You’ve got to hand it to the Koreans. When we were first intorduced to their vehicles in South Africa, they offered fairly good value in relatively attractive designs, but weren’t always the popular choice. One of the reasons may have been the fact that they were as yet untested in South African conditions, which wouldn’t have been the biggest obstacle to overcome if it weren’t for our extremely brand loyal nature.
The first Korean manufacturer to really make inroads into the South African market was Hyundai, but they were soon followed by sibling manufacturer, Kia. Yet Kia’s vehicles always seemed one step behind, with even more generic styling than that of Hyundai. But that all changed when Peter Schreyer became master of the pen at Kia. Suddenly, Kia’s vehicles had their own identity, a family look, a boy were they lookers.
One of the first Kias to benefit from this striking new family look was the Sorento SUV. A popular choice for many when considering the number of Sorentos on the road, the SUV now looked the business, with modern, agile styling that screamed all-raod capability even more than its predecessor, which sold 900 000 units since its introduction in 2002.
When you look at the new Sorento, it definitely doesn’t appear longer, lower and sleeker, but thanks to its clever styling (which was used to the same effect on the new Sportage), Sorento is a completely new vehicle that weighs 215kg less than its predecessor. The athletically-styled clear headlamps, trademark radiator grille and large LED taillights are some of the exterior highlights, and certainly to contribute to the car’s greater presence. Our Titanium Silver test model was also fitted with a two-part panoramic sunroof.
Designers focused on eight key development areas with the new Sorento, namely class-leading performance, increased fuel economy, reduced emissions, improved on-road handling, more responsiveness, greater cabin space and comfort, enhanced overall safety and the introduction of new technologies.
The greater cabin space and comfort is immediately noticable when you get inside the Sorento, although it’s difficult to notice the reasons for it (the A-pillar was moved forward and tailgate to the back to create more interior space). The dashboard features a modern, sweeping design of high-quality materials, and I was impressed with fit, finish and general ergonomics.
Standard equipment is excellent and includes steering wheel mounted audio controls and cruise control, power outlets in the centre console and second row, keyless entry, leather seats, a rake and reach-adjustable steering wheel, dual climate control, a radio/CD player with MP3/aux/USB/iPod connectivity, 6-speakers with built-in amplifier, 18-inch alloy wheels, Xenon headlamps and a rear view camera integrated into the rear-view mirror.
Our test model came fitted with Kia’s next-generation, cleaner, all-aluminium 2.2-litre “R” diesel engine. It benefits from a third-generation common-rail fuel system with piezo-electric injectors, an electronic variable geometry turbocharger, advanced ECU with 320bit microprocessor, and Exhaust Gas Reciculation system with cooler and bypass valve, a chain-driven DOHC 16-valve intake/exhaust system with needle-roller bearings and hydraulic lash adjusters, a balancer shaft and a close-coupled DPF (Diesel Particulate Filter) installed in the engine.
This allows the engine to generate power of 147kW and 436.4Nm of torque from 1 800r/min. The engine is mated to a 6-speed automatic gearbox with a high top gear that reduces engine revs and fuel economy when cruising at higher speeds. Acceleration to 100km/h takes 10 seconds, with a top speed of 190km/h. Fuel consumption is a claimed 7.4-litres/100km, while carbon emissions are rated at 194g/km
It’s also equipped with a single ratio (high) 4WD system with a default status that delivers 100% of engine torque to the front wheels, until one of these wheels lose grip, after which a percentage of torque is automatically transferred to the rear wheels. There’s also a manual lock mode to split the torque 50/50 between the front and the rear, while Hill-start Assist and Downhill Brake Control further assist drivers who venture off the beaten track.
The Sorento’s suspension has been changed to now feature McPherson struts at the front with an all-new, fully-independent multi-link setup at the rear, also featuring automatic self-levelling for varying people and cargo loads. ABS, EBD, ESC and a rear-parking assistant is standard, as is a Brake Assist System. The vehicle also comes standard with dual front-, side- and full-length curtain airbags, active headrests and a 5-star Euro NCAP rating.
The Sorento 2.2 CRDi 4X4 Auto is priced at R369 995, which includes a 5-year/100 000km warranty and maintenance plan, as well as 3-years, unlimited mileage roadside assistance. It faces a multitude of competitors that include the Audi Q5 2.0 TDI quattro (R420 000), BMW X1 xDrive20d Steptronic (R438 775), Chevrolet Captiva 2.0 VCDi LTZ (R404 850), Ford Everest 3.0 TDCI 4X4 XLT Auto (R391 780 – see our road test here), Honda CR-V 2.2 i-DTEC Executive Auto (R445 983 – see our road test here), Hyundai Sante Fe CRDI Auto (R409 900, although a revised model is to be launched in this coming week), JEEP Cherokee Sport 2.8 CRD Auto (R392 900), Land Rover Freelander 2.2 D SE Auto (R422 525), Mitsubishi Pajero Sport 3.2 DI-D Auto (R523 200 – see our road test here), Nissan X-Trail 2.0 dCi 4X4 LE Auto (R420 900), Toyota Fortuner 3.0 D-4D 4X2 Auto (R363 000), Volkswagen Tiguan 2.0 TDI Track & Field 4Motion Tiptronic (R399 200) and the Volvo XC60 D5 Geartronic (R496 200).
While there are some truly fantastic vehicles included in this list, none can match the Sorento on standard specification and pricing. The Audi and the BMW are smaller, while vehicles like the Pajero Sport, Everest and Fortuner technically fall into a league of their own in terms of execution. Styling will always be a subjective matter, but almost half of the above-mentioned list can’t even compete on that either.
If your mind is set on a traditionally premium SUV, odds are you won’t even look at the Sorento. However, if this is not a prerequisite, you’d be making a big mistake to not put the Sorento at the top of your list. You will undoubtedly be pleasantly surprised.
- Christo Valentyn