With SUVs continuing to narrow the gap to passenger cars, the arrival of the all-new 2016 Kia Sorento into the CarAdvice WA garage is perfect timing. Ours for an extended long-term stay, the South Korean seven-seater is the flagship all-wheel-drive Kia Sorento Platinum.
The reasons for the continual growth in popularity of SUVs (at the expense of sedans and station wagons) have been discussed extensively for more than a decade now. Regardless of whether the change is for practical reasons or simply to keep the dream of an adventurous outdoor lifestyle alive, SUVs are now the car of choice for around two out of five Australian families.
The plan is for ours to spend most of its time in the metropolitan area, but we are also going to use it as a tow vehicle and are planning to get away for an outback adventure at least once during the summer holidays - perhaps a trip down south to go crabbing, or to tour some of our state's magnificent wineries.
Kia has channelled a lot of energy into making the Sorento a much more comfortable car for day-to-day use, with improved noise, vibration and harshness levels, an all-new steering set-up and a much-improved interior in both quality and style.
With a 2000kg maximum braked tow capacity (which applies to both 2.2-litre diesel and 3.3-litre petrol variants), the Sorento is a car that is capable of towing most medium-sized caravans, and the majority of trailer boats and camper trailers on the market today. And helping us out will be a factory-fitted tow kit ($1199) and a dealer-fit electronic controller ($628) - should we have a trailer with electric brakes.
In the large SUV segment, which is dominated by the Toyota LandCruiser Prado, Toyota Kluger, Jeep Grand Cherokee and Subaru Outback, the Sorrento is closer to the lower end of the price range than the top, but is one of the leaders when it comes to standard features. Even the entry-level Si model comes standard with a six-speed automatic transmission, satellite navigation, seven-inch touchscreen, a raft of active and passive safety technology - including front-to-rear airbag protection - and one of ANCAP's highest ever five-star safety rating scores. Every model also comes with seven seats with the third row folding flat into the floor.
When you jump up to the Platinum model, the list of standard equipment expands to include active safety technology such as lane departure warning, blind-spot detection, and active cruise control. The active cruise control is impressive, as it will speed match your car to the vehicle in front, and will even drive the car to a complete stop and then take off again without any need for the driver to do anything but steer (and stay alert just in case a car veers into your path unexpectedly).
When reversing the Sorento, rear cross-traffic alert will detect if a car is crossing behind your path, which should considerably help reduce car park incidents. Rounding out the Platinum are heated and ventilated front seats, heated second-row seats and individual third-row air vents with separate on/off and fan control switches.
The driver's seat has 10-way power-assistance, as well as four-way lumbar support and an extending knee support available at the touch of a button. It would be almost impossible to not find the perfect driving position. It also comes with two memory settings, so it is simply a matter of hitting a button on the door to move the seat and wing mirrors into your preferred set-up if you share the car with your partner.
Even the passenger seat has eight-way adjustment and two-way lumbar support, and the headrests for both front seats have four adjustments.
An electric power tailgate, which can make loading and unloading the car a lot easier, is also standard along with a panoramic sunroof, HID headlights and LED daytime running lights, a heated steering wheel and built-in sunshade blinds for rear passenger windows.
Carried over from the previous generation Sorento, the Platinum's exclusively available turbo-diesel has been tweaked to produce slightly more power and torque than before (2kW and 5Nm) and, matched to a six-speed automatic transmission, claims 7.8 litres per 100 kilometres - up 0.5L/100km on the older and 76kg lighter Sorento.
As soon as you jump into the new third-generation Sorento it's hard not to be impressed by the refinement of the diesel engine. I had one friend, who owns a current model Toyota Prado diesel, ask me to turn the radio off after I told him it was a diesel engine. He was very surprised at how quiet it was.
Kia has also made marked improvements in the cabin compared to the previous model, with a more modern layout and more sophisticated feel. The old car also had 60:40 split fold seats, where the new model has 40:20:40 folding chairs for greater flexibility. There are levers in the boot to let you fold down the second row seats too, which makes loading in larger items even easier.
Still in the early days of our time with the car, almost every drive is like a little adventure, as the WA team continues to play with and learn more and more about the features of this new-look SUV. We're looking forward to continuing the adventure with the 2016 Kia Sorento and seeing how it performs with a boat behind it and how it travels on some longer runs. But that said, it's already proving to be quite a surprise package.
Kia Sorento Platinum
Date acquired – November 2015
Odometer reading – 5136km
Travel since previous update – N/A
Consumption since previous update – N/A