Surprising even the harshest critics, new Sorento has to be driven to be believed.
- 2009 Kia Sorento Si CRDi; 2.2-litre, four-cylinder, turbo-diesel; six-speed automatic; wagon - $41,990*
- Metallic Paint $450 (Fitted - Ebony Black)
Words by Matt Brogan Pics by Brendan Nish
The newest member of the CarAdvice long-term fleet, our shiny new Kia Sorento Si diesel, is already proving to be a practical, comfortable and, above all else, economical SUV.
With seven seats and acres of cargo space the Sorento has been put to task gathering the larger items required for our family Christmas function and, with the third-row seats stowed flat in to the floor, had no trouble carting two trestle tables, a dozen folding chairs and a marquee - with room to spare.
Highway trips are comfortable with the spacious cabin also proving quieter than expected at 66dB (@ 100km/h). Ventialation and temperature control is diligently managed by the single-zone climate control, though the lack of third-row ventilation outlets is a little concerning, and a let down considering how accommodating the sixth and seventh seats actually are (full dimension info at bottom of page).
New Sorento is also proving to be a good all rounder, dealing competently with suburbia and the open road alike. We've piled on nearly 1,500km since collecting the Sorento early last week, and with only a touch over 2,500km now on the odometre, fuel consumption is averaging an impressive 8.43L/100km - a figure I expect to improve as the engine frees up.
And what an engine it is. The 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel unit develops an ample 145kW of power mated to a mass of torque - 436Nm all told - which is completely usable and free flowing from just 1,800rpm. The engine itself is quiet and free of the 'rattle' typically associated with diesel powered units.
Turbo lag is virtually non-existent, overtaking is brisk and hills are barely noticed thanks to Kia's new, silky smooth six-speed automatic transmission. There's no hunting or slow decisions here, just intuitive and prompt selections.
On the downside, the lack of parking sensors or rear-view camera make reverse parking a little tricky and I'd highly recommend fitting either or both if you're considering a Sorento (these options are standard on more highly spec'ed models). 'C' pillar visibility is also a little obscured thanks to the crescent shape at the top of the glass - a niggling issue when reversing back from 45-degree parks. Otherwise Sorento offers a commanding forward view and to the side, further assisted by large electric, self-folding mirrors.
To date the majority of Sorento's driving has involved the mundane weekday commute, but evidence of competent handling and solid braking are already shining through, even if the brake pedal could do with a touch more assistance. Steering is delightfully weighted with a decent level of road feel that comes as a pleasant surprise when considering the car's proportions (expect more on Sorento's drive and off-road performance over the coming weeks).
Though the refined drive and confident performance have come as no great surprise to myself, what has caught me a little unaware is the reaction of friends and neighbours to the Sorento, most finding it hard to believe it's a Kia.
So far our glossy black SUV has been mistaken for a Ford - "is that the new Ford Territory?" - a Toyota - "that new Toyota Kluger looks good in Black" - and, wait for it, an Audi, perhaps proving Kia are on to something with this design.
The Si model on test over the next few months is certain to be the volume seller for Kia's Sorento range, and though it lacks some of the technical wizardry found in the SLi and Platinum models, still boasts an impressive range of standard features and safety gear to represent excellent value for money.
Stay tuned for an update in a few weeks.