New road for Sorento

Kia looks to a new ur­ban mar­ket, writes NEIL DOWL­ING

Herald Sun - Motoring - - First Drive -

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.

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