The rising demand by car buyers for SUV-styled options around the world is evidenced by the fact some automakers have already announced the discontinuation of sedan manufacture – but, economic pressures are often dictating a change from extensive derivative ranges with wide specification gaps to a more target market approach.
This is true with the latest generation of the Kia Sorento, its range cut by three – one at the bottom and two at the top – to focus on a mid-spec model and slightly higher specification across a range of four vehicles, two of which are all-wheel drive.
All Sorento models are powered by the 2,2-litre ‘R’ turbo-diesel engine that produces 147 kW of power at 3 800 r/min, with maximum torque of 440 Nm available between 1 750 r/min and 2 750 r/min. Featuring Kia’s fourth-generation fuel-injection system, the engine features an exhaust gas recirculation cooler to promote recirculation of clean, cold, low-pressure exhaust gas that reduces nitrogen oxide emissions and improves fuel efficiency.
Finally, a newly adopted electronic swirl control valve in the intake manifold further reduces emissions by more carefully controlling the intake of oxygen to the combustion chamber. CO2 emissions are 164 g/km and 170 g/km for the front-wheel and all-wheel drive versions respectively.
It is also is the first SUV from Kia available with the company’s new eight-speed automatic transmission that boasts 143 newly-patented technologies and delivers a slick-shifting, more decisive drive while reducing emissions.
Compared to other automatic transmissions, Kia’s new eight-speed unit requires fewer control valves, enabling a more direct mechanical link to the engine. This allows the transmission to shift more quickly than the outgoing six-speed automatic transmission, and enables acceleration that is more decisive.
The new transmission offers four different drive modes: Eco, Comfort, Sport and Smart. Drivers can select their preferred mode with the Sorento’s electronic Drive Mode Select system. Each mode enables the driver to customise the powertrain’s responses to driver inputs, enhancing fuel economy or acceleration characteristics depending on driver preference.
All good and well on paper – so how does the Kia Sorento 2.2 CRDI EX AWD (R639 995) actually measure up?
Overall average fuel consumption was 8,1 l/100 km using a mix of the driving modes with a bland highway run in Eco getting this down to 7,6 l/100 km.
The gearbox is superbly smooth and in Sport mode gets the car energised with a true ‘hurry up’ feel to it that makes it rather fun to pedal around, albeit at the expense of fuel economy. For a big car, it also handles well and it is possible to carry good speed into a corner so momentum is not lost and the gearbox is not hunting for the right slot.
That said, too much speed and it will plough on like a politician’s speech until the traction control can restore a semblance of order.
The current generation Kia Sorento made its global debut at the 2014 Paris Motor Show, and was introduced in South Africa in June 2015.
The enhanced Kia Sorento now sports a tighter, sharper exterior design. The revised front-end features a more detailed radiator grille, flanked by a new headlamp configuration featuring projection headlamps and revised LED Daytime Running Lights on higher specification models.
The front revamp is complemented by a newly sculpted bumper design, incorporating projection-type fog lamps.
Enhancements to the rear design also include a new bumper design, sleeker tail lamps, and a subtly revised tailgate. All models ride on newly designed 18-inch alloy wheels shod with 235/60 R18 rubber and have a full-sized spare wheel.
Inside, numerous upgrades and enhancements include a new, more tactile steering wheel, a new gearshift lever and a revised instrument cluster with improved graphics. The redesign also includes alterations to the air vents and the centre console design.
All model derivatives offer seating for up to seven passengers, with leather upholstery as standard across the board. Featuring 40/20/40 second row split folding seats with a higher folding centre armrest, these seatbacks can be ‘remotely’ folded by conveniently located levers in the side of the cargo bay.
The third row seats fold away flat in the luggage compartment, ensuring luggage space is not compromised when the seats are not in use. When the seats are folded flat, Sorento offers 605 litres of luggage space, and features an under-floor tonneau cover storage compartment and integrated cargo net to secure loose items.
Standard specification includes dual zone automatic air-conditioning, automatic headlamp control (incorporating ‘Welcome Home’ and ‘Escort’ lighting), auto-folding and heated side mirrors with integrated side indicators, power windows front and rear and rear USB ports.
The higher-spec EX model also features an auto defog system, illuminated door scuff plates, rear sun shade blinds, electrically adjustable front seats (with two-way adjustable lumbar support for the driver’s seat), integrated roof rails and a wireless smartphone charger.
All derivatives have a new 8-inch colour touchscreen with embedded Satellite Navigation, from which occupants can also control audio, whether it is a favourite radio station, via the USB/Aux jacks, or through their mobile device via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Safety and driver assistance systems include anti-lock brakes with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD), six crash bags and ISOFIX child seat anchors. Drivers also benefit from Electronic Stability Control (ESC) and Hill-start Assist, while all models feature Park Distance Control at the rear, linked to a reverse camera displayed on the 8-inch colour touchscreen.
Comfortable and easy to drive, the Sorento is a practical application for both private and business users – the former as a family vehicle, Mom’s Taxi and tourer with the latter as hotel transport, exclusive tour company transport and the like.
All-wheel drive is often touted as a safety factor but, whether it is truly worth the extra cost is a debatable point – and it is highly unlikely owners will be using these vehicles to do any off-highway driving where 4×4 is a necessity.
All Sorento have Kia’s unlimited kilometre, five-year warranty, as well as a standard 5-year/100 000 km service plan and 3-years of roadside assistance.