The new generation KIA Sorento has received more than its fair share of comments and reviews over the last year; so what can I write that can add any value? My perspective differ (in my opinion) on 3 definite points:
– When I purchase this vehicle I did not have a specific budget in mind. My upper limit was 100k.
– I can offer critical real ownership experience after 17000km.
– Most of my previous vehicles were from premium manufacturers.
To start off, I will put it out there, I don’t favour SUV’s. The “commanding” driving position and go-anywhere capability simply doesn’t appeal to me. I like refinement. Handling. Speed. I am still of the opinion that a well-sorted wagon can do almost everything better than an SUV; unfortunately I am not the only decision maker in our household. So as it turned out, for the last couple of years we always had a SUV and a sedan filling the garage. In 2011 when the first baby arrived the 3 series BMW had to make way for a 2.0d X3 and after 4 years of excellent service we needed a 7 seater to enable the grandparents to share the love so to speak. In a way the X3 provides a good platform for comparison.
When we started looking for a 7 seater I did not have a budget in mind. The requirements revolved mainly around space and safety with the added bonus that it should (hopefully) not feel like you are driving a bus or a ute. Initially the shortlist was reduced to a X5 25d and the Discovery Sport SE. The base model X5 was offered at a very keen price with the only option being third row seating and at 85k drive away it was tempting. The lack of AWD and some basic features did put a damper on our enthusiasm. The Discovery was simply too small with some questionable interior finishes in some areas; the base model 7 seat pricing of 65k also did not help. We were starting to expand our search again when the new Sorento was released. After some positive initial impressions I decided to pay the local KIA man a visit.
First impression last and it is clear that KIA was going for an understated, if not a bit boring, exterior look. The only features partially redeeming the Platinum model are the LED lighting and nice looking 19 inch wheels. It is as soon as you open the door that you realise where they had spent most of their development resources. The interior is genuinely plush and the quality of touch points are very close to the premium large SUVs. How do you define luxury? For me it is encapsulated in the small details and as you can see in the photos it is here where KIA delivers. Small metal strips surrounds the switchgear and the metal door latches feels cold and solid to the touch; no fake aluminium plastic. The start button, sitting inside dual rings made of metal and piano black is another fine example…. and the button can also start the engine.
The engine/gearbox combination must be a highlight. The Sorento never feels short on power with the diesel engine being surprisingly lag free. 147kW and 447NM is nothing to sneeze at and sits at the upper end of per capacity output. Having 2 cogs less than the BMW X3 transmission I was expecting an all round less refined experience. What the Kia 6 speed conventional auto proves is that 8 speeds probably bring almost zero benefit in the real world. It is smooth and in the correct gear most of the time. If you feel you need it to be a bit more aggressive sport mode can help….(maybe they should have called it “sportier” mode). Fuel consumption has been excellent thus far averaging 7.8l per 100km; exactly as claimed by the manufacturer. Negatives, sure, every egg has a small crack. (Think Anthony Hopkins; Fracture). Relatively speaking, compared to the X5 25d, you have a slight diesel clatter at idle and close to the red line it doesn’t sound as purposeful as the BMW. Compared to its $50-$60k competition it is hushed.
Ride and handling is another example of KIA making huge strides. Comfort at urban speed is second to none (for a vehicle without air suspension). Surprisingly it bests both the X5 and Discovery Sport at low speeds. Urban bumps, ruts, potholes etc. means nothing to this vehicle. At higher speeds you realise that every action (read every suspension tune) has an equal and opposite reaction. The Sorento exhibits a fair bit of body roll and a steering that is not particularly accurate will make the KIA an unlikely feature at your next track day. The soft suspension is a pity though because around longer, high speed curves the car actually feels well balanced once the initial body roll settles. Mid-corner bumps are dealt with well and grip levels well beyond the vomit levels of princess “Anna” and “Elsa” in the back. As a family vehicle it is well judged.
KIA’s have always delivered value for money and the Sorento Platinum is no exception. It features all the “normal” things you would expect in a $55k SUV including heated and cooled seats with memory settings, heated steering wheel, Blind-spot, lane departure, cross-traffic monitoring, digital instrumentation, tyre pressure monitor, LED interior lighting…. the list goes on. The famed 7 year warranty helps and it must be the first vehicle I owned where the first 15 000km service came in at almost $50 LESS than the fixed service cost! The kids love the space and the massive glass roof. The electric tailgate is quick to open to a generous boot space. Third row seating (with decent but not great space for adults) folds flat when not in use and you can pull them up or collapse them with one hand; very clever. I personally like the speed camera/limit warnings and the clever average speed camera calculation in the Sat-Nav system. My favourite feature must be the one of the best calibrated adaptive cruise control systems on the market. It can bring you to a full stop in heavy traffic and start on its own again. Even if someone cuts you of in traffic the system will not jump on the brakes, coasting or breaking gently to maintain the set following distance instead. A glaring omission for me is a collision warning system and/or autonomous braking. I investigated this with KIA and the hardware is installed and capable. Why not activate the collision warning system and the camera speed sign recognition system as available in the overseas models? (I am waiting for your answer KIA).
In summary, if you got this far I don’t have to tell you that I find this a genuinely impressive vehicle. Not because of the bells and whistles but because it represents a real alternative to someone wanting another option than the garden variety premium SUV without paying extra for the fancy glass and concrete “fashionista” dealerships. Sure; it is not 100% there yet; but it is almost frustratingly close……. ignore KIA at your own peril.