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Kia's new SUV hits the streets

2013-03-14 14:09

NOOBY ON THE BLOCK: Kia has launched its third-generation Sorento in South Africa and, thanks to lots of nips and tucks, it's pretty good-looking.


2013 Kia Sorento

2013-03-14 13:55

Kia South Africa has launched the third generation Sorento. With good looks and loads of standard features, this model could give its competition a run for their money.

Since Peter Schreyer joined the Kia team as chief designer the Korean automaker has been pushing out some really good-looking cars. This the third-generation Sorento is one such.

Kia SA’s genial CEO Ray Levin admitted that sales would probably be stable through 2013 as stock supplies were limited - Kia prefers quality over quantity - and the automaker is subject to 10-15% price increases, they’re hopeful the new Sorento will brighten their days.

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Considering how boxy and bland that first generation was - the term 'ou doos' is a perfect description - the latest model has some good styling notches.

The previous model was launched locally in 2010 and although it was a vast improvement over the first generation this one takes its design traits to a whole new level.  Gone are those chunky rear lights and the somewhat weird shape the car tried to wedge itself into at the front. Everything seems to have been streamlined, chiselled down.

The car is completely redesigned with a new front bumper, the distinctive tiger's-nose grille, LED headlights and vertical fogs while the rear has a new tail door with sleeker LED tail lights.


Kia SA says the previous eight-strong range has been trimmed to two: the lower-specced of the two is a two-wheel drive, while the second an all-wheel drive with all the trimmings – R80 000 worth - but what’s cool is that the two-wheel drive is priced the same as three years earlier at about R400 000.

Slotting in above the Sportage, the Sorento will compete directly against popular models in the market such as Honda's CR-V, Chevrolet's Captiva and Hyundai's  Sante Fe, and it’s going to have a tough job standing out against its rivals, despite its good looks.


There are enough standard niceties in the entry-level model to keep the average Bob happy: cruise control, audio steering controls, dual airconl, parking radar, leather upholstery...  For the extra bucks on the more expensive model you'll get a sunroof, keyless entry, high-intensity discharge xenon headlights, alloy pedals, a touch-screen radio display, stop/start engine button, rear-view camera, Bluetooth  and a third row of two seats.

As Levin said: “What you see is what you're paying for and that’s why we’ve brought the range down to two models because most of the features included in the car – even on the cheaper model – are what is expected to be in it already."

The only way to tell the two models apart externally is to look for the 18” rims on the 2WD or 10-spoked 19” alloys on the AWD.

We drove the higher-spec model during the launch in Johannesburg so when stepping into the car I found rich leather seats. Everything else my hands ran over had soft touches; no cheap plastics in sight.


My favourite item was the ventilation and heating available in those front seats. Talk about chilling your cheeks on a hot Highveld day...

There’s also a nifty, digital instrument cluster. While it looks great and displays loads of information it's also too much of a distraction. I kept wanting to scroll through the display options instead of focusing on the road. I hope that novelty will wear off soon should you buy one.

When the rear seats are folded flat there’s enough room for a hen party in the boot. Have them up and you’ll not believe two more seats exist under the floor in the AWD model, especially as the car is 10mm lower. Leg and head room are not as accommodating as you’d find in other seven-seaters.


Under the bonnet there’s the same 2.2 TCI (turbocharged intercooler) diesel engine found in the previous model, making the same 147kW and 436Nm from 1800-2500rpm as before. While the engine is the same, it's been tweaked to be more eco-friendly thanks to a new exhaust system which reduces nitrogen oxide and carbon emissions.

According to Kia SA, other carried-over technology includes the third-generation 1800-bar common-rail fuel system with piezo-electric injectors, an electronic variable geometry turbocharger and advanced engine control unit with a 32-bit microprocessor.

Both versions of the Sorento have a six-speed auto/manual sequential gearbox which shifts the AWD from 0-100 in 9.9sec, a whole tenth faster than the outgoing model.


I was pretty impressed by how quiet the diesel engine was. My driving partner and I stopped talking and turned down the radio to try and hear anything. It's as quiet as a mouse stealing cheese.

Ride quality is smooth but, thanks to a much-needed urge for a rest-stop, I really took note of how the bumps and twisties of the sweeping Kromdraai road translated into the car. And boy, was there a conversation.

The suspension uses Macpherson struts with coil springs and gas-assisted shock absorbers with an anti-roll bar front and rear. The AWD model adds self-leveling which aid progress through the curves and the 2.2 engine is enough for a quick overtake, with a tad more careful calculation is needed depending whether you’re in auto or manual sequential mode.

The Sorento has 185mm ground clearance - enough for some off-roading or shopping-mall kerbs.

Safety goodies include six airbags, various active and passive safety necessities such as electronic stability control, hill-start assistance, cornering brake control, anti-lock brakes, traction control, roll-over protection and active head restraints.

The car includes a five-year or 150 000km warranty, five-year or 100 000km maintenance plan and three years of roadside assistance.

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