Sorento sophisticated and desirable

By Jason Woosey Time of article published Oct 2, 2015

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ROAD TEST

Kia Sorento 2.2 CRDi SX AWD

By: Jason Woosey

Johannesburg - ‘Car like’. It’s a cliché that’s been bouncing from review to review ever since some genius decided to fit a 4x4 with a proper roof and some back seats.

Yet given how SUVs have matured in recent years, surely there’s no longer place for a compliment that implies they’re less sophisticated than traditional cars?

Getting to know the new Kia Sorento drove this point home even further as it’s easily among the most refined SUVs I’ve ever experienced. It’s time to forget ‘car-like’, because I bet many cars really wish they were more ‘Sorento-like’.

I remember its predecessor already being something of a smooth operator, yet Kia’s engineers have just made it even better, with a stack of sound-proofing measures conspiring to make the cabin up to six percent quieter and structural strengthening improving torsional rigidity by 14 percent.

The fully-independent suspension system received its fair share of tinkering too and the end result of all these measures is a luxury cruise liner of a vehicle that wafts comfortably over our imperfect roads in almost eerie insulated silence.

All but the entry-level model are powered by Kia’s 2.2-litre ‘R’ turbodiesel engine and the two top models get Kia’s permanent all-wheel-drive system with AWD lock mode, although as per the softroader tradition it’s more about safety and traction than serious bundu bashing.

TORQUE RESERVES

That diesel engine sounds familiar and for the most part it is, except Kia has made it even smoother while also improving low-down torque and efficiency. It produces 147kW at 3800rpm and 440Nm from 1750 and that’s as much as you’ll need to move this almost-two-ton SUV at a decent pace. That bulk does have an effect on fuel consumption though, with my car averaging around 9.8 litres per 100km in a mixture of town and highway driving.

The Sorento’s six-speed autobox exploits the torque reserves perfectly and there’s as much performance on offer as you’ll ever need unless you’re a speed junkie. Which, quite frankly, you’re not if you’re buying this vehicle - making the ‘Sport’ mode, which delays gear shifting and reduces steering assistance, seem all the more pointless.

It’s one thing to be truly refined but for today’s discerning buyers to consider it sophisticated, a vehicle must also look the part both inside and out.

Peter Schreyer’s team hardly got a line wrong on the outside, striking a balance between smart and macho while playing it safe enough to avoid offending anybody, but the really impressive transformation has taken place inside.

The cabin’s design was led by Kia’s German-based European design team and the result is pleasantly upscale to say the least, with classy stitching on the upper dash, an abundance of smart-looking, soft-touch textures and tasteful metallic garnishes in all the right places.

VERSATILE SEATING FOR SEVEN

Another big Sorento drawcard is its practicality, with versatile seating for seven. That said, if you’re an adult or large teen you might get a bit cranky if faced with a long journey in the third row. While there’s loads of headroom, your knees will be in the air and rubbing against the middle seatback, in which case you might want to be nice to those sitting in front of you, who have the power to sacrifice some of their own legroom (of which there is loads) by sliding the 60:40 split seat bench forward on its rails.

Flattery will get you everywhere, they say, failing which those in the middle row can also recline their seatback to squash you while they take a nap.

Naturally boot space is a bit limited with all three rows upright, offering only 142 litres, although this is still enough for a few overnight bags or some shopping. Fold the rear seats, though, and you have 605 litres to play with, and get rid of the middle seats too and suddenly there’s a 1662 litre vortex.

Only the top two models come with seven seats, but the line-up does at least offer a wide range of well-equipped model grades culminating in the SX with its full panoramic sunroof, quick-acting powered tailgate, blind-spot detection and lane-change assist. The latter seemed a bit on the oversensitive side though, beeping in your ear when your nearest lane-changing hazard is actually far away.

Higher spec versions also come with a fully digital TFT instrument cluster and a 4.3 inch colour touch screen with reverse camera, which does admittedly feel a bit on the small side given the big screens that many rivals are using nowadays.

VERDICT

The Sorento is classy, practical and somewhat more sophisticated than the body-on-frame SUVs that continue to do so well on our market and if you’re not traversing punishing farm roads everyday then do you really want or need more than the Kia?

As far as large SUVs go, this SUV is extremely desirable but being ‘Sorento-like’ is rather expensive these days, with the SX flagship setting you back R634 995.

Give up some features and there are less expensive options though, with the 2.4-litre petrol-powered LS costing R379 995 and the 2.2 diesel starting at R499 995.

FACTS

Kia Sorento 2.2 CRDi SX AWD

Engine: 2.2-litre, turbodiesel four

Gearbox: Six-speed automatic

Power: 147kW @ 3700rpm

Torque: 440Nm @ 1750-2750rpm

0-100km/h (claimed): 9.6 seconds

Top speed (claimed): 203km/h

Price: R634 995

Warranty: 5-year/150 000km

Maintenance plan: 5-year/100 000km

KIA VS ITS RIVALS

Kia Sorento 2.2 CRDi SX AWD: 147kW/440Nm - R634 995

Chevrolet Trailblazer 2.8D 4x4 AT: 144kW/500Nm – R575 500

Hyundai Santa Fe 2.2 CRDi 4WD: 145kW/436Nm – R645 900

Land Rover Discovery Sport SD4 SE: 140kW/420Nm – R640 320

Toyota Fortuner 3.0 D-4D 4x4 AT: 120kW/343Nm – R537 500

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