Car reviews - Kia - Sorento - Platinum
Smooth engine and transmission, quiet and comfortable, loads of features, high perceived quality, excellent fuel economy
Room for improvement
Sun glare on the touchscreen, feels bigger than reality
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19 Oct 2015
By NEIL DOWLING
Price and equipment
THE affordable family budget for a seven-seat SUV appears to be in the $35,000-$55,000 bracket with entrants like the Ford Territory and Holden Captiva 7 responsible for setting the median price range.
This also suits players from South Korea and Japan, with the Hyundai Santa Fe ranging from $38,490 to $59,990 and the Mazda CX-9 from $43,770 to $61,680, all plus on-road costs.
Kia’s third-generation Sorento starts at $40,990 plus on-road costs for the front-wheel drive Si, adding $5000 for the more feature-rich SLi.
The range moves into the all-wheel drive for the Si at $44,490, the SLi at $9,490 and the vehicle tested here, the Platinum at $55,990.
The two front-wheel drive variants are petrol-fuelled, using a 3.3-litre V6 engine, while the three all-wheel drive versions are diesels with power from a 2.2-litre turbo-diesel that is a tweaked engine from the previous generation.
This segmentation keeps the model line-up at five and neatly separates the stay-at-home buyers with a smooth petrol V6 engine from the more adventurous motorist that appears to place a diesel engine and all-wheel drive as prerequisites for an SUV.
The Platinum is very well equipped and it’s not only the list of features but the ambiance of the cabin and the considered use of blended materials and colours. It is, for example, one of the few vehicles on the market with a two-tone dash.
Buyers forking out a tad more than $60,000 (after on-road costs) demand something special. The Platinum delivers with a panoramic glass roof incorporating a front sliding panel.
The seats are perforated leather with the front two having heating and ventilation, while the second row gets heated outer seats.
There is an electric tailgate, roof rails, 19-inch alloy wheels with a full-size alloy spare, and mirrors that are heated and that fold when parked.
Satellite navigation and a reversing camera are standard across the Sorento range, with the Platinum adding front and rear park sensors.
The cabin feels wider than before, stretched over a centre console in the front with a cavernous lidded bin, a console with cupholders and a second covered storage area.
The centre monitor is broad and edged in metal-look trim to support a 7.0-inch monitor that complements the large secondary TFT screen within the instrument panel.
As if to defy the spaciousness and generosity of the cabin and the size of the vehicle, the electrically-heated steering wheel is small, almost sportscar size.
The Sorento seats seven and has sufficient room in the rear two seats for adults, further increasing its versatility.
This spaciousness and the inclusion of seven “proper” seats also benefits the family buyer with a view to the future, relying on a vehicle that has the ability to grow with the family.
Impressions that this is a bigger Sorento than its two previous generations are obvious without even checking the specification sheet.
For the number crunchers, the latest model sits on a platform that has a wheelbase up 80mm to 2780mm and with a length of 4780mm, needs a garage that is 95mm longer.
But the Sorento is only 5mm wider (at 1890mm) and is actually lower by 45mm, to 1690mm.
All this translates into a bigger cabin and one that can boast that its seven-seat capacity is suitable for adults. The reduction in its height has not affected headroom as all seats have been lowered.
This third-row spaciousness is partially attributed to the recline and slide features of the second row and also because these supplementary seats are wide, have good legroom and have been designed for an adult’s height.
Access to the last row is from the passenger side, where the single seat can be slid forward and tilted. When not in use, the third row folds flat into the floor while the second row can be folded down to create a spacious cargo zone.
With all seven seats upright, the luggage space is 142 litres. But this increases quickly to 605 litres when the third row is stored within the cargo floor, then to 1662 litres with the second row folded.
There are versatile options in between. The centre row, which has slide and recline functions, can be split 40/20/40.
Occupants in the third row have cupholders and storage bins, with ventilation outlets in the side panels. There is also a remote fan speed switch for the air-conditioner.
Luggage blinds are ideal for deflecting heat and prying eyes away from the storage area but when not in use, can be difficult to house.
Kia neatly dispenses with the, sometimes, annoying luggage blind by placing it in a covered section of the cargo floor. It can be removed and clipped in position when necessary. The same applies to the standard luggage net.
The electric tailgate can be opened and closed by a finger touch but if even that is too onerous, it has a sensor that detects the remote key.
