Nelspruit – As the flagship offering in Kia South Africa’s product portfolio the new third-generation Kia Sorento is tasked with not only representing this increasingly popular Korean brand within the local large SUV segment but also with setting a stage in terms of quality and refinement for all future models. As such, despite a clear evolutionary approach adopted while penning the new Sorento’s lines, Kia feels confident this is the model with which to move the brand towards its next market growth targets.
That said, it was somewhat disconcerting to discover the presence of a family familiar (and inconceivably small) infotainment screen within this purportedly ground-breaking package. I was, however, assured that an all-new, large format screen, incorporating Sat Nav, will soon be offered as an R11 000 option (able to be retro fitted into existing models) throughout the range.
Having spent 12 months behind the wheel of a long-term test second-generation Sorento, the new car immediately impresses with newfound levels of perceived build quality and a feeling of refinement from behind the wheel. Certainly the leather-bound steering wheel fitted to all-but the entry-level model helps with this initial feeling of sophistication but the presence of various soft-touch materials throughout the cabin also goes a long way towards affording this new Kia a welcome premium feel, regardless of which of its seven seats you might occupy.
Indeed, while five-seater variants are available throughout the range you have to feel the Sorento puts its most marketable foot forward when configured with two additional seats; items neatly folding away below the boot board when not required.
By the same token, while the 2,4-litre petrol engine represents a somewhat breathless entry-point into the range it’s the familiar “R family” 2,2-litre common-rail turbodiesel engine that’s best suited to shifting the Sorento’s near 2-tonnne overall mass. Here a new intake manifold, new exhaust gas recirculation system and more precise variable-geometry turbo control serve to improve overall efficiency, as well as deliver slightly more torque (440 N.m) over a broader range of engine speeds (1 750 – 2 750 r/min). Mated exclusively with a six-speed automatic transmission it’s a drivetrain that continues to impress both with its with its performance and dexterity. Further to this Kia has done an admirable job of sealing the new Sorento’s cabin (and its occupants) from any unwanted turbodiesel clamour.
95 mm longer and marginally wider than the model it replaces, Kia’s new large SUV is spared a potentially ungainly profile by a corresponding lowering of the roofline. An 80 mm extension of the wheelbase the new car frees up even more occupancy- and luggage space than the already impressive model it replaces. While access to the third row of seats could be made simpler with the incorporation of a tumble movement into the second row bench mechanism, its ability to slide forward within a 135 mm range does come in handy. The reward for a clamber into the rearmost pews is a decent amount of head- and legroom for all but the tallest adult occupants. The presence of climate control air vents for all seven occupants is a welcome inclusion. Indeed, in terms of convenience and comfort Kia continues to be particularly generous when it comes to standard specification. In this the top-of-the-range Sorento this includes leather upholstery, a comprehensive audio system, a full glass sunroof and an electrically operated tailgate (automatically engaged whilst standing within 70 cm from the rear bumper).
Revisions to both the front and rear (independent) suspension, combined with a 14 % increase in torsional rigidity in the all-steel platform sees overall ride comfort, even on top spec 19-inch alloy wheels nearing class-leading levels. While the electric power steering remains on the light side there is nevertheless additional weighting to be enjoyed once a Sport driving mode has been selected. Alternatively this system offers either a Normal or Eco mode. The latter controlling throttle inputs and transmission settings for improved overall efficiency.
As with the previous-generation Sorento, AWD models feature a Dynamax all-wheel-drive system able to transfer torque to the rear wheels should any loss of traction be detected. A 50/50 torque distribution can also be locked into place up to speeds of 40 km/h.
While a conservative approach to the overall styling, together with the familiarity of the instrumentation and drivetrain componentry can make the all-new Sorento feel simply like a heavily face-lifted evolution of the previous model, where the new car shifts the bar (and excels) is in its newfound levels overall refinement and sophistication. Where Kia has historically made positive inroads into the South African car buying landscape through offering impressive value-for-money products designed to stand out from the crowd it seems a new focus on build quality and poise is where the brand might win greater popularity going forward. The new Sorento carries its flagship duties with aplomb.
Engine:2,2-litre common-rail diesel
0-100 km/h:9,6 sec
Top Speed:203 Km/h
Fuel Consumption:6,6 L/100 km
Maintenance Plan:5 year/100 000 km