New road for Sorento
Kia looks to a new urban market, writes NEIL DOWLING
THE affordable and durable Kia Sorento four-wheel drive has shed its old clothes to become a stylish suburban wagon.
In South Korea last week, Kia unveiled the Sorento with seven seats, a monocoque body, the option of an economic four-cylinder petrol engine, the availability of a twowheel-drive system and without its trademark low-range, four-wheel drive transmission.
The wagon, clearly intended for the urban market, has increased its comfortbiased features and eased off on the adventure-trail image.
Kia Australia spokesman Jonathan Fletcher says the Sorento will be on sale in January for about the same price as the current model, though engine selection and trim are still being debated.
‘‘We have the choice of a 2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, a 3.5-litre V6 petrol and a 2.2-litre turbodiesel,’’ Fletcher says.
‘‘The turbodiesel is a definite, but we’re not so sure about which petrol and even if we need a petrol. The 3.5 is less fuel-efficient than our current 3.3. The 2.4 may be too underpowered, though it may suit the two-wheel drive system in ‘mum’s taxi’ roles.
‘‘We have to look at the manual or automatic transmissions — do we bring in both or just the auto?
‘‘So then we have to decide if Australia wants a fiveseater or a seven-seater, or make the extra two seats an option.
‘‘Then we have the trim. We will get electronic stability control. The base-model LX in South Korea doesn’t get it but we will. So we’ll upgrade the LX with safety features, stability control and six airbags and bring in the upmarket EX and even look at making a limited-edition model above the EX.’’
The two-wheel-drive version will give Kia a lowercost medium-sized SUV in Australia to compete with the Ford Territory, Hyundai Santa Fe, Holden Captiva and Toyota Kluger.
It’s possible a high-spec two-wheel-drive model could be priced as low as $32,000, though Fletcher says it’s too early to predict prices.
This entry-level model with a diesel engine would compete with the Hyundai — one of Kia’s associate companies — and the similarly South Korean-made Captiva.