Strike three

Rutherglen Reformer - - DRIVETIME -

The Kia Sorento has am­bi­tion. What started life as an agri­cul­tural cheapie has been fet­tled and pol­ished into some­thing far more re­fined. This third gen­er­a­tion model looks to have the fin­ish and en­gi­neer­ing to put the fright­en­ers on the SUV-class high fliers. Kia doesn’t re­ally ad­here to the nor­mal con­ven­tions of car man­u­fac­ture. The South Korean com­pany wants to get places fast, so its prod­uct plan­ning is ac­cel­er­ated, com­pressed into The Ma­trix-style bullet time. Cars are launched, facelifted and re­placed in half the time of many man­u­fac­tur­ers. Take the Sorento. It first ap­peared way back in 2002 and hung around for seven years. Upon in­tro­duc­tion it was prob­a­bly the best car Kia made, but that wasn’t too hard when the range in­cluded mod­els like the orig­i­nal Rio and the Shuma. The sec­ond gen­er­a­tion car got with the pro­gramme, be­ing a far slicker thing. In­tro­duced in 2010, it got straight onto the fast track; facelifted in 2012 and re­placed in 2015 with this third gen­er­a­tion car. The SUV mar­ket has evolved rapidly in that time and car mak­ers can ei­ther in­vest to in­no­vate or re­act. Kia’s cho­sen the lat­ter route with its Sorento. The UK range hinges around a 197bhp 2.2-litre tur­bod­iesel en­gine that de­vel­ops a peak torque of 441Nm. Sixty is 9.0s away from rest en route to 124mph. A great deal of work has gone into im­prov­ing re­fine­ment, with a tor­sion­ally stiffer bodyshell, ad­di­tional sound­proof­ing, acous­tic shields built into the en­gine bay, and a thicker dash­board. Depend­ing on speed, am­bi­ent noise within the cabin is claimed to be be­tween three and six per cent qui­eter than the pre­vi­ous car. An elec­tric as­sis­tance mo­tor is at­tached to the steer­ing rack rather than the steer­ing col­umn as in the old Sorento, help­ing to im­prove steer­ing ac­cu­racy and of­fer more de­tailed feed­back. The fully-in­de­pen­dent sus­pen­sion re­tains the for­mat of the out­go­ing model (MacPher­son struts at the front and Kia’s multi-link sys­tem at the rear), but fea­tures a range of mod­i­fi­ca­tions. At the rear, the sub­frame sup­port­ing the sus­pen­sion has larger bush­ings to bet­ter iso­late it from the cabin and the larger shock ab­sorbers are now mounted ver­ti­cally be­hind the axle line, im­prov­ing body con­trol. The ‘p-word’ crops up in al­most ev­ery­thing you read about the Sorento: pre­mium. It marks a mea­sure of Kia’s am­bi­tion. No longer does the brand feel it’s achieved some­thing be­ing ac­cepted into the main­stream. It wants to keep on truck­ing and leave the likes of Ford, Vaux­hall and such like be­hind. There’s lit­tle doubt that the Sorento’s ex­te­rior de­sign looks agree­ably up­mar­ket. The styling work was led by Kia’s Namyang de­sign stu­dio in Korea, with sig­nif­i­cant in­put from the brand’s Frank­furt, Ger­many and Irvine, Cal­i­for­nia stu­dios. The face of the new Sorento in­cor­po­rates long, wrap-around head­lamps and more prom­i­nent fog-lamps, as well as a larger, more up­right ‘tiger-nose’ grille, with a dis­tinc­tive three-di­men­sional diamond pat­tern. In pro­file, it re­tains the Sorento’s hall­mark long bon­net and trade­mark chunky D-pil­lar, but a lower roofline, higher beltline and swept-back shape give the car a more as­sertive, mus­cu­lar stance. The cabin fol­lows a ‘mod­ern and wide’ theme, pro­vid­ing the in­te­rior with a sta­ble, hor­i­zon­tal lay­out and ap­pear­ance. A higher pro­por­tion of soft-touch ma­te­ri­als and leather aims to cre­ate a lux­ury feel. One of the most dis­tinc­tive in­te­rior styling fea­tures is the Swiss watch-inspired cen­tre­con­sole, although to this eye it still looks more Ca­sio than Rado. There’s a stack of room in­side there though, with five or seven seat mod­els of­fered. The ex­tra 80mm of wheel­base means greater legroom through­out. Cargo space also in­creases, and ca­pac­ity with the third row seats folded flat is up 17.5 per­cent, from 515 to 605litres. The Sorento also fea­tures a neat un­der-floor