What’s Hot: Stylish 'Kia family' design, appealing cabin, long standard equipment list.
What’s Not: Gearbox mapping not quite right, tight third row for adults.
X-FACTOR: The new Sorento takes Kia's large SUV to new heights. If you're in the market for a big family crossover, it's a stellar choice.
Vehicle Style: large SUV
Price: $40,990 to $55,990 (plus on-roads)
199kW/318Nm 3.3 petrol 6cyl | 6sp automatic | 2WD
147kW/441Nm 2.2 diesel 4 cyl | 6sp automatic | AWD
claimed: 9.9 l/100km petrol, 7.8 l/100km diesel
tested: 11.8 l/100km petrol, 8.9 l/100km diesel
Remember when Kia was a bargain brand? Remember the ads that spruiked low drive-away deals and little else?
Yeah, those days are long gone.
Kia has grown up and now carries a more sophisticated air that runs right through its product portfolio. The latest model to display the Korean automaker's fancy new style is its largest SUV, the Sorento.
Packing seven seats as standard, the new-for-2015 Sorento now sports an upmarket interior and more generous equipment levels than before.
Prices are slightly up (by between $2000-$4500 depending on model), but the improvements made to the Sorento justify the extra spend. Like we said, Kia is no longer a bargain-driven automaker and the price list is evidence of that.
So, what of the new Sorento? We travelled to Port Douglas in Queensland to sample the range, and came away mighty impressed.
Si: seven seats, cloth trim, 17-inch alloys, full-size spare, 7-inch display with sat-nav, front and rear parking sensors, auto headlights, front/rear fog lights, dual-zone climate control
SLi: (in addition to Si features) leather trim, 18-inch alloys, eight-way powered driver's seat, hands-free tailgate, tinted windows, 7-inch multi-info display in instrument cluster
Platinum: (in addition to SLi features) 19-inch alloys, adaptive HID headlights, blindspot detection, lane change assist, rear-cross traffic alert, smart cruise control, panoramic sunroof, heated steering wheel, ventilated/heated front seats, heated second row, 10-speaker audio.
Luggage capacity: 142 litres with all seats up, 605 litres with 5 seats up, 1662 litres with 2 seats up
Starting the day in the entry-grade Si we were struck by just how upmarket the Sorento looks, even in base form.
This interior looks more like it belongs in a higher grade model.
The Si gets the same 7-inch colour Nav display that the SLi and Platinum receive, there's dual-zone climate control and the quality of cabin furnishings is every bit as good as the SLi and Platinum.
Cloth seats and a conventional instrument cluster are your only real clues that you're in the base model.
The dashboard is a big expanse of finely-textured soft-touch plastic, bisected by faux-wood trim that looks reasonably convincing.
That same trim also runs around the base of the A-pillars and windscreen, in a similar fashion to the Audi A7's dash.
Stepping up into the SLi nets you leather trim, LCD instrument panel, a powered driver's seat, premium audio keyless entry/ignition and powered tailgate - along with some extra cabin brightwork - but the high-grade Platinum has the most impressive spec sheet.
Not only is the Platinum's cabin available in two-tone black/beige trim as well as the standard black-on-black scheme, but it also comes equipped with dual power-adjustable front seats, heated front and outer second-row seats, ventilated front seats, a panoramic glass sunroof and HID headlamps.
Cabin comfort has improved in all models. The front seats have deeper bolsters for more lateral support, and headroom and legroom have grown in all seat positions.
The second row also slides fore and aft in a 60/40 split, with backrests that are split 40/20/40. Third row access can be a little tight though, as the leftmost second-row seat doesn't tumble forward like the Kia Carnival's.
Child seat anchorages are fitted to each second-row seat position, but mums and dads should note that access to the third row will be limited with a baby seat in the left seat.
There are no third row child seat anchorages.
The third row is now more accommodating, but it's still a child-only zone.
Headroom has improved most, but this 5'8" scribe found his hair brushing against the headliner.
Knee and foot-room is acceptable even with the second row slid all the way back, but adults won't want to be cooped up back there for long.
