Up­wardly mo­bile

The Sorento lays claim to be­ing the new fam­ily SUV bench­mark

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Road Test - RICHARD BLACK­BURN CARS­GUIDE EDITOR richard.black­burn@news.com.au

CALL it the class ceil­ing. Some brands, no mat­ter how much they’ve im­proved over the years, can’t seem to make it on to shop­ping lists.

Kia is among them. The Korean brand has come on in leaps and bounds in re­cent years but still finds it hard to at­tract in­ter­est in its larger, more ex­pen­sive cars and SUVs.

The Rio and Cer­ato small cars sell well, the Sportage com­pact SUV is slowly build­ing a fol­low­ing but the Op­tima sedan and Sorento SUV strug­gle to make an im­pact.

The all-new Sorento could be the car that makes the break­through. At its start­ing price of $40,990, it’s a com­pelling propo­si­tion. But what about the top-of-the-line Plat­inum model, which costs more than $60,000 on the road?

DE­SIGN

The Sorento is go­ing to win over plenty of peo­ple in the show­room, es­pe­cially the Plat­inum model.

The cabin feels up­mar­ket, with an im­i­ta­tion leather fin­ish on the dash, mod­ern look­ing faux-wood in­serts on the doors and cen­tre con­sole and frosted al­loy sur­rounds on the air­con vents. Two-tone, per­fo­rated leather seats and a leather and tim­ber steer­ing wheel com­plete the look.

Apart from the leather trim, the main vis­ual dif­fer­ence be­tween the Plat­inum and the cheaper Soren­tos are big­ger 19-inch wheels, day­time run­ning lights, pri­vacy glass on the rear win­dows and tailgate and the panoramic sun­roof. Look a lit­tle closer and it also gets power-ad­justable, heated front and rear seats (and steer­ing wheel), a bet­ter 10speaker stereo and sun blinds for the sec­ond row.

The new Sorento is also no­tice­ably big­ger than its pre­de­ces­sor, which has lib­er­ated more leg and head room for sec­ond and third-row pas­sen­gers.

ABOUT TOWN

The Plat­inum has a cou­ple of city-friendly fea­tures that are sadly not avail­able on cheaper mod­els, most of them safe­tyre­lated. The ar­se­nal of driver as­sis­tance tech­nol­ogy in­cludes blind spot warn­ing, lane de­par­ture warn­ing and rear cross-traf­fic alert, handy for back­ing out of drive­ways or park­ing spots.

It also has a tailgate that opens au­to­mat­i­cally when it senses you’re at the back of the car, arms full of shop­ping bags. All Soren­tos get a re­vers­ing cam­era and front and rear sen­sors.

Get­ting the kids in and out of the third row is also rea­son­ably easy, with the sec­ond row seats slid­ing for­ward on the pas­sen­ger side to widen the en­try to the back seats, which have their own air­con con­trols. It’s also well pre­pared for the mod­ern fam­ily, with two USB charg­ers and three 12-volt power out­lets.

The diesel en­gine is rea­son­ably quiet at idle and tak­ing off from the lights, although there’s no fuel-sav­ing stop-start tech­nol­ogy and fuel con­sump­tion hov­ered around 11L/100km on our city loop. The in­crease in the Sorento’s size has also meant a penalty at the fuel pump, with the new model thirstier than the one launched in 2009.

ON THE ROAD

Ac­tive cruise con­trol keeps a safe dis­tance to the car in front, while adap­tive head­lights fol­low the curve of the road, im­prov­ing vi­sion at night.

It’s not a hard­core of­froader, though the Sorento is ca­pa­ble and as­sured over bro­ken sur­faces, with a com­fort­able ride and lit­tle wal­low­ing over big­ger bumps.

The steer­ing isn’t a strong point, though. It feels a lit­tle life­less and slow through corners, with an ar­ti­fi­cial feel that takes some get­ting used to.

PER­FOR­MANCE

The diesel en­gine in the Sorento is an im­pres­sive thing on the open road. With 441Nm of torque on tap, it makes light work of hills and over­tak­ing ma­noeu­vres, barely rais­ing a whim­per when you put the foot down on the free­way.

The six-speed auto is a smooth-shift­ing job and it holds on to higher gears to save fuel, us­ing the abun­dant torque to am­ble along at low revs.

The of­fi­cial av­er­age fuel-use la­bel says 7.8L/100km, but you will do bet­ter than that on the open road.

VER­DICT ★★★★

Ar­guably the new bench­mark in the main­stream, fam­ily-sized SUV class, the Sorento is not per­fect but it is gen­er­ously equipped, com­fort­able and well pre­sented in­side.

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