ton­neau cover stor­age com­part­ment. Prices start in the re­gion of £29,000 which is still ex­cel­lent value for money. To put that fig­ure into per­spec­tive, the sim­i­larly-sized Volvo XC90 will re­quire you to dig in for another £20,000. In fact, Kia’s ask­ing for the sort of money you’d nor­mally bud­get for some­thing much smaller, such as a Toy­ota RAV4 or a Honda CR-V. At those prices, we’d for­give the Sorento for be­ing a bit rough round the edges. The fact that it looks very well-ap­pointed only makes its ri­vals’ task even tougher. All four well ap­pointed trim grades have seven seats, now with a 40:20:40 split in the mid­dle row and a 50:50 split in the rear. A six-speed au­to­matic gear­box is op­tional in place of the six-speed man­ual at the KX-2 and KX-3 lev­els and stan­dard with the plush KX-4 model. From KX- 2 up­wards, buy­ers have the choice of or­der­ing the car with­out the self- lev­el­ling sus­pen­sion fea­ture at a sav­ing of £500. The Sorento de­buts a num­ber of tech­nolo­gies to im­prove con­ve­nience and fur­ther en­hance the own­er­ship ex­pe­ri­ence. Se­lect from an AroundView Mon­i­tor, with four cam­eras help­ing the driver to ma­noeu­vre when park­ing, and a Smart Power Tailgate. This sys­tem opens the tailgate au­to­mat­i­cally when the key is ‘sensed’ in close prox­im­ity to the trunk, so own­ers can slide their shop­ping bags or heavy ob­jects straight into the ve­hi­cle. Safety hasn’t been over­looked ei­ther and the Sorento has been en­gi­neered for Adap­tive Smart Cruise Con­trol, Lane De­par­ture Warn­ing Sys­tem, Front Col­li­sion Warn­ing, Blind-Spot De­tec­tion, Lane Change As­sist, Rear Cross-Traf­fic Alert and a Speed Limit In­for­ma­tion Func­tion, which dis­plays the speed limit in the driver’s in­stru­ment clus­ter based on cam­eras de­tect­ing road­side signs. In the UK all ver­sions of the Sorento are pow­ered by the 2.2-litre ver­sion of Kia’s R-fam­ily tur­bod­iesel en­gine, which now meets EU6 emis­sions re­quire­ments. It fea­tures a new, fourth-gen­er­a­tion com­mon-rail fuel in­jec­tion sys­tem with in­creased in­jec­tion pres­sure. For the first time in a Kia, au­to­matic mod­els as well as man­u­als fea­ture the com­pany’s In­tel­li­gent Stop & Go ( ISG) en­gine stop/ start sys­tem to en­sure that no fuel is used and no emis­sions are cre­ated when the car comes to a halt. This helps to im­prove both air qual­ity and noise lev­els in ur­ban ar­eas. Au­to­matic ver­sions also have Kia’s Ac­tive ECO fea­ture, which ad­justs the op­er­a­tion of the en­gine and trans­mis­sion to pro­mote max­i­mum fuel econ­omy in mo­tion. As a re­sult, all ver­sions of this Sorento have lower fuel con­sump­tion and emis­sions. Man­ual mod­els on 17-inch wheels have com­bined econ­omy of 49.6mpg with CO2 emis­sions of only 149g/km, while for all au­to­mat­ics the re­spec­tive fig­ures are 42.2mpg and 177g/ km. Resid­ual val­ues ought to hold up well, with used buy­ers keen to get hold of a smartly-styled car with a host of mod­ern safety fea­tures and the bal­ance of a seven-year war­ranty in­tact. It’s hard not to be im­pressed at the way Kia has gone about de­vel­op­ing the third-gen­er­a­tion Sorento. While some may grum­ble that we don’t re­ally need cars to get pro­gres­sively big­ger with each pass­ing gen­er­a­tion, few would have any com­plaints about the way the Sorento has ma­tured. It’s bet­ter look­ing than be­fore and a good deal more de­sign in­put has gone into re­fine­ment, both au­ral and hap­tic. It’s just a more as­sured and con­fi­dent de­sign. What we’re still not quite see­ing is a pro­nounced Kia hall­mark with this car. It still seems a fairly re­ac­tive move to the way the SUV mar­ket is de­vel­op­ing. For many buy­ers, this is no bad thing. The Sorento looks a good deal more ex­pen­sive than it is and even in a no­to­ri­ously badge-con­scious sec­tor it would ap­pear to be just too much of a bar­gain to over­look.

Kia’s third gen­er­a­tion Sorento SUV looks

as if it’s re­ally hit­ting its stride. Andy En­right


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