Kia Sorento Review

Rating: 6.0
$37,490 Mrlp
  • Fuel Economy
  • Engine Power
  • CO2 Emissions
  • ANCAP Rating
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2010 Kia Sorento First Steer Review

There was a famous advertising campaign by a rental company in the United States some time ago that depicts the attitude of some large multi-nationals. The advert read "We are number 2, so we try harder". This is a very good way to explain why sister companies Hyundai and Kia have been kicking so many goals lately. They are out to beat Toyota.

Whilst the Japanese seem to be contempt with their ideas, the Koreans are pushing as far and as fast as possible. A similar story to what happened when the Japanese first came to the market and woke up the European and American car manufacturers. Many parallels can be seen between the business plan of big Japanese companies during the 80s-90s to the Koreans today.

Kia has gone from a brand associated with little and cheap cars to producing some of the best looking cars we've seen all year. Starting this year with the Kia Cerato, then the Cerato Koup, the Korean company has ended its Australian invasion for 2009 with the introduction of the all-new second generation Kia Sorento.

The previous Sorento was a car that put Kia on the map. Kia sees Sorento as the vehicle which changes the consumers mind about what Kia really means and for that reason an extreme amount of effort is put into the new Sorento to stand out amongst the pack.

To launch the car, Kia invited the motoring press to Coolum on the Sunshine Coast. From here we would travel hundreds of kilometres, on dirt and asphalt to get to know the new Sorento as well as possible.

Since its launch in 2002 (2003 in Australia), nearly 900,000 first-generation Sorentos (pictured above) have been sold worldwide with about 9,000 of them in Australia. Back in 2003 there were 12 competitors to compete against, now there is 18 and more are coming. Incidentally, the market for such vehicles has also almost doubled in size in the last six years.

All of this means the new Sorento really needs to have its game together. We saw a glimpse of the new Sorento as the KND4 concept back in 2007 at the Seoul Motorshow and although the production version gained two more doors and added a few kilos here and there, the similarities between concept and production model are rather apparent.

Perhaps the biggest change at Kia has been the introduction of Peter Schreyer in charge of Kia design, formerly the head designer for Audi, Schreyer has brought a new European design to all new Kias, starting with the Cerato and Cerato Koup. The Schreyer grille, as it's called, has been a great hit with consumers who often can't believe the cars are Kias!

Apart from looking a heck of a lot better than the old Sorento, the new model is also designed with aerodynamics in mind, it's 95mm longer but 15mm shorter and 55mm lower. It also has a drag coefficient of 0.38 compared to 0.43 of the previous model and weighs 215kg less than before. This is partially due to the move from body-on-frame type chassis to a monocoque.

I still can't work out why the Koreans are designing such beautiful cars whilst some of the Japanese manufacturers just can't seem to get their designs right. Not that it's any worry to Kia or Kia customers. From the front the new Sorento looks far more expensive than it really is and the rear is no different.

Black bezel wrap-around headlamps at the front and LED rear lights give the new Sorento a very European look. Meanwhile the two-tonne bumper is meant to express off-road ability.

With such a gorgeous exterior, the interior has to match also. Although Kia says it has worked extensively to carry the vibe inside, there are still hard plastics on the doors and dashboard. Nonetheless, it's hardly worth complaining about as overall it looks very Mazda-esque inside, which is a good thing.

The big news with the new generation Sorento is the choice of engines. In order to keep petrol lovers happy a 2.4-litre Theta II engine is still offered which delivers 128kW and 226Nm of torque with a combined fuel economy of 9.2L/100km. Frankly you'd be rather misinformed to buy a Sorento with a petrol engine and I hope to convince you in favour of the diesel. Kia knows this too, which is why petrol is only offered in the base specification.

The real engine for the new Sorento is the 2.2-litre R-turbo diesel. Now this engine makes little sense for one particular reason, it out performs pretty much any other diesel engine in the same category, something you just don't expect from Kia, but times are changing.

The small capacity diesel puts out an impressive 145kW and a massive 436Nm of torque at just 1,800 RPM (in auto - manual is 422Nm). Fuel economy is 6.7L/100km in manual and 7.4L/100km in auto. So it has a smaller capacity than its petrol brother, puts out 17kW more power and around 200Nm more torque. The choice really isn't that hard.

You know Kia & Hyundai are serious about putting this engine is pretty much everything as they have as they've spent 42 months designing it in Europe, it cost the Koreans around $250 million and took a team of 150 engineers. A great deal of hot weather testing was also conducted right here in Australia. All of this investment has paid off as the Sorento diesel is superb.

Although the new Sorento's fuel tank is 10L less than the previous generation it can still travel further, Kia claims it will manage around 1,040km on a single tank. If you do a lot of highway driving, expect figures in the low to mid 4L/100km. The engine design is capable of being Euro 5 and Euro 6 compliant during its life cycle but currently only meets Euro 4 standards.

Apart from the engine the Hyundai-Kia group has also independently designed its own six-speed transmission, a sign of a company that wants to get to number one. Work on this took even longer than the engine, over four years and 300 patents. According to Kia, the transmission is the world's most compact 6-speed automatic.