At least there are two air-outlets with independent fan controls to ensure adequate ventilation for the rearmost two passengers.
ON THE ROAD
- 199kW/318Nm 3.3 petrol 6cyl | 6sp automatic
- 147kW/441Nm 2.2 diesel 4 cyl | 6sp automatic
- FWD petrol, AWD diesel
- MacPherson strut front, trailing arm independent rear suspension
- Disc brakes
- Electric power steering, turning circle 11.1 metres
Though at the lower end of the range in the Si diesel, and were pleased to discover Kia's 2.2 litre turbodiesel is still a peach.
It's got almost boundless low-end torque, with 441Nm of twist available from as low as 1750rpm. That torque figure starts to tail off by 2750rpm though, so it's not the revviest diesel around. For a large SUV though, it's perfect.
It's not the most athletic powertrain though. Demands for quick bursts of acceleration - such as when overtaking on highways - are met with only a gradual increase in speed.
Trying to get in front of a road train? Plan ahead, and give yourself plenty of space.
The 3.3 litre V6 petrol engine is a new design, and is both smooth and powerful. While it has less torque than the diesel, it has far more urgency in the way is accelerates thanks to a higher power output and a greater willingness to rev
A six-speed automatic is the only transmission available in either engine, and it's an agreeable unit. In the diesel it prefers to keep revs low, only kicking down when the accelerator is firewalled.
It also likes to stay in higher gears in the petrol models, but kicks down a gear more readily.
If you're driving through a hilly area, we'd advise selecting the Sports drive mode to keep the gearbox from eternally shuffling up and down through the gears. This could be solved, we think, by better mapping of the transmission for a more 'settled' feel.
When we moved into the driver's seat of the SLi diesel, we enjoyed a more dynamically challenging route.
Though rolling on bigger 18 inch wheels rather than the Si's 17-inch rims, the SLi's ride-quality and comfort levels don't suffer at all.
The suspension is quite supple, and on the highly variable surface quality of Northern Queensland roads the Sorento rides quite well.
Big bumps are absorbed easily, body roll is minimal for such a big, tall SUV and the Sorento recovers quickly from harsh impacts.
Kia Australia invested heavily in developing a local suspension tune for the Sorento, and its chassis tuning team would seem to have delivered a well-rounded package.
They touched everything from damper tunes, to springrates, to stabiliser thickness, to power steering strength, and the net result is a car that's well-adapted to Australian road conditions.
ANCAP rating: 5/5 Stars - this model scored 36. out of 37 possible points.
Safety features: Stability control, traction control, ABS, EBD, brake assist, six airbags (including curtain airbags for the third row), front and rear parking sensors and a reversing camera are standard across the entire Sorento range.
Step up into the Platinum, and you score more active safety kit in the form of radar-assisted cruise control, blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic monitoring.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
The large SUV segment is one of the most hotly-contested, and rivals are many. Here's just a few of the Sorento's class competitors.
- Hyundai Santa Fe
- Ford Territory
- Mitsubishi Outlander
- Jeep Grand Cherokee
- Toyota Kluger
- Nissan Pathfinder
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Kia keeps going from strength to strength, and the new Sorento is proof of that.
The model that preceded it was one of the better choices in its segment, but the new Sorento sets the bar even higher.
And while it may be more expensive than before, it's far from the priciest option in the large SUV space.
The Jeep Grand Cherokee has better off-road capabilities, but lacks a seven-seat option and costs more. Meanwhile Mazda's CX-9 range tops out with a $61k pricetag, and we expect that car to be entering retirement shortly.
Kluger? Pathfinder? Both cost substantially more than the Sorento, and neither are available with a fuel-efficient diesel engine.
The Hyundai Santa Fe beats the Kia for value, but in our opinion the Sorento presents better.
Either way, who would have thought that two "value oriented" Korean brands would end up selling two of the nicest Large SUVs in Australia? Korean cars have come a long way.
PRICING (excludes on-road costs)
- Interested in buying KIA SORENTO? Visit our KIA SORENTO showroom for more information.