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First drive: Kia Sorento. Image by Kia.

First drive: Kia Sorento
All new Kia Sorento arrives to take on the best Europe has to offer.

   



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Kia Sorento

4 4 4 4 4

More practical, better looking and with a much improved interior, the new Kia Sorento doesn't just improve on what came before it; it also steps up to the mark against European rivals. Seven seats should mean it appeals to family buyers and of course, there is the seven-year warranty to consider.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Kia Sorento KX-4 2.2 CRDi automatic
Pricing: 40,000 (est.)
Engine: 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel
Transmission: four-wheel drive, six-speed automatic transmission
Body style: five-door, seven-seat SUV
CO2 emissions: 177g/km (VED Band H, 205 first year, 290 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 43.5mpg
Top speed: 127mph
0-62mph: 9.6 seconds
Power: 200hp at 3,800rpm
Torque: 441Nm at 1,750- to 2,750rpm

What's this?

The all-new, third generation Kia Sorento. Actually 'all-new' may be something of a misnomer as the monocoque architecture, while thoroughly reengineered, is fundamentally the same one used in the outgoing model and the tried and trusted 2.2-litre diesel has only been tweaked for Euro 6 compliance, but everything else is shiny and new. Like the new front end, now dominated by an XXL version of the signature 'Tiger Mouth' grille and the standard fit scuff plates front and rear to give this urbanised SUV a more rugged look.

Not that it needs it, as the Sorento has always been known for its rough and tumble ability, with the first generation car selling as much on its capability to tow whatever you could throw at it as its price. You may not be able to hitch Mount Rushmore up to the Sorento anymore, but it won't disgrace itself with slightly smaller loads what with a lockable centre differential included as part of the four-wheel drive make up and the diesel engine churning out 200hp and (more pertinently) 441Nm of torque.

For this third generation car, sophistication is key, as Kia targets more and more 'soccer moms' on the far side of the Atlantic and moves away from the rural bias this side. The Korean firm was at pains to say it is not competing directly with the likes of Audi and Volvo in the premium market; however, with the Sorento at least, realistically it is and so the fittings must reflect that. Therefore, Kia has added a dose of sophistication and refinement to the Sorento that has previously been missing. There is now twice as much sound deadening, so the noise of the engine up front only really becomes evident when pushed - something the slow revving lump doesn't need anyway - and the only wind noise that makes its way into the cabin is from the oversized wing mirrors. Unfortunately, when your SUV is nigh on five metres long, no amount of Around View Camera (a first for a European Kia) or Blind Spot Monitors can take away from the fact that you need big mirrors.
And the Sorento is BIG. Overall, the third generation car is 95mm longer than before with 80 of those millimetres added between the axles. It is wider too, by 15mm, but has a lower roofline, which, thanks to clever packaging, has not robbed any of the headroom. In fact, by moving the floor down Kia has given passengers more headroom than before. While fiddling around with the floor the engineers also came up with a new way to fold the middle row of seats, making access to the rear (on seven-seat models) that bit easier. It is still something of a child only area back there but you no longer need to be an Olympic gymnast to gain access.

Buyers of the Sorento now get a standard fit seven-inch touchscreen for the infotainment system mounted at the same level as the instrument dials. Seems like a small thing but it means your eyes are away the road for less time while turning off Chris Moyles or looking at the satellite navigation. Up front, the seats are both heated and chilled while the second row get just the heating element. The lack of cooled rear seats is somewhat offset by the inclusion of USB charging points for smartphones and the like. Rearmost passengers get separate dials for the climate control, too.

How does it drive?

Let's just get this out of the way early: the Sorento, in addition to being near five metres long, also tips the scales at 1.8 tonnes. It should ride and handle like some sort of pachyderm. It doesn't, or at least it didn't on the smooth roads of Sitges in Spain. Not only has the suspension been reengineered but also repositioned: the shock absorbers are now fitted vertically rather than off-centre, for instance, apparently for better bump absorption. Then there is the fact that the servo for the electric power steering has moved from the steering column to the rack, to be closer to the action. It is still over assisted and offers little in the way of feedback but we suspect it will be more effective on smaller offerings by Kia.

In normal driving (i.e. when the centre differential is not locked), the Sorento puts its power through the front wheels to save fuel, with power only sent rearwards when needed. This does lead to an element of understeer on wet roads if the cornering speed is too high, but aside from that it is remarkably composed. Beefy anti-roll bars and a more rigid body, thanks to the use of more high tensile steel, mean the Sorento does not lollop and roll through corners.

Verdict

In a segment dominated by premium players, some will expect the Sorento to struggle. However, the Sorento is edging ever closer to European rivals. It offers levels of sophistication and refinement we could but have imagined from a Korean manufacturer a few short years ago and it is decent to drive too. Will punters spend in excess of 40,000 on a Kia though, do they? They should seriously consider it, as to match the level of specification offered by the Sorento on a German product could cost a hell of a lot more.

4 4 4 4 4 Exterior Design

4 4 4 4 4 Interior Ambience

5 5 5 5 5 Passenger Space

5 5 5 5 5 Luggage Space

5 5 5 5 5 Safety

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Comfort

4 4 4 4 4 Driving Dynamics

4 4 4 4 4 Powertrain


Paul Healy - 26 Jan 2015



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2015 Kia Sorento. Image by Kia.2015 Kia Sorento. Image by Kia.2015 Kia Sorento. Image by Paddy McGrath.2015 Kia Sorento. Image by Paddy McGrath.2015 Kia Sorento. Image by Paddy McGrath.








 

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