Kia’s Sorento is now middle-aged and it still looks good. It’s different under the skin in one important way, though
SINGAPORE — Three years into its lifespan the Kia Sorento has had a minor revamp, but it’s kept its main strengths while gaining new ones. If you’re in the market for a big, seven-seat Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV) at this price, it’s worth a look. Here’s why…
Facelift? What facelift? It looks the same to me…
To the untrained eye, perhaps. But as with these things, the ‘facelift’ is a bolt-on job that involves new lamps front and rear, with new bumpers and a dark metallic finish for the grille. Best way to tell, probably, is to look for the four-lamp LED foglights in the side airdam.
Or you could our review of the pre-facelift model a once-over here.
Whatever the case, the Sorento is still a handsome car with proportions that hide its bulk well. The car’s sides avoid being slab-like, and despite packing room for seven seats, the body itself doesn’t come off as boxy.
With the facelift there are revisions inside, but what’s more relevant is that the range has been changed up a bit. The 2.0-litre petrol has been deleted (we’re guessing it wouldn’t have made sense with January’s Vehicular Emissions Scheme tax system) and there are now only diesel versions.
Both are 200hp 2.2-litre turbos, but there’s an SX model and the GT Line model you see here, which costs S$15,000 more.
What does the extra money buy you?
Mechanically, the GT Line is identical except for one thing: it has all wheel-drive. If you ask us, that doesn’t count as a plus since it adds to fuel consumption. At least it gives you an easy way to identify the GT Line version.
The red brake calipers are another part of the GT Line package, as are step plates on the sills and 19-inch alloys. It’s all fairly subtle outside, but there’s more noticeable stuff in the cabin.
Such as a bit of poshness in the form of embroidered and quilted upholstery with contrast stitching. Nice, innit?
Other GT Line goodies include a different gearshift knob, a satin chrome finish for the glovebook button and paddle shifters for the automatic.
The facelift itself has brought a new steering wheel design, midly redesigned air-con controls and a crisp new, 7″ LCD display in the instrument cluster. What hasn’t changed about the Sorento is that it still feels fairly high-quality and tidy inside.
A huge glass sunroof, standard to both Sorentos, keeps things nice and bright inside, and adds to the illusion of space.
But space isn’t a problem anyway, right?
Right. The Sorento has always been a big car inside, and this generation came with better access to the rearmost seats. Mind you, the chairs in the very back are no place to put a tall adult or someone with a spine that’s more than three decades old, because it’s still quite a climb back there. But anyone with the size and suppleness of childhood would find it just dandy back there, owing to the air-con vents. They’ll even have their own blower control to play with.
The middle row seats slide fore and aft so you that the people in Rows 2 and 3 can fight for space, and as before, you can fold everthing flat in a jiffy to create 1,530 litres of cargo room. That isn’t enormous by today’s standards, but it’s more than decent.
Incidentally, if you’re wondering whether there’s a luggage cover, there is and it hides under the floor in its own compartment. That’s something worth noting; some seven-seat SUVs we’ve tested have no place to stow the cover, which would be a pain if you had to deploy the Row 3 seats.
Nice, but the Sorento had all this before the facelift. What’s new new?
We’re getting to that, jeez! So you can either have a 200hp diesel or a 200hp diesel now, but there’s a new eight-speed auto. Interestingly it’s an in-house Hyundai-Kia design (most carmakers buy their transmissions from suppliers) that apparently involved 143 patents, which is a nice way for the Koreans to assert their engineering chops.
But more to the point, it’s a smooth-shifting thing that chooses its ratios well, so much so the we never felt the need to play with the gearshift paddles behind the wheel.
Is the diesel engine any good, though?
Well, you’ll never wonder what kind of fuel it runs on. That’s because at idle, there’s a distant but noticeable clatter, like a hundred people playing the maracas at once. It’s not super smooth, either, and you can feel it buzzing the floorboards ever so slightly at certain revs.
But it pulls with the low-end vigour that’s typical of diesel engines, and while the Kia is no sportscar it feels fairly light on its feet and responsive. The upshot of all that is that with seven people on board, the Sorento is unlikely to feel bogged down.
As for the chassis, the Kia still has a fiarly firm ride that’s never jarring enough to be descrbied as uncomfortable; at worst it’s busy. It’s decently tidy around corners as a result, but then it isn’t hard to reach its limits, at which point there’s little point pushing hard. Honestly, you’ll never feel like attacking a series of corners in this.
What’s more relevant is that the car offers good visibility and slips easily enough through town traffic. It’s not a tough car to park, either (a battery of sensors and a reverse camera help greatly there), but even if you’re intimidated by its size, you can press a button and have it steer itself into a parking spot. Both versions of the Sorento come with park assist.
Thank goodness. Er, for my wife’s sake, I mean.
Sure. Anyway the usual Kia playbook is at work here, and the Sorento comes with pretty much everything in terms of spec. Apple CarPlay is standard, you get six airbags, and typical Kia luxuries such as ventilated front seats, auto wipers and lamps, a trip computer, powered front seats (with two memory settings for the driver), and so on.
A navigation system is missing, but you could plug your iPhone in and have Apple Maps tell you where to go.
Then there are some simple but genuinely delightful features. When you walk up to the car, its wing mirrors unfold and the cabin lights illuminate to welcome you back. If you have the key on you, you just have to stand near the tailgate for a bit before it swings open — useful if your hands are holding the groceries.
There’s a new ‘Smart’ driving mode that studies your driving (most likely by monitoring your throttle application) and auto selects the ‘Eco’, ‘Comfort’ or ‘Sport’ settings accordingly.
And when you fiddle with the light or wiper stalks, the instruments let you know what seting you’ve chosen. It’s something you wish other cars would do. Or you wish they would, now that Kia’s thought of it.
Exactly, and that’s a good word to describe the facelifted Sorento. It still has the look and feel of a luxury car (without the badge for one), and it’s still a giant in terms of value for money, but the Kia does feel like something deigned to delight you.
Overall, unless you’re allergic to diesel power, you ought to put it on your list if you’re shopping for a seven-seat SUV. It’s a sensible, clever car for sensible, clever folk.
NEED TO KNOW Kia Sorento GT Line
Engine 2,199cc, inline 4, turbodiesel
Power 200hp at 3,800rpm
Torque 441Nm at 1,750rpm
Gearbox 8-speed automatic
Top Speed 203km/h
0-100km/h 9.3 seconds
Fuel efficiency 6.5L/100km
Price S$175,999 including Certificate Of Entitlement
Agent Cycle & Carriage Kia
READ MORE: Other seven-seat SUVs to put on your list
Honda’s CR-V wants to be posh, and it wants to be better than a BMW X1 to drive. Does it succeed?
Colossal size gives the Mazda CX-9 plenty of square footage… Wait till you see the boot!