Compared to the old five-speed used by the company, the new box helps deliver 10 per cent better fuel economy, 14 per cent faster 0-100km/h time and 24 per cent quicker 60-100km/h time. It also just happens to weigh 12kg less and use 62 fewer parts. How a six-speed has less parts than a five-speed is a concept I won't try and understand.

One of the clever ways in which it helps save fuel is to go from Drive to Neutral when the car is stopped, of course it does this without the driver's knowledge and it was all rather seamless when tested. Additionally the gearbox is sealed completely, so it requires no maintenance or oil changes.

One of the complaints with the new Sorento will be it's lower towing capacity and off-road ability compared to the previous model, this is partially due to Kia's move to a monocoque chassis. According to the company only 20 per cent of previous Sorento buyers ever used their car for towing or off-roading so the decision was made to focus on the 80 per cent majority.

Not that it won't do any off-roading, far from it, during the launch we drove through many tough dirt roads and the Sorento behaved perfectly. However the 4WD variants are now 4WD on demand, which means they are driven via the front wheels until the front loses grip and power is diverted to the rear. This is all done instantly and without any input required from the driver.

When needed, a 50:50 power mode can be selected for speeds under 30km/h.

Engine, gearbox and 4WD system apart, one of the more interesting features of the new Sorento is the self-levelling system which maintains rear vehicle ride height when under load from passengers or cargo. Essentially once the vehicle is loaded up and begins to move the system will slowly adjust it self to bring the rear back up to its original height. Benefits include reduction in tyre wear, a constant headlamp angle and increased ground clearance.

The new Sorento is the first Kia 4WD to be offered with seven-seats in Australia. The additional seats are standard across the entire model range and having sat briefly in the third row of seats, they are great for kids but large adults with struggle over long distance trips. Cargo space is 1047L with a five-seat configuration and over 2000L with only two-seat setup.

Moving to safety, the situation with the current Sorentos available in Australia at the time of writing is somewhat humorous. Due to the most simple omission, be that a seat-belt reminder for the passenger, the new Sorento misses out on a 5-star safety rating from our own ANCAP. Of course it has already been granted the maximum 5-stars from Euro-NCAP.

Kia Australia says models delivered from December onwards will have the seat-belt reminder and hence score five-stars in the local tests. So if an annoying beeping reminder system doesn't phase you, don't be alarmed by it's temporary four-star local rating.

Six airbags are standard, so is electronic stability program, traction control system, anti-lock brake system, electronic brake distribution and brake assist. Hill-start assist control and downhill brake control complete the passive and active safety features.

All the facts and figures aside, when it came down to it, driving the new Sorento was surprising. Even through bumps and heaps of dirt roads interior noise and comfort was never an issue. Steering response is precise and road noise is very low thanks to 4mm thick glass used for the front side windows in addition to excellent sealing. It also helps that the new diesel engine is relatively quite (unless you're really going for it).

The front and rear seats are comfortable and through the whole process my iPhone was plugged in, charging and playing tunes through the Sorento's great stereo.

At one stage my co-driver and I were chasing a group of five SUVs, a Forester and four new Sorentos, as the dust had covered the cars so much I mistook one of the new Kia's for an Audi, I would be most amazed if an average person can guess the Sorento is from Korea if the badge was removed. Which is saying a lot for the Korean brand.

Kia Australia says the target market for the car is 35-50 year olds who currently own a Sorento or similar mid-sized SUV. Of course the company would love to steal sales away from its Japanese rivals. It sees its primary competition with the Holden Captiva (also Korean-made), sister car Hyundai Santa Fe (which is about to undergo a facelift and gain the same engine and gearbox as the Sorento) and the ageing Mitsubishi Outlander. The Toyota Rav4, Nissan X-Trail and Subaru Forester are viewed as secondary competitors.

The new Sorento is available from $36,490* in petrol and $39,990* in diesel. There will be seven exterior colours from the show-room (white, black, 2 x silver, blue, red, beige) or four gorgeous special dealer order colours (Java Brown, Metal Bronze, Khaki, Inky Blue).

Pricing and specifications for the new 2010 Kia Sorento are below. CarAdvice will soon spend a week with the Sorento and bring you a complete road test and review.

*Pricing is a guide as recommended to us by the manufacturer.

2010 Kia Sorento specifications.

Fuel Consumption (L/100KM)CO2
2.4L Theta II2WD AUTO9.212.27.2219
2.2 RCRDi4WD MANUAL6.78.75.5177
4WD AUTO7.49.56.1194

Interior Dimensions Comparison (mm)

Next-generation SorentoDifferencePrevious Sorento
Row 1996- 121008
Row 2995+ 1994
Row 3906--------
Row 11048- 341082
Row 2955+ 27928
Row 3795--------
Shoulder room
Row 11506+ 101496
Row 21491+ 71484
Row 31366--------
Hip room
Row 11431--------
Row 21421--------
Row 31128--------
Trim levelEngineTransmission (6-speed)DrivetrainSeatingPrice $(RRP)
Si2.4L petrolA/T2WD7-seat36,490
2.2L dieselM/T4WD7-seat39,990
SLi2.2L dieselA/T7-seat45,990
Platinum2.2L dieselA/T7-seat48,990

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