IF YOU don’t think the Koreans are serious about beating the Japanese in Australia, then take a long, hard look at the second-generation Sorento.
This is the sort of vehicle that does exactly what you expect it to do – from accommodating seven people in reasonable comfort and security, to offering plenty of features for the money.
But Kia is doing things differently these days, thanks to a renewed emphasis on quality, design, and safety, while the R-series CRDi diesel under the pretty bonnet is an absolute corker of an engine.
Only a few minor hiccups taint what is otherwise an impressive and affordable seven-seater SUV package.
Model release dates: October 2009 - September 2012
SAID to originally have been the replacement for the long-lived (and 1980s Mitsubishi Mk1 Pajero-based) Terracan until Hyundai ‘gave’ it to the then-floundering Kia to help boost sales as well as its profile, the handsome first-generation Sorento was released in early 2003 boasting real off-road ability, thanks to that Terracan connection which ensured a ladder-frame chassis and low-range gearbox.
The original engine was a 145kW/295Nm 3.5-litre V6 petrol, using a part-time 4WD system and transferring torque via a four-speed automatic or five-speed manual gearbox.
An upgrade from October 2004 added another ratio to the auto.
A Series II facelift from 2007 saw the 3.5-litre binned for two petrol V6 engines – a 180kW/309Nm 3.3-litre and a 196kW/353Nm 3.8-litre, and both tied to a five-speed automatic, while a 125kW/392Nm 2.5-litre CRDi four-cylinder turbo-diesel with the five-speed auto was also introduced at that time.
The Series II variants were LX, EX and EX-L.
All up about 9000 BL Sorentos found homes in Australia.