2013 KIA SORENTO DIESEL REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Large SUV
Price: $50,390 (plus on-roads)
Fuel Economy claimed: 7.3 l/100km | tested: 9.6 l/100km.
The second-generation Kia Sorento marked a massive step forward in style and refinement for the Korean carmaker.
Along with the Cerato, reborn in 2008, the second-gen Sorento has contributed to some serious growth in Kia’s brand cachet over the past few years.
Now, enter the significantly revised 2013 Kia Sorento - but, even at more than a glance, you'd barely know it was actually all-new.
What you can’t see from outside is that underneath that mildly-updated exterior lies a brand-spanking new platform.
And that matters, because, while Hyundai has introduced a new Santa Fe that looks as fresh on top as it is below, the Hyundai's underpinnings are shared with the 2013 Sorento.
As always, Kia has had its own way with the platform to ensure a unique driving experience - rather that merely ‘re-skinning’ the Hyundai. The result is a Sorento that is significantly smoother and more refined than its topside tweaks would imply.
In $50,390 Platinum form, reviewed here, the Sorento breaks the $50k barrier for the first time, marking a $1200 increase over the pre-update model.
Is it worth it? Kia invited TMR to find out, on some of Tasmania’s finest twists and old Targa sections.
Quality: Like the exterior, the makeover of the Sorento’s interior is pretty subtle. The overall design remains unchanged, but there’s a new centre console and steering wheel, and new materials throughout.
Fit and finish is noteably improved, with the hard plastics and new soft-touch surfaces nearly a match for the new Santa Fe.
As an update though, the Sorento’s cabin misses out on the soft-touch dash that even the Rio now offers.
The 2013 Platinum does however gain a stylish and high-resolution speedometer and instrument cluster digital display.
Comfort: Interior comfort is greatly improved in the ‘new’ Sorento, particularly in the second row, where there’s 30mm more legroom than before.
There’s never been much room in the third row, suited only to pre-teens, but Kia has squeezed an extra 9mm of legroom in there.
Access to the third row is a simple affair, and the seats fold neatly away when not needed.
The seats are largely unchanged, but they’ve never been bad, with enough hip-and-thigh bolstering to suit most body types and driving conditions.
One plus is the improved materials, and the leather trim in up-spec models marks a noticeable improvement over the previous Sorento.
Equipment: Standard features in the top-shelf Platinum model include a 7-inch ‘Supervision’ speedo and instrument cluster, and a 7-inch dash display with satellite navigation and SUNA traffic data, and iPod/USB/Bluetooth/Aux audio connectivity.
There’s also 19-inch alloy wheels, a full-size alloy spare, dual-zone climate control, heated/cooled front seats (new for the Sorento), a panoramic sunroof, heated and powered folding outside mirrors, roof rails, a rear lip spoiler, LED tail-lights and second-row curtain blinds.
Storage: With all three rows in place, rear storage is limited to 258 litres. Fold away the third row and that grows to 1047 litres, and a capacious 2052 litres is available with the third and second rows laid flat.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: Motivated by the same updated 2.2 litre diesel and six-speed auto found in its Hyundai stablemate, and benefiting from an Australia-specific handling tune, the 2013 Sorento performs well on the road.
With the auto shifter, the diesel offers 436Nm of torque (the manual lists ‘only’ 421Nm).
Those figures are unchanged from the pre-update model, but with around 100kg shed from its kerb weight - bringing the big SUV under two tonnes - overtaking, and the up-hill hustle, is a breeze.
As an all-wheel-drive soft-roader, the diesel Sorento is a sure-footed wagon on unsealed roads. But with no dual-range transfer case and a low ground clearance of 184mm, steer clear of rock-climbing and deep rutted tracks.
There’s also a new FlexSteer feature - a first for Kia’s Australian range - providing three driver-selectable settings for steering weight, including Normal, Sport and Comfort modes
The gap between the settings won’t blow you away, and the wheel can still be a bit lifeless; but for 'enthusiast dads' forced into the family hauler, tapping through to Sport mode can make corners a little more fun. (If only it did something to suspension and throttle settings...)
