KIA’S SORENTO 4X4 RINGS THE CHANGES WITH A CURVY NEW LOOK

With added curves Kia’s flag­ship SUV has a stylish new de­sign, but can it com­pete with its es­tab­lished (and very pop­u­lar) 4x4 ri­vals in a tough mar­ket?

Belfast Telegraph - NI Carfinder - - Front Page - FIRST DRIVE JAMES FOSSDYKE

KIA SORENTO WHAT’S NEW?

The im­me­di­ately ob­vi­ous change is the curvy new body, but that’s not the only al­ter­ation Kia has made to its flag­ship SUV. Un­der the skin, there’s an all-new plat­form with a stronger struc­ture, an up­graded en­gine range, im­proved steer­ing and re­vised sus­pen­sion.

In­side, the cabin has a more pre­mium feel and there’s some pretty im­pres­sive equip­ment hid­ing in there too.

The trade-off for all these im­prove­ments, though, is a slight price in­crease — around 5% to be ex­act. So has the Sorento lost its key sell­ing point, or is it merely an even more ca­pa­ble al­ter­na­tive to the seven-seat SUV es­tab­lish­ment?

LOOKS AND IM­AGE

As well as be­ing longer, wider and lower than its pre­de­ces­sor, the new Sorento looks far beefier than the old car, not to men­tion more cur­va­ceous.

The bluff front end is adorned with a rather turgid ver­sion of the tiger-nose grille that comes across so ag­gres­sively on the Cee’d, and the rounded lights give a dis­tinctly un-kia-like doe-eyed look.

Nev­er­the­less, it’s ac­tu­ally quite an at­trac­tive-look­ing beast, al­beit in a cud­dly kind of way. It cer­tainly won’t look out of place in the school car park sit­ting along­side the XC90S, Out­landers and Q5s of this world.

SPACE AND PRAC­TI­CAL­ITY

Be­cause the new Sorento is big­ger than its fore­bear, in­te­rior space has greatly im­proved.

In the ‘stan­dard’ five-seat con­fig­u­ra­tion, the 605-litre boot will be more than enough for a fam­ily’s hol­i­day lug­gage or fer­ry­ing kids’ sports kit to and from prac­tice ses­sions.

Pop the two rear seats up to cre­ate a seven-seater, though, and that space is com­pressed to 142 litres, which sounds like more than it is. You’d strug­gle to fit a small suit­case in there.

The up­side of that is that you get seven seats ca­pa­ble of car­ry­ing adults, al­beit too cramped to be con­sid­ered com­fort­able. Kids, how­ever, will likely find they have plenty of room.

BE­HIND THE WHEEL

Like most SUVS of this size, the Sorento hardly han­dles like a sports car, but it’s re­fined, com­fort­able and gen­er­ally a very pleas­ant steer.

Vig­or­ous cor­ner­ing re­sults in quite a lot of body roll, but it’s no worse than, say, a Mit­subishi Out­lander. The ad­van­tage of that roll, how­ever, is a smooth ride — the un­du­la­tions are soaked up with min­i­mum fuss.

The 2.2-litre en­gine feels chunky enough to en­sure progress is ad­e­quate, but it never feels any­thing like fast. More im­por­tantly, though, it’s re­fined.

Cruis­ing along the mo­tor­way at a steady 70 won’t ne­ces­si­tate an in­crease in stereo vol­ume or raised voices and while there’s a mild grum­ble when you’re set­ting off, it isn’t es­pe­cially in­tru­sive.

Four-wheel drive is stan­dard across the range, so travers­ing muddy fields won’t be a prob­lem, but Kia is well aware that the Sorento is more likely to be seen on the school run than a green lane, so a lack of ground clear­ance means the off-road per­for­mance is ac­cept­able, rather than im­pres­sive.

It’s ef­fi­cient, though, re­turn­ing 46.3mpg on the com­bined cy­cle and 41mpg on test. The 161g/km car­bon diox­ide emis­sions aren’t bad ei­ther, and they keep tax rel­a­tively low for both pri­vate and busi­ness cus­tomers.

VALUE FOR MONEY

Value has tra­di­tion­ally been one of Kia’s big sell­ing points, and the Sorento’s £28,795 start­ing price com­pares favourably with the likes of the less spa­cious Land Rover Dis­cov­ery Sport.

To­wards the top of the range, though, the Kia seems to lose its price ad­van­tage. The upper-midrange ‘3’ model we tested came in at al­most £36,000, while top-spec ‘4’ vari­ants get an ask­ing price of al­most £41,000. That’s only £5,000 cheaper than the cheap­est ver­sion of the larger and more pres­ti­gious Land Rover Dis­cov­ery.

That said, the Kia does feel al­most as pre­mium as the age­ing Dis­cov­ery.

The cabin plas­tics are ex­em­plary and the build qual­ity seems to be pretty good too. There’s even plenty of equip­ment, with our test car get­ting leather seats, satel­lite nav­i­ga­tion, two-zone air con­di­tion­ing, 18-inch al­loys, heated seats front and rear, a heated steer­ing wheel... The list goes on and on.

WOULD BUY ONE?

The Sorento is more fam­ily SUV than ca­pa­ble mud-plug­ger, but its 2.5-tonne max­i­mum tow­ing weight and stan­dard-fit four­wheel drive will give it plenty of ap­peal to those who tow car­a­vans and horse boxes.

If you want to mix some of that 4x4 ca­pa­bil­ity with a pre­mium feel, a plethora of equip­ment and bags of prac­ti­cal­ity, the big Kia is a good-value way of do­ing it. OK, it’s by no means the last word in what a multi-task­ing SUV should be, but it’s a de­cent all-rounder that’s pitched per­fectly at fam­i­lies.

FACTS AT A GLANCE

Kia Sorento En­gine: 2.2-litre tur­bod­iesel pro­duc­ing 197bhp and 311lb/ft of torque Trans­mis­sion: Six-speed man­ual with part-time four-wheel drive Per­for­mance: 0-62mph 9secs, 124mph top speed Econ­omy: 46.3mpg (of­fi­cial) Emis­sions: 161g/km (of­fi­cial)

In a nor­mal five-seat set up the Sorento of­fers plenty of room for a fam­ily

The Sorento’s in­te­rior is well equipped, with plenty of com­fort too

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