Italian name, Korean bloodline, English born and German refined engine technology. Kia has dipped into the world basket to refine its Sorento range and tips out the SLi diesel in all wheel drive (AWD) form, with which A Wheel Thing spent some very enjoyable time.
The Driven Heart
It’s “just” a 2.2L diesel under the broad bonnet, with 145 killer watts at 3800 rpm and a earth shifting 436 torques between 1800 to 2500 revs. It’s light switch on and off, with seemingly nothing below 1500 then wham! it’s an avalanche of torque as the six speed auto (manual available with 421 Nm) sends grunt to the front wheels, with a torque sensing diff splitting it to the rears on demand. It’s understandably chattery under load, quiet and relatively muted otherwise. Although over two tonnes when loaded, fuel economy is rated at 7.3 litres (combined) per 100 kilometres from the 64 litre tank and sips just 5.9L on the freeway.
The Office Space
There’s no doubt that quality is entrenched in Kia’s DNA. Function meets sense in the layout of the cabin. The steering wheel is chunky enough to hold comfortably without stretching the fingers, the dials are a classy mix of LCD and analogue and the centre dash controls surrounding and under the touchscreen navitainment system and well spaced and clear to read, plus soft to the touch. Seats are leather trimmed in the diesel (the 3.5L petrol gets cloth) and it’s a seven seater with two pull up pews in the back. Plastics have an almost suede like look and feel for the most part, whilst the upper dash has the light scattering ripple finish. There’s a metallic grey strip bisecting the dash and chrome look trim around the air vents and controls. Main controls for audio and cruise are ergonomically accessible on the adjustable for rake and reach tiller whilst the stalks for indication (a rarely used item, it seems, for Australian drivers) and wipers are a fingertip away. The audio system is powerful enough however, as is Kia’s wont, RDS (Radio Data Service) info doesn’t appear. Auxiliary inputs via 3.5mm socket and USB are centrally located directly under the touchscreen and ahead of the sports shifter gear selector. The map and navigation are, again, clean and simple to read and/or use.
The seats are comfortable without being snug, allowing body movement side to side whilst cornering, with the driver’s seat being fully electrically adjustable including lumbar support, a feature not normally seen in a mid spec vehicle. The mid row seats are 60/40 split, providing a hefty 1047 litres of space when up and just over 2050 when folded. Aircon is provided to the rear passengers via vents mounted in the B pillar rather than through the rear of the centre console, a small yet more efficient delivery method.
Safety is Volvo inspired, with airbags covering driver and passenger with pelvis and thorax, mid row (curtain), pre-tensioning seatbelts, active headrests, ABS, Hill start assist control (HAC) and rear camera shown in the touchscreen as standard across the three level (Si, SLi, Platinum) range. A nice touch Ki has is the red glowing vehicle name in the front scuff panels.
It’s a bold presence, the Kia Sorento. It’s been an evolutionary vehicle, with the current 2013/14 model range featuring a sharper, more angular front. LED daylight running lights (DRLs) eyebrow the headlights, framing the Schreyer corporate grille, atop a more rectangular looking front bar with bulb lit fog and cornering lamps. The rear tail light clusters have a redesigned look, glowing almost like a neon lamp at night compared to the multitude of LEDs in the previous model; the wing mirrors also have LEDs in them, these for the indicators. The profile is one of a squat, muscular look and at just under 4.7 metres long with a 2.7 metre wheelbase, coupled with a height and width within cooee of each other (1.88/1.7m), has a compact yet broad shouldered stance. A trapezoidal window configuration, with the Sorento’s signature thick D pillar, complete the profile. The car supplied came in a slightly unusual metallic colour, Mahogany Brown, a shade that did give a few pedestrians pause.
On The Road
It’s a neck snapper when provoked, a somnolent kitten otherwise, with plenty of road manners. Like a kitten, however, it can find itself unbalanced when pushed, with a somewhat spongy ride and body roll noticeable. Although the steering response is sharp enough, with three modes available to the electrically assisted setup (Normal,Comfort,Sport), the dual purpose tyres, at 235/60 profile on 18 inch alloys, prove to be a touch bouncy over undulations whilst the high sidewall and SUV centre of gravity add to the roll. There’s never any indication that traction will be lost, in a normal road environment, the McPherson strut front and multilink rear deal with that, there is, though, a feeling of understeer when pushed and a touch of lift off oversteer in a longer turn or a roundabout. When put through a set of almost chicane like corners, the mass of the Sorento became obvious, with the occasional touch of the stability control being felt as steering tightened up and the engine momentarily felt breathless.
Under full welly, there’s a moment before the turbo has spooled up enough, then a rocket is lit as the Sorento flies through the six, smooth changing, gears. Under moderate acceleration, shifts are physically barely felt, with the tick of the engine note and the flick of the tacho a firmer indication of change. There’s feedback through the wheel, but there’s also the occasional tug left and right when paused as the electronic steering adjusts itself. A niggle, like a papercut in that it’s small yet annoying, is the feeling of the front suspension about to pull itself away from the chassis over full road width speedbumps, at velocities of 30 kmh to 50 kmh. It’s not a comfortable sensation.
Swapping into the Sorento out of three weeks in a smaller range of cars, one thing immediately noticeable was the lack of brake feel and response, with a longer and harder press required to haul up the two tonnes of metal. Once adapted to it, it’s a progressive feel but some more initial bite with a shorter press would be appreciated. If one needs to do some extra load lugging, towing is rated at 2000kg for the auto (2500kg with a manual).
A Wheel Thing will readily admit to be increasingly impressed by Kia’s offerings. Comfort, looks, good handling and response are part and parcel of what the Korean based company offer. Being part owned by Hyundai and sourcing the basics from them allows Kia to utilise a well developed and engineered vehicle before marking them with their own distinctive scent. The Sorento has grown into a competitive and competent vehicle, providing plenty of equipment and standard trim at a decent price.
With a RRP of $45990 + ORCs for the SLi diesel auto Sorento, it sits well within a pack of competitors such as the Santa Fe, Captiva, Territory and Tiguan. Winning an award for best diesel SUV over $40K is a great indication that Kia is right on the money. For further info, go here: http://www.kia.com.au/showroom/next-gen-sorento.