Braked towing remains unchanged at 2000kg, and unbraked at 750kg (2500 and 750kg for manual model).
Refinement: Noise/Vibration/Harshness is noticeably improved through the addition of new insulation in the engine bay and transmission tunnel, and despite the big mirrors, wind noise is markedly low.
Wheels on the Platinum grade have been upgraded from 18- to 19-inch, wrapped in 235/55 R19 tyres. While this means that feedback on uneven roads is more prominent, road noise in the new Sorento is very well damped.
Suspension: Kia continues with MacPherson struts up front and a multi-link arrangement at the rear. It’s a new design though, with changes including longer trailing arms, a bigger sub-frame, and dual-flow dampers.
As with any large SUV, body roll and understeer is unavoidable, but the 2013 Sorento proves surprisingly resistant in corners - and noticeably improved over the previous model.
With the full benefit of Kia’s local tuning program - a relatively new undertaking that the pre-update model only saw the tip of - the 2013 Sorento is well damped and rides well on all but the poorest surfaces.
Braking: The new Sorento gets bigger front ventilated brakes than its predecessor - up from 298 to 320mm.
Pedal feel is predictable. Even with the torturous run we gave the big SUV along some of Tasmania’s best bits of bitumen, the pedal hardened a little, but remained fade-free.
ANCAP rating: Five stars
Safety features: Standard is electronic stability control, including traction control, electronic brake-force distribution, brake assist. Also vehicle stability management, down-hill brake control, hill-start assist control.
Front and reverse park sensors are standard, along with rear-view camera and parking guides, active headlights, dusk-sensing headlights.
There is also six airbags, front seatbelt pre-tensioners, active front headrests and side impact beams.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: The Sorento is covered by a 5-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty with roadside assistance. Speak with your dealer for more details.
Service costs: The Kia Connect package lists a five-year capped-price servicing programme, with costs ranging from $314 to $559 depending on the car’s service schedule. (More details here.)
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander Diesel ($49,990) - The Sorento’s platform mate, and an obvious rival. It’s also a tad cheaper - surprising, given Hyundai’s supposed place as the premium half in the Hyundai/Kia partnership.
Apart from design and some small amount of brand cachet, there isn’t a great deal separating these two, and the mechanical/technology packages are more-or-less on par.
The Santa Fe’s cabin materials are more up-market, but the Kia Connect servicing package has its own appeal. Weigh this choice carefully. (see Santa Fe reviews)
Ford Territory Titanium AWD 2.7DT ($63,240) - As far as features go, the Territory is no contest against the heavily-featured Sorento Platinum.
The Ford has a spectacular V6 diesel and class-leading handling (the Sorento was benchmarked against it) - but it’s beaten by the Sorento for fuel consumption. (see Territory reviews)
Toyota Kluger Grande AWD 3.5i ($65,490) - There’s no diesel, and it’s dearer even than the Territory Titanium.
The Kluger is as sure as they come, but it can’t match the Sorento’s feature list or its on-road spirit. As a petrol-only option, it’s also thirstier. (see Kluger reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
It’s not quite there - but with at least $12k between the Sorento and the Ford (and the BMW way off into the stratosphere), the Sorento is a very strong option.
And if creature comforts are your main priority, Kia’s big high-riding family wagon is a proper value-for-money choice.
Kia is up against it when it comes to the comparably featured and newly-styled Santa Fe - but even then, the diesel-powered Sorento Platinum is good buying.
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3.5 V6 Petrol
- Si - automatic - 2WD - $37,490
- SLi - automatic - 2WD - $40,490
- SLi Navigation - automatic - 2WD - $41,990
2.2 4Cyl Diesel
- Si - manual - AWD - $38,990
- Si - automatic - AWD - $40,990
- SLi - automatic - AWD - $43,990
- SLi Navigation - AWD - $45,490
- Platinum - AWD - $50,390