Long-term test (Introduction): Kia Sorento 2,2 CRDi AWD EX

A Facelifted Kia Sorento recently arrived at our offices for a six-month tenure in our test fleet. I am not usually a fan of dark-metallic paint finishes because they are difficult to keep clean, as well as the obvious issue of cabin-heat buildup (exacerbated by leather interiors of matching hues) when vehicles need to be parked outside at the height of summer. It must be said, however, this unit’s specified exterior finish makes the Sorento look significantly more upmarket than its R639 995 price tag suggests.

As it arrived shortly before this issue’s deadline, I had little time to familiarise myself with the Kia but I was instantly impressed by a range of characteristics. At 4,8 metres long and 1,9 metres wide externally, the Sorento has a commodious interior.

Equally impressive is the massive luggage bay which accommodates two folding seats providing comfy accommodation for kids (and just about enough legroom for average-sized adults).

The Sorento is powered by a 2,2-litre turbodiesel unit producing 147 kW and 440 N.m, which is delivered to all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission. The driving experience is decidedly comfort-oriented; the ride quality has a forgiving pliancy which suits the Kia to a tee. Furthermore, I saw good (indicated) fuel consumption figures in the region of 8,0 L/100 km on the open road, although that crested 10,0 L in stop-start commuting.

I am keen to try out the all- wheel drivetrain (it’s named Dynamax and produced by Magna), which is managed by an intelligent on-demand system. It is said to offer surfeit cooling capability of the clutch pack for continuous use off-road, or when towing heavy loads. In an off-road scenario, the Sorento won’t be able to compete with body-on- chassis off-roaders such as the Fortuner and Everest, which sport higher ground clearances, diff locks and low-range capability. In the Kia’s favour, however, is an independent suspension delivering a ride quality more akin to those of expensive premium SUVs. The fact that family SUVs are rarely required to traverse rough terrain makes a compelling case for the Kia when you consider bakkie- based SUVs tend to feel cumbersome to drive round town.

In the current economic climate, some buyers who used to opt for luxury SUVs are downsizing. The Sorento offers similar space and a comparable level of luxury to those vehicles but at a significantly more palatable price.

After 1 month
Current mileage:
325 km
Average fuel consumption: 9,10 L/100 km
We like: space; comfort; on-road behaviour
We don’t like: engine noisy under acceleration

Long-term test (Update 1): Kia Sorento 2,2 CRDi AWD EX

Holidays mean family time and parents would know the importance of interior space when it comes to transportation needs over the festive period. Thanks to its generous seven-seater layout, this is an area in which the Sorento excels. A sliding second row affords easy access to the accommodating rear seats folding neatly out of the boot floor. The rear-most passengers even get their own cupholders. With all the pews fully utilised, there is still decent boot space left, illustrated when it swallowed three body boards on the way to the beach.

As our family stayed home in Cape Town over the holidays, we took the opportunity to visit popular locations and enjoy activities only a short drive away. The Kia is well suited to the role of tour shuttle, as the comfortable ride combined with a torquey engine and smooth eight-speed transmission wafted us along and complemented the holiday mood. I never felt the need to toggle the drive modes, as the comfort setting caters for most driving situations.

The fuel consumption while cruising is impressive and, on a leisurely round trip to Greyton and Hermanus, the consumption dropped to as low as 7,4 L/100 km which is excellent for a vehicle of this size carrying four adults and three kids. With an 80-litre fuel-tank capacity, this equates to more than 1 000 km of range.

The Sorento’s dirt-road capability was also put to the test and it shone. The 235/60 R18 Hankook Dynapro HP2 tyres sport decent sidewalls and, in combination with the compliant suspension, offer a comfortable ride over broken surfaces at speed. A full-size spare is sited underneath the vehicle for peace of mind. The fact that the on- demand AWD system operates in the background aids stability. Al- though the Sorento managed to scale a few dirt inclines, I am still looking forward to its first proper off-road assessment, keeping in mind that it is not a hardcore 4x4 with low-range.

After 2 months
Current mileage:
3 159 km
Average fuel consumption: 9,02 L/100 km
We like: space; touring comfort
We don’t like: keeping the dark paint clean in the Cape

Long-term test (Update 2): Kia Sorento 2,2 CRDi AWD EX

Driving 400 km to a weekend destination might seem like a chore in some cars, but not in the Sorento thanks to its focus on comfort and the large interior’s excellent insulation from road, engine and wind noise. The big boot was fully utilised for the camping adventure and our family set off for the South Coast one Friday afternoon. This was the first time I experienced the Kia at the national limit for extended periods and I was very impressed with the cruising ability, overtaking punch and fuel economy remaning below 8,0 L/100 km. Enjoyable adventure? Definitely.

After 3 months
Current mileage:
4 431 km
Average fuel consumption: 8,83 L/100 km

Long-term test (Update 3): Kia Sorento 2,2 CRDi AWD EX

Soft-roaders and sand are usually not friends. However, this challenging surface is an excellent proving ground for the capability of an all-wheel-drive system. Kia says the Sorento’s Dynamax AWD system, supplied by Magna, features intelligent torque vectoring and has enough heat tolerance to withstand continuous use. This was put to the test on the white dunes in Atlantis where the Kia exceeded expectations. With tyre pressures lowered to 1,6 bar and the centre clutch pack locked, it managed to scale steep dunes and provided ideal opportunities to photograph scintillating action. 

The only black marks are the transmission’s hesitance to shift down early when extra torque is required and limited ground clearance. Consumption suffered, too, rising to 11,0 L/100 km. Although most owners would seldom venture far from the sealed surface other than the occasional dirt road, it is good to know the Kia will get you through when the going gets tough. That said, it’s always best to have a support vehicle on standby when testing the limits of any off-roader. Our ex-VW Amarok long-termer did just that in this case. 

After a glowing sand showing, the same cannot be said about the dealership experience. In preparation for a holiday, the vehicle was booked in at the multi-franchise centre in Paarden Eiland for the fitment of a towbar (R5 600) and the repair of a random self-activation of the voice-control system. The lack of communication from the dealer meant I was without the vehicle for four days and a “clock-spring” component – the apparent cause of the voice-control problem – is still on order from Johannesburg. It is a pity when a quality product like the Sorento is not backed by excellent service, as it can taint the brand’s reputation. 

After 4 months
Current mileage:
5 012 km
Average fuel consumption: 9,02 L/100 km
We like: sand performance of the AWD system
We don’t like: disappointing dealer experience

Long-term test (Update 4): Kia Sorento 2,2 CRDi AWD EX

It was time to put the newly fitted towbar to use and I hitched the Bushwakka Sundowner camping trailer for our holiday in Jongensfontein. The Kia impressed as a towing vehicle with the 440 N.m making easy work of the 1,1-tonne trailer as the combination effortlessly managed 110 km/h. As expected, fuel consumption suffered but 12,0 L/100 km while towing is still impressive. At last, I received a message from the Paarden Eiland multifranchise that the part arrived to fix the annoying voice-control problem. It took more than a month and not five days as promised. 

After 5 months
Current mileage:
6 390 km
Average fuel consumption: 9,51 L/100 km