Big hitters from Korea
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.