IAN CRAWFORD ...
... takes a light-hearted look at a sometimes crazy world of motoring - and other forms of transport - nationally, internationally, and right here in North East Victoria and the Southern Riverina
Nothing but praise for Kia’s ‘Mr Big’
Words/pictures: Ian Crawford
THE booming South Korean brand Kia’s Sorento large SUV and its different Stinger sports sedan sibling, share duties of championing the company’s growing global reputation as a designer and builder of high-quality vehicles that owners are proud to have in their garages.
The previous-generation Sorento arrived in Australian dealer showrooms back in 2015 and since then its sales and reputation have grown significantly.
The Sorento, the Stinger and the other models in the family including the Picanto, the Cerato, and the Seltos, have combined to propel Kia into the top five brands on the Australian market, ahead of the likes of Ford, Nissan, Subaru, and VW.
On release, the Sorento was widely acclaimed as a comfortable, practical, and safe family chariot and because of this - and after driving it at the Australian media launch - I put our youngest daughter and family into the top-spec Platinum diesel that she still drives - and loves - to this day.
For this test, the version of choice was the Sport + AWD diesel that sits second from the top in the model’s pecking order, just below the range-topping, one-with-the-lot, GT-Line diesel.
We reckon that the model under test is the pick of the range and the one for which we would plonk down our hard-earned.
And what a quantum leap it is from our daughter’s model.
Styling both inside and out is extremely chic, it comes with the latest safety technology, and the fit and finish is right up there with anything from Europe.
The Sorento range covers four guises – S, S Sport, Sport+ and GT-Line.
The Sport+ tested here comes in at $58,690 drive-away and it goes up against the likes of Mazda’s CX-8 and CX-9, Toyota’s Kluger, and its Korean cousin, the Hyundai Santa Fe.
Our tester also came in the handsome Gravity Blue metallic paint that added another $695.00.
What does it go like?
The Sport+ is powered by Kia’s well-proven 2.2-litre, four-cylinder turbo-diesel that is good for 148kW of peak power at 3800 rpm, and a handy 440Nm of maximum torque that is on tap from a relaxed 1750 rpm to 2750 rpm.
Tramp on the accelerator and the big Kia can make it to 100km/h in about 8.5 seconds.
Not bad for a seven-seat SUV.
The big Kia rides on a McPherson-strut front-suspension set-up and a multi-link arrangement at the rear.
The car’s excellent stopping power is delivered by 325mm ventilated discs all round.
It is interesting to note that by dropping steel construction in favour of aluminium for the engine block, Kia engineers have saved 19.5kg of dead weight.
Every little bit helps.
While Kia claims a combined fuel-consumption figure of 6.l litres/100km, we saw 6.9 litres during our week of testing on a combination of city and suburban streets, freeways and country roads of both the neglected bitumen and gravel persuasions.
Power is transferred to the wheels via an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic that I found enjoyable to use.
Importantly, there is virtually no turbo lag at take-off.
On the freeway the Sport+ is a cruising delight.
It loafs along at around 1600 rpm with virtually no diesel-engine operating noise seeping into the cabin.
Climb behind the wheel of the big Kia and the instant impression is of a seriously handsome cabin with a dash dominated buy the 10.25-inch infotainment touch screen complete with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and factory satellite navigation.
Ergonomics are terrific, with everything falling easily to hand.
The leather-appointed front seats are well shaped and bolstered and they rate highly in the comfort stakes.
The driver’s pew has 10-way power adjustment as well as electric lumbar support.
All of that, combined with height-and-reach adjustment for the multi-function, leather-wrapped, heated steering wheel means it is a cinch to dial in the perfect driving position.
Other standard goodies include dual-zone climate control, keyless entry and start, a powered tailgate, and plenty of USB ports for all passengers.
In fact, there are nine of them.
The Sport + rides on handsome 19-inch alloys and sensibly, for Australia, Kia has endowed the car with a full-size alloy spare – the same 235/55 R19 Continental boots with which the other four are shod.
