Big hit­ters from Korea

Business Day - Motor News - - FRONT PAGE - John Floyd

Mo­tor News trav­elled to Korea to test the new Kia Sorento and a spe­cial ex­ec­u­tive cruiser

FROM hum­ble be­gin­nings is a say­ing that is truly ap­pro­pri­ate for Kia Mo­tors. The com­pany was founded in 1944 and was known as the Kyung­sung Pre­ci­sion In­dus­try and pro­duced bi­cy­cle com­po­nents. Then in 1951 the com­pany masspro­duced Korea’s first lo­cal bi­cy­cles and 10 years later moved onto mo­tor­cy­cles.

The first foray into larger forms of trans­port oc­curred in 1962 with the pro­duc­tion of a three-wheeler truck known as the K-360. It was 1974 be­fore the first Kia car was built and ex­ported to the Mid­dle East un­der the name of the Brisa. Then it was the Ford Fes­tiva, locally known as the Pride, which car­ried the com­pany from 1986.

The com­pany was de­clared bank­rupt in 1998 due to the then fi­nan­cial cri­sis and it proved to be ad­van­ta­geous as Kia was ab­sorbed by the Hyundai group and never looked back. It was rated as the eighth largest global brand in 2011 and this year has shown growth of 11% and pro­duc­tion will pass the 2mil­lion mark.

Last week in Yeosu on the south­ern tip of Korea the com­pany launched a facelifted Sorento and an all-new pre­mium sedan, the Quoris.

Facelift is re­ally not the term that should be ap­plied to the Sorento as it is a lot more than skin deep. It has def­i­nitely had an up­grade at the hands of chief de­signer Peter Schreyer who has taken the brand to new lev­els of styling, in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Tom Kearns, chief de­signer from Kia De­sign Cen­tre Amer­ica.

New head­lights with LED po­si­tion­ing lights, a new tail­gate with LED com­bi­na­tion lights, and new front and rear bumpers with ver­ti­cal axis fog lights and an ex­panded choice of wheels up to 19-inch are all key new de­sign fea­tures. An op­tional new-style panoramic sun­roof is also avail­able. Ex­te­rior di­men­sions are the same as the pre­vi­ous model while height is down 10mm due to the lower sus­pen­sion ride height.

The other rea­son for the drop in height is due to one of the big­gest changes with the new model. The front and rear sub­frames are com­pletely new, and re­vised mount­ings re­duce noise, vi­bra­tion and harsh­ness (NVH) dra­mat­i­cally. These sub-frames pro­vide a low­ered cabin floor, and that re­sults in more in­te­rior space — 30mm more legroom for the sec­ond row and 9mm ex­tra for third row pas­sen­gers.

The in­te­rior of the Sorento has also re­ceived a re­fresh and the fin­ish is ex­tremely good. Our launch model fea­tured ev­ery pos­si­ble ac­ces­sory that you could imag­ine.

My time with the Quoris demon­strated the high level of de­sign and build qual­ity at­tained

I drove the 3.5l V6 Lambda MPI-en­gined 4x4 with a six-speed au­to­matic trans­mis­sion. The unit pro­duces 206kW at 6,300r/min with torque of 336Nm at 5,000r/min. The Sorento is also avail­able in 4x2 ver­sions and with a six speed man­ual trans­mis­sion.

The ride qual­ity is good with high com­fort lev­els and good han­dling. It is nice to drive an SUV that is not over sprung at the rear, bounc­ing pas­sen­gers all over the cabin. The engine pro­vides more than ad­e­quate power to meet the de­mands of any fam­ily mo­torist.

Al­ter­na­tive power trains are avail­able but at the time of writ­ing I have no clar­ity as to which de­riv­a­tives will hit our shores when the new model ar­rives dur­ing the first quar­ter of next year.

With­out a doubt the high­light of the trip was the op­por­tu­nity to drive Kia’s new flag­ship model, the Quoris. Un­for­tu­nately at this stage it will not be avail­able in SA as there are cur­rently no plans for a right-hand drive model, with the Quoris set for the mar­kets of the Mid­dle East, Asia and the US.

It may seem strange to re­port on a car not des­tined for SA, but my time with the Quoris demon­strated the high level of de­sign and build qual­ity that the Korean man­u­fac­turer has at­tained.

This large sedan is aimed squarely at the buy­ers of Teu­tonic brands and quite frankly the prod­uct looks as though it is up to the job and then some. I do not think that any ac­ces­sory or lux­ury item is miss­ing and the feel­ing of qual­ity is not just skin deep.

Pow­ered by a 3.8l V6 that de­liv­ers 216.2kW at 6,000r/min with torque of 358Nm at 4,500r/min and an 8-speed au­to­matic trans­mis­sion this lux­ury ex­ec­u­tive pro­vides a smooth re­laxed ride. NVH lev­els are very low and add to the feel­ing of cos­seted com­fort.

It is sad that this ex­am­ple will not be com­ing, but per­haps it will be bet­ter left in the tar­geted mar­kets. Lo­cal buy­ers are mainly fix­ated with cer­tain brands and even Ja­panese en­trants in the pre­mium seg­ment are strug­gling to es­tab­lish a foothold, so a Korean ve­hi­cle would cer­tainly have its work cut out. This is per­haps even more ap­par­ent when one con­sid­ers that many of the com­peti­tors’ pre­mium of­fer­ings have a sporty char­ac­ter. That is not the case with the Quoris, with the en­gi­neers in­stead en­sur­ing that it is a smooth cruiser. It is expected to sell in Korea for around US$50,000, 15% to 18% be­low its im­ported com­peti­tors.

So af­ter the long haul to and from Korea I can say that the new Sorento will be worth the wait, its re­fine­ment adding a new di­men­sion to an al­ready suc­cess­ful of­fer­ing from Kia.

NOT STAND­ING BACK: The Quoris is the Kia brand’s first at­tempt to take on Audi, BMW and Mercedes. The new Sorento, top, will arrive in SA dur­ing the first quar­ter of next year, and its in­te­rior, above, has also re­ceived a ma­jor re­fresh.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.