There is no shortage of choice for SUVs these days, in fact you would be forgiven for thinking that the SUV market is overcrowded. With such a competitive market segment, this new facelifted Sorento will have to offer something special indeed for buyers to be persuaded to have one in their daily lives. Also, having driven the pre-facelift version on a Geneva-Paris-Geneva road trip, I was also keen to see what improvements Kia have made as well.
The new Sorento carries over the four-cylinder 2.2-litre diesel engine as before, good for 197hp and 436 Nm of torque. The cheapest Sorento with this engine costs CHF 39,950, while this well-equipped press car – with the Style trim – costs CHF 56,030. It also has a six-speed automatic transmission (a six-speed manual is standard), meaning acceleration from 0-100km/h takes 9.9 seconds, while its top speed is 190km/h. Kia's claimed fuel consumption figures per 100km are: 6.7l on the combined cycle, 8.8l in the city, and 5.4l on the highway.
The first thing that I noticed when I started up the pre-facelift Sorento was how loud the diesel engine was, it sounded like it belonged on a light commercial vehicle rather than a family SUV. I’m glad to report that it has been quietened down for this new version, but it’s still obvious that a diesel engine lives under the bonnet when doing inner city speeds. Although it isn’t that quiet when moving slowly, it isn't that noisy on the highway. There’s also some good torque available for overtakes, and wind noise is minimal too. It definitely is a good highway cruiser.
The ride quality is well resolved too. The fully-independent suspension absorbs imperfections effectively, allowing you to drive over rough surfaces and speed bumps in good comfort. The electric power steering (Flex Steer) can be driven in either: Comfort, Normal, or Sport mode. Comfort was my preferred setting, which makes the steering very light, and makes driving the Sorento around town effortless. Normal makes the steering light at low manoeuvring speeds, but then weights up as you gather pace. The Sport setting keeps the steering heavy, but I fail to see why you would want to use this setting in a family SUV, as it doesn’t translate into a feelsome steering nor does the Sorento feel like it’s suitable for some sporty driving. It just feels a bit unnecessary in a family car like this.
The optional panoramic sunroof (CHF 1,950) proved to be the most popular feature whenever I carried family and friends – the view of the sky and extra light really does make the cabin a more pleasant place to be. Other gadgets include: a lane-departure warning system, blind-spot monitoring, electrically adjustable seats with memory, dual-zone climate control, a heated steering wheel, heated and cooled front seats, heated rear seats, USB/iPod and auxiliary connection, Bluetooth, satellite navigation, a self-parking system, a touchscreen interface, a CD player, reverse camera, push-button start and keyless entry. An impressive list of equipment indeed, but the Premium sound system that the car comes with does not have that great of a sound quality – it definitely should sound a bit more powerful.
There’s good cabin space too, legroom and headroom is rarely an issue even for tall passengers. The car has a lot of luggage space too – on one occasion I managed to carry a baby stroller, enough food and drinks for Easter Monday, plus a week’s worth of groceries for a family of five. The Sorento can be had with a third row of seats (CHF 1,250), which this press car didn’t have, but the pre-facelift example I drove did. Adults can use the third row as long as they’re not tall, and as long as the trip is short.
With each passing winter proving to have more and more snowfall, its all-wheel drive system and locking centre differential should be useful if ever you find your local streets covered in fresh snow. But what’s so special about the Sorento? Well, it’s the level of equipment you can get and still remain cheaper than most similarly-equipped SUVs. If you compare it with other similarly-sized cars, the Sorento seems even more appealing – in fact it now doesn’t have that many competitors ever since production of the Peugeot 4007/Citroen C-Crosser ended.
Of course, there are plenty of other cars in the premium brand segment that are about the same size. But if you consider that the most basic Mercedes Benz ML 250 CDI (which only has 7hp more than the Sorento) costs CHF 64,900, the Sorento begins to look like a bargain. It has to be said that there are some cheap looking materials in the interior, but overall it’s not that bad.
Written by Alex Kisiri