The new Kia comes with an impressive inventory of standard safety kit and this includes blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic monitoring, multi-collision and autonomous emergency braking, and LED lights front and rear.
The car’s autonomous emergency braking system comes with pedestrian, cyclist, and junction-detection functions.
There is also lane-keeping assist with lane-change assist, an automatic high-beam system, and driver-attention monitoring.
To deliver a measure of semi-autonomous highway driving, the Sport+ comes with clever adaptive cruise control with lane-follow assist.
While there are air bags a plenty, there should be one more – a curtain bag for the third row of seats.
Mazda’s CX-9 and the Toyota Kluger both have them, so take note, Mr Kia.
That said, there are dual front, front-side, and side-curtain bags for the first two rows, and a first-in-class front-centre inflator and impact-sensing automatic door locking.
Topping off the Sorento’s safety credentials is a five-star ANCAP rating.
One of the main reasons so many Australians have caught the SUV bug is their practical spaciousness.
In the case of the Sorento, fold the second and third-row seats away and you open a cavernous 2011 litres of luggage space.
Use the second-row seats and this drops to a still-handy 616 litres.
Put the smallest two children in the third-row seats and this drops to just 187 litres, but that is what happens with all seven-seaters.
Speaking of storage, there is plenty of room for phones and wallets etc. below the dash, big door pockets, two transmission-tunnel-mounted cup holders, and a nice deep bin under the centre armrest.
Second-row punters are not forgotten either.
There are in-door cup holders, and two more in the fold-down centre armrest.
Even the third-row passengers have a bit of storage space that could house a small bottle or a phone, and they can even enjoy their own ventilation fan controls.
A real bonus.
To sum up the things we like, first there is that great seven-year warranty, there’s classy styling inside and out, the fit and finish is excellent, there’s a spacious, flexible interior, and air-conditioning fan and vents for the kids in the third-row is a real bonus.
There is not much in the don’t-like department, but no full third-row airbag is not good, neither is the fact that the easier access to the third row should be on the kerb side, not the driver’s side.
Complementing the Kia’s seven-year unlimited warranty, roadside assistance is available for the first 12 months, and the car’s service intervals are 12 months or 15,000kms, whichever arrives first, and a pre-purchase, capped-price service program is available.
The cheapest service is the first one at $335.00 and at $729.00, the four-year or 60,000 km service is the dearest.
Kia Australia was a pioneer among foreign brands in conducting extensive suspension and handling testing in Australia – something for which the company should be – and is – commended.
With the new Sorento, this noticeable has paid off.
The big car sits remarkably flat and composed even during enthusiastic cornering, and the steering is nicely weighted and precise.
I have always been a fan of Mazda’s SUV’s interior styling and quality finishes and there is no doubt that with the Sorento, Kia has matched it to the point that it is not unreasonable to compare it with the fancy and expensive German brands.
As Kia sales go from strength to strength here and around the world, there is no doubt that the new Sorento will continue to hold the flag high, as confirmed by the car-of-the-year awards it has already won here and overseas.
Now I know why.
Review vehicle courtesy: Kia Australia
Price: Kia Sorento Sport+ diesel, $56,850 plus on road costs
Engine: 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel
Power: 148kW at 3800rpm
Torque: 440Nm at 1750-2750rpm
Transmission: Eight-speed dual clutch automatic. All-wheel-drive
Fuel consumption: 6.1L/100km
Fuel tank capacity: 67 litres diesel
Towing capacity: 2000kg braked
Warranty: 7 years/unlimited kilometres
NORTH-EAST VICTORIA/SOUTHERN RIVERINA KIA DEALERSHIPS
Albury -Wodonga - McRae Kia, 182 Melbourne Road, Wodonga, Phone: (02) 6051 5555
Shepparton - Thompson Kia, 340 Midland Highway, Phone: (03) 5822 2666
Wagga - Riverina Kia, 42-52 Dobney Avenue, Phone: (02) 6932 6688
Wangaratta - Ovens Kia, 62 Parfitt Road, Phone: (03) 5722 9898