levels outside was considerable. Hop into the Sport+ and the din was almost completely muted.

On The Road It’s: Almost faultless. There were occasional light-switch moments as the engine’s torque suddenly arrived as the electronics determined forward speed needed oomph. Judicious judgement of the throttle otherwise allowed for more precise acceleration, and there’s some serious urge from the quite small engine. Sink the slipper and the momentary hesitation expected from a turbo-diesel is quickly despatched, changing to getting shoved in the seat forward motion.

The AWD system helps getting grip to all four corners as the torque-split on demand system does its thing. Our time with the car coincided with some fairly decent rainfals, and the AWD was confident and sure-footed throughout. Underway and it’s clear the SmartStream diesel is effortless, and refined, with absolutely no diesel chatter. It’s muted, quiet, but vocal enough to let you know it’s ready and waiting to play. Towing? A not unreasonable 2,000kg.

Being AWD capable also allows Kia to add in, on top of the Comfort/Sport/Smart/Eco drive modes, Snow, Sand, and Mud. These are activated via a simple push of a console dial to switch between normal or soft-roading modes, lighting up the chosen mode. All modes are essentially a changing of the tune for the engine and transmission; Sport really sharpens things up for the eight speed auto with crisper, quicker changes. Smart uses an AI to learn the driver’s habits, whilst Eco and Comfort are best used for highway driving.

Road manners for the Sorento Sport+ are at a very high level. Drive is selected via a traditional rocker lever, and underway the Australian tuned strut and multi-link suspension is impossible to fault. Suppleness is there when wafting along, absorbing road irregularities without a twitch, whilst getting sporty sees the upper end of the suspension bringing a grin to the face for its prowess. Hit a bump, a ripple, a speed restrictor, and the Sorento Sport+ blinks and forgets about that momentary intrusion, settling the two tonnes of mass as if nothing happened. Steering weight is noticeable for the fact it’s just right in heft and feedback, and the stoppers could do with perhaps a hint more feedback.

Noticeable too is the fact the dual-clutch auto doesn’t exhibit any of the quirks the design is infamous for. No gap between gear engagement, from Reverse to Drive it’s quick to engage and smooth too. No clunks, no pausing, with the only minor hiccup a feeling of wanting to move forward when stopped at a sign or red light. Smooth and quiet, it’s now one of the best of its type available.

The adaptive cruise control is also spot on. Some can be somewhat iffish in their performance; here it’s accurate and silken in its adaptability to traffic flow. There is also a forward traffic alert that bings and flashes a note on the driver info screen to say it’s ok to move on.What About Safety?: In honesty, it lacks nothing. The GT-Line gets a 360 degree camera view, Blind Spot Monitor and Parking Collision Avoidance Assist, otherwise all grades have what’s expected. Blind Spot Collision Avoidance Assist, AEB with Forward Collision Warning (cyclist, pedestrian, car, and junction) and Rear Cross Traffic plus the mandated electronics are standard. There are also the usual front and side airbags, plus now a Front Centre Side airbag. Our friends at Practical Motoring described it as thus.

What About Warranty And Service?:
Kia’s famous seven years warranty and unlimited kilometres is of course standard. Servicing over the seven years sees a maximum cost (unless there are issues outside the service boundaries) of $3,463, with the first year at $335, year four at $729 being the most expensive, with yearly or 15,000k intervals. The overall cost equates to $9.50 per week.

At The End Of The Drive. Reading social media can be a bit of an eye opener when it comes to the puerile and pathetic bias shown by some Australians towards Kia and sister brand Hyundai. Long gone are the days of basic, boring, cheap feeling looks and feel, replaced by European standard designs, and upmarket tactility. Ride and handling are world class, and especially tuned for Australia’s roads bring potentially better comfort, road holding, and quietness.

The 2021 Kia Sorento Sport+ is an absolute winner for families, with the perfect mix of features and convenience, driving styles, and all housed in those rugged good looks. As a bang for your buck and quality family conveyance, it’s hard to beat.

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