Kia offer the new Sorento with a couple of engine choices with the option of a smaller, diesel unit at some point in the future – a 2.4 litre petrol unit and the one on test here – a new 2.2litre CRDi ‘R’ oil burner. It’s fair to say the lion’s share of Sorento’s will be sold with the diesel engine, and as a result the Korean carmaker has wisely restricted the petrol option to a single, two wheel drive, five-seat variant. First seen in the 2010 Sedona, the 2.2-litre engine replaces the former 2.5 litre unit, and offers greater torque, more power, with better fuel consumption and lower CO2 emissions. Behind the wheel the engine is smooth and slick, with plenty of torque available from low revs, and offers a real improvement over the old car. Kia is pitching the new Sorento at a more urban, affluent market and the lack of any rough edges on the engine is a real must for this crowd. It’s not too sluggish either capable of getting to 62mph from standstill in 9.6 seconds (10 seconds if you opt for the 4WD auto option) and will hit a top speed of 118mph. The big Kia is also surprisingly parsimonious with its use of fuel, with a combined fuel economy figure of 42.8mpg. And on test the car performed very well on this score, we managed to get above 40mpg consistently without too much difficulty. The engine is also significantly greener than what has gone before with CO2 emissions of 174g/km a massive 25% reduction, this has the happy effect of moving the Sorento from VED Band K to Band H. The previous Sorento was capable of hauling up to 3,500kg on its tow bar, however this isn’t the case for the new monocoque construction of the Sorento, which has seen towing capacity fall to 2,500kg – which will be fine for the vast majority of caravan owners.
With the new Sorento’s switch from rugged, off road beast to chunky, urban, beauty Kia has made the car more enjoyable to drive while on tarmac while toning down the car’s off road capabilities. A decision which Kia has insisted is the way forward for most car maker’s building SUVs. The result is a large family car with bags of space, good levels of refinement and specification, which is easy to live with and drive. The new Sorento sits 19mm lower to the ground and benefits from a significant reduction in drag coefficient; this all helps it giving the driver a much improved driving experience to the previous iteration. While the seating position remains high, the car doesn’t suffer from any noticeable roll when cornering, and the car is also noticeably quieter on the road. The six-speed manual gearbox is easily likable, while the car retains enough of its previous offroad heritage to not be considered simply a “softroader”.
Pitching the Sorento at the urbanite market Kia has had an eye on what premium carmakers are sticking in their big, flashy SUVs and the result is that the KX-2 variant driven is packed to the gills with quality materials (and it’s not even the top spec available). Aesthetically the car looks good and really has an impressive presence when you come to park it up along side other cars – the clear white on test looked pretty resplendent. Inside, there’s plenty of leather knocking around the cabin, including leather steering wheel and gear knob. As usual with Kia, you’re left very impressed with their comprehensive audio offering, with a great speaker set up and good iPod integration. KX-2 specification adds to the base KX-1/1 level of equipment by adding dual zone climate control, cruise control, folding wing mirrors, heated front seats, reversing sensors and privacy glass. Chrome exterior door handles also adds to the appeal of the Sorento, aiding that feeling of premium SUV. As on all new Kia’s the Sorento has the carmaker’s leading 7 year/100,000 miles transferable warranty, so they must be pretty confident that its built to last, and on the evidence of the road test its hard to find fault with the materials used.
The new Sorento became the third Kia to achieve the top five-star rating with Euro NCAP and every car features ABS and ESC (electronic stability control) as standard. Kia has also included a few other systems such as Hill-start Assist control (HAC) and Downhill Brake Control (DBC) which further gives the driver peace of mind that the car will remain under their total control. In the event of a crash the car has a roll-over loop incorporated into the B-pillar area of the car, while additional side impact protection has been built into the interior door trim. Throw in six airbags as standard and you have one very safe motor vehicle.
Available with a choice of five or seven seats, it’s likely that the seven seat models will be the most popular and this is reflected in Kia’s decision to limit the five seat offering to the base petrol, 2WD version. Comprising a pretty standard 2-3-2 formation, the third row is flat folding and while they’re a struggle for adults they’re perfectly fine for children. As you should or would expect the third row does take a massive bite out of the available luggage space – with a skinny 111 litres available if you’re planning on filling all seven seats. Fold those third row seats down and space rockets up to 531 litres, an improvement of 96 litres over the previous model. Fold away both second and third rows and you’re left with enough space to set up your very own Bat Cave.
Prices start at £22,495 for the 2WD, five-seat petrol-powered Sorento, however Kia are probably right in thinking that this will sell in low numbers – perhaps only 5% of sales will be for this base-level model. The majority of customers will be queuing up for a diesel powered variant and the seven-seat, AWD 2.2l diesel KX-2 on test retails at £26,395. Yes this isn’t cheap but there’s a heck of a lot of car (and equipment) for your money. Add in the decent fuel economy figures and good CO2 emissions figure and when compared to many large SUVs the Sorento wont burn a large hole in your wallet. Although attitudes are changing there is still badge snobbery at work in the motor trade, with Kia and Sorento entering a new market it will be interesting to see whether they can jump this hurdle. For those urbanities looking for a big, flashy, and very safe SUV then do yourself a favour and look past the badge on the grille. Give yourself a week in the car and you’ll be glad you did.