The all-new Sorento builds on the strengths of the old one, but will that be enough to win snobs over?
SINGAPORE — Car magazines like to give awards to glamorous high-performance cars, but if there were a prize for value-for-money, Kia’s all-new Sorento would be first in line for the kudos.
It’s been completely made-over and is based on a new platform, but the basic Sorento proposition remains the same. That means it’s an SUV (or Sport Utility Vehicle) with seven seats, and aims to deliver so much car for the cash that only the haughtiest of noses would give it a dismissive sniff.
In Singapore, the Sorento will be available in three flavours; the front wheel-drive 2.4L GDi (tested here, and available in EX and SX trim levels) and a turbodiesel 2.2 CRDi with all-wheel drive that has yet to join local price lists.
The SX model we drove costs $163,999 with COE, but if you can go without 19-inch alloys (and live with 18” ones), a panoramic glass roof, ventilated front seats or park-assist (now with vertical parking), you’ll save yourself 10 grand.
That still leaves you with a car that has features coming out of its ears.
The front seats are powered (with two memory settings for the driver one) and there are buttons on the steering wheel that operate the sound system and the cruise control. Climate control, a reverse camera, a touchscreen entertainment system and so on give the Sorento some exec car cred, but Kia seems to focus on simple features that really count. Example? There are USB ports for both front and rear passengers.
If you’re thinking of a Sorento as a substitute MPV, the good news is that the new car has more cabin space than the previous model, in spite of a slightly lower roof. That’s thanks to an 80mm stretch to the wheelbase, which creates more legroom.
That said, the third row of seats isn’t suited to long journeys for anyone taller than 1.65m or so, as there’s little headroom back there.
Still, the middle row of seats can slide back and forth, and there are air-con vents for the people in the back. Third row refugees even have their own blower control.
Occupying those seats has been made much easier, too. One of the middle row chairs (the kerbside one, this time) can tip forward and slide at the pull of one lever, and deploying the third row chairs can be done with one hand by pulling on some straps.
Even folding them flat to create cargo space is a piece of cake, thanks to some handy pull-levers. Doing so gives you 1,530 litres of cargo space, up from 116 litres with all seats up.
Interior ambience on the whole has been greatly improved, with a polished design for the dashboard and a step up in the quality of the cabin materials. The Sorento’s cabin, in a nutshell, is a pleasant place to be in.
For all the ways the Sorento concentrates on pampering the body, the driving experience does little for the soul. The engine provides no more than adequate acceleration, and the tyres never muster enough grip to make throwing the big Kia into a corner worthwhile.
Still, the handling plays things nice and safe. Push a little too hard into bends and you get nothing more than gentle understeer.
And in spite of the Sorento’s height it doesn’t lurch around untidily — the payoff for a slightly firm ride over bumps.
Even if things go badly wrong, the Kia is rated very highly by safety body EuroNCAP for crash protection, for both adult and child passengers; there are six airbags, after all.
It should be a reliable car to run, too — or, if it isn’t, at least problems won’t cost much to put right because there’s a five year bumper-to-bumper warranty, and a 10-year engine warranty.
There are few cars, Japanese, German or otherwise, with that sort of backing.
And those really are the things car buyers should be thinking of most, particularly if they have family needs to satisfy. The Kia is spacious, well-equipped, a versatile load and people carrier, it scores well in crash tests and it’s got a strong warranty.
Its single biggest failing, if you can call it that, is that driving one will leave some people thinking that you only chose a Kia because you couldn’t afford something Japanese or German.
Some people are just like that, but it does mean that the Sorento is likely to be a hugely underrated car, in the same way that magazine awards are overrated.
MORE: Want more detail on the new Sorento? Here’s our story from last August when it was first announced
NEED TO KNOW Kia Sorento 2.4L GDi SX
Engine: 2,359cc in-line 4, turbocharged
Power: 188bhp at 6000rpm
Torque: 239Nm at 4000rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Top speed: 195 km/h
0-100km/h: 10.2 secs
Fuel consumption: 8.8L/100km
Price: $163,999 with COE