It’s hard to believe that it has already been two years since I reviewed the last Kia Sorento, but the new one is here now and is promising to be better than the car it replaces. It looks like it’s off to a good start – it definitely looks good from the front, and its new grille is aggressive-yet-subtle, something even premium-brand SUVs have a hard time pulling off. Its side profile is not bad either, with the roof sloping downwards at the rear to give a sportier look. The rear lights did leave me scratching my head though, to my eyes they strongly resemble those of the 2011-2013 Dodge Durango. It’s got less of a butch look than the previous Sorento but it’s still a well-executed design.
Price and specs
The new Sorento, like its predecessor is only available with a 2.2-litre diesel engine in Switzerland, rated at 200hp and 440Nm of torque. Prices for a basic LX trim Sorento start at CHF 39,950, while this press car with the Style trim and seven seats starts at CHF 52,700. Add this car’s white metallic paint, and the total price is CHF 53,450. This actually means that it is a fraction cheaper than the previous one, thanks in part to the current exchange rates with the Euro.
Like its predecessor, it has a continuous all-wheel drive system as well as a locking centre differential for more difficult terrain. There are no locking differentials in the front or rear, but electronics do apply the brakes if they detect excessive wheel-spin on one axle, substituting for the locking diffs. This test car came equipped with a six-speed automatic transmission, which means that it can accelerate from 0-100km/h in 9.6 seconds and reach a top speed of 200km/h.
Old vs new
In the five years the previous Sorento was on-sale, it came in two iterations: a pre-facelift and facelift version. The pre-facelift version was a good all-rounder but its diesel engine was just too noisy and felt like it would be more at home in a commercial vehicle. The facelifted version was quieter, and a lot of improvements were made to the interior. A step further has been taken to quiet down the engine in the new one too. The only time you notice bad diesel engine characteristics is indeed when you ask for full-on acceleration, as it runs out of breath when you go passed the 3500rpm region. The six-speed automatic transmission works well with this engine: its upshifts are quite smooth; it has decent throttle response; and it has good downshifts, meaning you don’t have to put the pedal to the floor just for it to change down one or two gears.
Driving characteristics and fuel economy
The Sorento still remains an easy car to drive. The steering is very light when you’re just crawling around in a car park, and it has a nice manageable weight when you’re driving around town. It also rides quite well and handles more like a non-SUV. There isn’t too much body roll when you go through corners, and placing it in narrow city streets isn’t something that you dread.
Then there’s the way it picks up pace. My parents have a 2001 Mercedes Benz ML430 – with a 4.3-litre petrol V8 that produces 272hp. It isn’t a slow car by any means, and the Sorento is more than capable of keeping up with the old Benz, showing you how much progress small diesel engines have made over the years, all while using a lot less fuel. Claimed fuel consumption figures for the automatic Sorento are 6.0l/100km on the highway, 7.6l/100km in the city, and 6.6l/100km combined. The car is Euro 6 compliant, with CO2 emissions being quoted at 174g/km.
While driving the Sorento in the city is as easy as you could hope for, the A-pillars are quite thick, so you do have to take care when going around blind corners. The same is true for the C-pillars, but this press car gives a bird’s-eye 360-degree view on the user interface when you reverse thanks to the many cameras it has, which helps an awful lot when reversing in and out of parking spots. It’s also a good highway cruiser, being comfortable for its occupants and not allowing too much noise into the cabin. The driver also has a good amount of torque available for easy passing too.
Practicality and interior
The leather seats are a bit firm like in many modern cars, but they are comfortable and quite supportive through corners. The cabin is spacious for front- and second-row occupants. There’s a third row of seats too, which can seat average-sized adults in relative comfort, while passengers above 5 feet and 10 inches (around 178cm) might find it a bit of a tight fit. Passengers of the third row have their own AC vents too, as well as controls for fan speed but not temperature. Access to the third row is not easy though, as the second-row seats don’t move far forward enough for easier access. Trunk space is very good when the third-row seats are down, but with them up space is severely compromised. Also, you don’t have anywhere to store the luggage cover, you either have to leave it behind or put it by the feet of second-row passengers.
These days it seems having a bunch of toys at your disposal is very important when buying a car, and the Sorento can definitely be had with a lot of equipment. This test car has dual-zone climate control which blows very nice and cold, and it also has heated and cooled seats. Radar guided cruise control is now available too, and it works very well on the highway, allowing the car to keep itself at a set distance to the car in front, automatically slowing down and accelerating accordingly.
There’s a nice panoramic sunroof to be had as well, which comes as standard in Style trim Sorentos. The 10-speaker sound system produces good sound quality, a lot better than in the previous Sorento in fact. Auto-hold braking is available too, which allows the driver to keep their foot off the brake pedal when stopped in traffic, but as soon as they step on the gas pedal the brakes are released automatically. Other driver aids include: lane-departure warning; a blind spot warning system; auto stop-start; as well as the latest in Kia’s Smart Park Assist system (with automatic tilt-down side mirrors), which can park the car both in parallel and reverse. As mentioned before there’s a bird’s-eye view of the car when you engage reverse, and the park assist does a great job for parallel parking, but it did require a lot of corrections for relatively easy reversing spots. The reverse parking option will still be helpful for people who just have a hard time reverse parking, but I can see other drivers losing patience with it.
Lastly, there’s the user interface and GPS. The graphics are very good, and the user interface is relatively straightforward to use. Connecting your phone to the Bluetooth system is also an easy affair, and the sound quality of phone and audio equipment is quite good. The GPS is a bit of a let down though, on a few occasions it tried to take me through no-entry zones, or asked me to make turns into streets that don’t exist. Maybe a system update would have solved the problem, otherwise my phone provided more accurate directions.
The overall picture
The 2.2-litre engine should be good enough for many buyers; it is a really good engine thanks to a good amount of power, as well as for not being too noisy for a diesel engine. You get a lot of equipment if you opt for the Style trim, and all that while being slightly cheaper than the car it replaces. While the interior is an improvement over the last Sorento, there are still a few materials that leave a bit to be desired. Otherwise you get a nice-looking, comfortable and spacious car that’s backed up by a seven-year/150,000km warranty.
Written by Alex Kisiri