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Tested: Kia Sorento

2010-06-01 09:27

Hailey Philander

Vehicle Specs
Manufacturer KIA
Model Sorento
Engine 2.2-litre DOHC, four-cylinder in line, with E-VGT
Power 147 kW @ 3 800 r/min
Torque 436 Nm from 1 800 to 2 500 r/min
Transmission six-speed automatic
Zero To Hundred 10.0 seconds
Top Speed 190 km/h
Fuel Tank 70l
Fuel Consumption 7.4 l/100 km
Weight 1 810 kg
Boot Size 258 l - 2 052 l
Steering hydraulic power-assisted rack and pinion
ABS with EDB and BAS
Tyres 18-inch alloys with 235/60 R18 tyres
Service Intervals 20 000 km or one year
Warranty five-year/100 000 km
Price from R400 000
The Kia Sorento is not something that previously would have sent my heart aflutter. Honestly, the first generation model in my books was dull dull dull and completely not worth more than a cursory glance of acknowledgement.

A few years later and the all-new Sorento is a radically different beast. Where the last Sorento was a plain ol’ thing with a bakkie-inspired ladder frame chassis, the new model sports a monocoque construction for a more car-like driving experience. The new flagship has been thoroughly redesigned for a more youthful appearance and comes with a third row that now allows seating for up to seven.

Viewed from outside, the Sorento gets the new face of Kia showing the influence of the company’s new design hero Peter Schreyer. Seen on models like the Cerato and the funky Soul, the chrome-edged grille and the angular lines work well on the larger, boxier dimensions of the SUV, translating into a design that is simple but still visually appealing. The bold headlights create a great visage and I love the bold LED-lit rear cluster on the slab-faced tailgate.  

Perhaps more as a token, the black bumpers and wheelarches suggest an SUV that is rugged and up to the demands of serious family time out in the sticks. It’s practical in the urban veld too, where the hardy black plastic should deal well with door nudges and parking lot dings.

There's a lot of red in the cabin, but it is neat with displays and dials that are logically arranged

Step inside

Although the feel of the instruments and dials in the Sorento’s interior is not quite in step with the car’s eye-catching exterior design, it is nevertheless functional. The cabin isn’t plush, but it holds all the conveniences one would expect from something in this class and its hardy finishes are in keeping with the car’s more utilitarian function, one would imagine. We’re curious to see how susceptible the dash and doors would be to picking up scratches, but the leather seats and red backlighting for the dials are nice and the cabin does feel refreshingly modern.

The 2.2 CRDi driven was a top spec EX model with seven seats. With only five seats employed, the luggage space is long and deep and should meet the requirements of a growing active family. Use seats six and seven, and watch the useable luggage space shrink to an area big enough for some groceries and a handbag. If you don’t need the luggage space, accommodation at the rear seems bearable for shorter journeys, but definitely is more suited to kids than adults. Seating arrangements are modular and can be configured to carry loads of various sizes, with just a tug here and a shove there. For longer journeys, seats in the second row also recline for better drowsing.

This is where the new fully independent suspension should come in quite handy, too. The Sorento’s platform is shared with sister company Hyundai’s Santa Fe and suspension is via a MacPherson strut-type setup at the front and a multi-link arrangement at the rear. It is particularly adept at soaking up road imperfections and handles a mix of driving conditions well. The compliant new chassis makes for a more car-like driving experience as far as comfort levels are concerned. For all its 4x4 paraphernalia and black bumpers, the new Sorento comes across as a soft-roader more than an out-and-out trailblazer and is lovingly unintimidating in its approach to most situations.
Hydraulic speed-sensitive power steering, for one, is incredibly light and fluffy and twirls the big machine with ease. On faster switches and swoops, the Sorento impressed with its composure and lack of body roll considering its bulk, resultant high centre of gravity and seemingly lightweight body construction. The (part time) four-wheel drive model channels all the torque to the front wheels in regular driving conditions though “lock mode” can be manually enabled to split torque evenly between the front and rear axles. But if you never head off road, the Sorento is easy-going enough to not warrant (necessarily) the added traction that four-wheel drive would afford in slippery conditions. You’d also save a little at the pumps.

Sorento's purposeful stance is echoed in view from the rear

New, smaller turbodiesel

The 2.2-litre turbodiesel powerplant was quite pleasant to cart about. The all-new aluminium engine may be smaller than the 2.5-litre unit it replaces, but it is more efficient, using a third generation common-rail system with piezo-electric injectors. The new turbodiesel engine generates 147 kW and 436 Nm of torque from 1 800 to 2 500 r/min.

We drove the six-speed automatic model, that initially unsettled me somewhat due to the high noise levels in the cabin, but I soon became accustomed to the hum of the six-speed auto. The benefits of an automatic when piloting something of the Sorento’s size – it measures close to 4.7 metres long - through peak hour traffic should not be underestimated and the experience itself was rather relaxing.

It’s not recommended, of course, but should things become too comfortable and you, as the driver, start to nod off, there are five Euro NCAP stars to assure you of a semblance of safety. Six airbags, active front headrests, stability control, downhill brake and descent control, are all standard.

Niceties within the cabin of the EX model include steering adjustable for rake and reach, satellite controls for audio and cruise control, very cute rear parking assist with the camera image being projected on to the rear view mirror and Bluetooth connection for the audio system. The massive two-part sunroof in the Sorento we drove was optional.

Toss the rear seats down and there's enough space within Sorento's cabin to throw a party. A tug-and-pull at the clip (seen on the top of the right hand seat in the picture) will take care of it.

The Sorento may be large, but it's appearance is very pleasing. The new face of Kia with its toothy grille works well on this SUV.

Spacious and comfortable, although the hard plastics may take a bit of a beating. Convenience features on the top-spec EX model will not leaving you wanting much. The rear view mirror showing the rear parking camera is a very neat party trick. Those not given to reverse camera stunts can turn it off, though.

Sorento may be large, but it certainly is not intimidating. Lightweight speed-senstitive power steering, a willing turbodiesel powerplant and a comfortable cabin combine for a very pleasant driving experience.


In the second generation Sorento, Kia has created a comfortable machine that should be as big of a hoot on longer journeys as it is doing the shuttle around town and should be equally at home on the rough stuff. Sorento continues to offer a convincing package with a generous amount of space and comprehensive equipment levels at an attractive price.

With each new product launched, this Korean manufacturer makes a stronger statement pronouncing it is no longer of the fringes of the global motoring world. And it's products such as these will make people pay attention.  

Do you think the new Sorento is a step in the right direction for Kia? Share your thoughts


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