– Styling and cabin trim
– Space and tech features
– Comfortable and economical
– Not quite quick for a V6
– Third-row seat access
– Limited offroad abilities
From being known for manufacturing some of the most horrible cars only a decade ago, to claiming a spot in the “Top 5” of the world’s best-selling auto brands is no small feat. Factors such as quality and value-for-money aside, the Korean auto giant Kia, alongside sister-company Hyundai, has constantly been nailing it in terms of premium styling in recent years, never losing their design direction unlike some other major brands. And their latest model to receive such a makeover is the current all-new Kia Sorento.
The Kia Sorento was never a serious contender in the crossover stakes, largely because it was one of the last holdovers from the “old” generation of Kia before ex-Audi designer Peter Schreyer took over and transformed the model line with more desirable styling. While the new Sorento’s external styling is arguably original, a few individual elements still resembling certain premium brands, if only to its benefit. However, it looks like Schreyer did not spend too much time on the rear, finishing it off with a rather generic look.
Inside, there’s a surprising amount of soft-touch padding and tech features for a crossover at this price-point, better than more expensive rivals such as the Chevrolet Traverse and the Honda Pilot. To name a few, our top-spec tester came with a premium audio system with up to 8 speakers and several connectivity options, hands-free keyless entry with automatic tailgate open function and push-start button, in-mirror reverse camera, navigation, automatic dual-zone a/c with rear vents, ventilated seats and available full leather upholstery, and a panoramic glass roof. While quite expectedly the base Sorento does not get any more safety features than a couple of airbags and ABS with EBD, the higher models get side and curtain airbags, stability control, blind spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning and adaptive cruise control system.
There is good legroom and headroom for the front and second-row passengers, while legroom in the third row is adequate for up to medium-sized adults, assuming the second row is slid forward a bit. Access to the third row is worse than in the old model, oddly enough, as the second-row seats don’t completely fold out of the way. Boot space, while limited with all seats in use, is massive with the third row folded down. The second row can also fold down to create a huge bed space. And there are enough cubbies and cup-holders for the whole family.
The new Sorento can be had with a choice of either a 2.4-litre inline-4 in two-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive configurations, or a 3.3-litre V6 in all-wheel-drive configuration only, both mated to a 6-speed tiptronic transmission with paddle-shifters. Our tester came with those two extra cylinders. With 266 hp at 6400 rpm and 318 Nm of torque on tap at 5300 rpm, the power delivery is fairly linear across the rev range, making the Sorento a decent performer but never feeling hugely quick. We managed a ho-hum 0-100 kph time of 9.2 seconds in July weather. The fuel efficiency hovered at around 12.1 litres/100 km in mixed driving conditions. And we doubt if the puny 2.4-litre engine would be even remotely as good as the V6 in overall performance, judging by our experience in a Hyundai Santa Fe with the exact same powertrains.
Leaving the parking lot for a highway drive, the Sorento’s smooth ride and cabin quietness were fairly impressive. Apart from a tad bit of jitter on the most uneven of surfaces, the Sorento soaks up most road undulations without the kind of floaty feeling and body roll that afflicts the Hyundai Santa Fe. And with road and wind noise down to levels that put some premium brands to shame, the new Kia Sorento is an ideal choice for long travels.
Knowing that the whole purpose of the Sorento is not going to stretch beyond family hauling, there isn’t much point in hustling it on mountain roads. However, we can safely say that unlike its Hyundai cousin, the Sorento is more composed, with less obvious body roll and higher levels of grip before understeer kicks in. The 235/55 tyres wrapping the 19-inch alloys are wide enough for decent grip and chunky enough to retain the compliant ride quality. The ABS-assisted brakes are more than adequate, and thankfully the stability-control nannies are well-tuned enough to not jump in at inopportune moments. The electric power steering does the job of turning the car fine, but feedback is almost non-existent, even as the steering weight can be artificially softened or firmed up at the push of a button.
Featuring a new all-wheel-drive system capable of sending all the power to any single wheel with traction, the new Sorento can theoretically go to a lot of places off-road, but the car-like ground clearance and poor approach/departure angles limit its reach to mild terrain such as flatter desert dunes, beach sand and wadi trails.
Over the past few years, Kia’s sales graph has been on a steady rise, as they stuck to their ‘far-more-for-far-less’ mantra with devotion. And lately, they have been scoring fairly well on the reliability scales too. With the all-new 2015 Kia Sorento, the Koreans have only made matters worse for their pricier competitors. Offering more value than ever while actually being desirable — to its target market anyway — the new Sorento is quite possibly the best pick for the money.
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