New SUV hits a home run

The Kia Sorento is very much an unsung hero in the motoring world.

The Kia Sorento is very much an unsung hero in the motoring world.

Sometimes motoring journalists are like foodie snobs. We unconsciously stick to petrol-powered equivalents of organic, grain-fed, locally sourced fare — the way middle-class Gordon Ramsay wannabes do.

And much like foodies get all frothy about eating a seven-course meal at a five-star Michelin restaurant with terribly posh menu items such as vegetable amuse bouche with black truffles, motoring scribes are equally passionate about V8-powered, twin turbo-charged, limited edition supercars.

The failings of both groups are also similar. Foodies tend to forget to talk about that always-consistent family bistro they frequent so often, and petrol-head journalists don’t give ever-reliable sedate family cars their due.

The Kia Sorento is much like that family-run bistro in your neighbourhood and it’s very much an unsung hero in the motoring world.

It is Kia’s Big Daddy SUV, a seven-seater that was recently updated as part of Kia’s ongoing renewal of its model line-up.

In the five-year life cycle of any of its models, Kia hopes to refresh the range every 18 months to two years so that its vehicles never look or feel dated.

The upgraded Sorento, however, features quite a few significant changes.
The exterior has a new and sharper look; the steering and brakes are more efficient; the suspension has been revised; the interior has been upgraded; there are new projection headlights, LED daytime running lights and the taillights also have LED lights.

The interior space has also been improved to provide more legroom for passengers in the second and third rows, and the torsional stiffness was increased to limit body roll.

There is only one engine in the range, the 2.2-litre TCi turbo diesel, which produces 146kW of power, 436Nm of torque and has a claimed fuel consumption of 5.9 litres per 100km.

The two derivatives in the range are the two-wheel-drive and the range-topping all-wheel-drive, with additional features such as 19-inch alloy wheels, heated electric front seats, a rear-view camera, a start/stop button and a bigger LCD display screen.

I did a fair amount of long-distance driving in both derivatives and was very pleased with the overall handling of the Sorento. The engine isn’t the most energetic because it has the substantial task of moving an almost two-tonne car.

Although I wouldn’t describe the Sorento as sprightly, it never felt underpowered.

City driving
In city driving situations and on the open road, the suspension felt firm, yet comfortable.

As an all-rounder, the Sorento scores high marks for its standard specifications, interior space, road holding, maintenance plan, fuel economy and its competitive pricing.

The only thing that bugged me about this car is its size. It took a fair deal of manoeuvering to fit it properly into parking bays and, while I’m aware that it isn’t meant to be small, it somehow felt a little larger than it should have.

Of course, passengers won’t complain about the car’s size because the additional legroom makes long distances quite pleasurable.

The changes that were immediately visible were inside the car, where new soft-touch materials and chrome trim give the vehicle an upmarket feel.

Safety is taken care of with six airbags, ABS brakes, electronic stability control, hill-start assist, electronic brake-force distribution, traction control and more. Standard creature comforts include dual zone climate control, cruise control, headlight sensors, front and rear park assist, leather seats, a Bluetooth hands-free system and the all-wheel-drive model comes with xenon headlights.

The two-wheel drive model costs R399 995 and the all-wheel-drive costs R479 995.

The Sorento comes with a five-year/150 000km warranty, a five-year/100 000km maintenance plan and a three-year/unlimited kilometres roadside assistance.

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