Just stand at the back with the key in your pocket, wait three seconds and the tailgate will open. You people are seriously getting it to easy.
Part of the upgrade for 2016 is a list of inclusions starting with noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) avoidance techniques.
Kia said that there is soundproofing material for the transmission tunnel, a 29 per cent thicker dashboard soundproofing panel and bigger engine and transmission mounts for better drivetrain refinement.
Diesel models get a cover for the exhaust pipe’s particulate filter and there’s also an acoustic shield in the engine’s timing chain cover.
The company claims that cabin noise has been reduced by between three per cent and six per cent, depending on driving conditions.
For greater occupant comfort, and less energy expended on the air-conditioner, the windscreen and side glass are now heat insulated.
The Platinum’s instrument panel uses a 7.0-inch TFT screen with a central circular main dial and ancillary gauges.
There is a second 7.0-inch screen at the centre of the dashboard that handles all the infotainment functions.
This screen works well, has decent graphics but suffers from sunglare that, given the sun’s angle, completely obscures data on the screen.
The Platinum has a 10-speaker Infinity audio system with full connectivity via Bluetooth.
Engine and transmission
Theoretically, an SUV needs a diesel. It implies long-distance durability, a long fuel range and easy access to fuel outside of the cities and towns. But a petrol engine is quieter, less messy and refueling is civilised by comparison.
The Hyundai-Kia R-Engine diesel has been around since 2009 both as a 2.0-litre and a 2.2-litre. It has been fitted to products as diverse as the Grandeur saloon and the Santa Fe, with Kia using it in the Sportage (2.0-litre) and the Sorento.
For 2016 the 2.2 gets small modifications aimed at reducing fuel consumption and to kick up the output of low- and mid-range torque.
The new work done includes a different fuel-injection system, gas recirculation cooler to reduce nitrogen-oxide emissions, and a swirl valve in the intake manifold to more accurately control the amount of air entering the combustion chamber.
The output is 147kW at 3800rpm – unchanged from the previous Sorento – and a 5Nm increase to 441Nm delivered flat from 1750rpm through to 2750rpm.
All this goodness translates to a fuel consumption average of 7.8 litres per 100 kilometres. Pleasingly, the test route – including freeway and dirt, city traffic and suburbia – posted 8.4L/100km.
That is very good considering my driving style remained a bit heavy footed and at that rate, gives the 71-litre fuel tank a range of 845km.
New for 2016 is a Drive Mode Select system that has three driver-operated settings. Normal is for daily use, Eco is to maximise fuel economy and Sport extends the gearbox shift points, reduces steering assistance (or, more correctly, the feel of the steering) and makes the engine feel more responsive by altering the throttle pedal electronics.
This system replaces the mysterious Flex Steer variable steering assistance device that was, frankly, as useful as pockets on underpants.
The Drive Mode Select can actually make a difference to the driving characteristics, even though it doesn’t add more power.
The engine drives through a carry-over six-speed automatic with manual mode, to the front wheels. It has an on-demand arrangement to send power to the rear wheels when the front wheels start to lose traction.
But it’s a more refined drivetrain than some rivals. Called Dynamax, it will move torque to the rear when required and has the ability to lessen front wheel spin if the situation demands. There is also a 4WD Lock button for low-speed 50:50 drive.
On top of that is a torque vectoring function where it will brake individual wheels that have little or no traction, transferring power to the other wheels.
This works in the dirt but also in cases where slip is detected on a road bend, for example.
To prevent understeer or oversteer, the system will brake an inner wheel and transfer power to the outer wheel with the aim of keeping the vehicle stable.
On the road the Sorento can defy its 1985kg tare weight and become a brisk drive. The engine delivers such strong torque at 2000-3000rpm that it can be hurried with surprising ease and without fuss.
Off the road the vehicle’s momentum relies on its low-end torque to cross sandy and gravel patches. It’s a good performer but not one for beachside jaunts.
The ground clearance is too low at 185mm and there’s a lot of weight bearing down on the low-profile tyres.
However, the combination of the engine delivery and the drivetrain’s capability would make it very suitable as a tow vehicle.
Then again, with a – surprisingly – low 2000kg tow rating, it’s suitable only for small caravans or camper trailers.
Ride and handling
Australia has played a key role in making the Sorento develop out of the often overused and underplayed definition of SUV.
Headed by noted suspension developer Graeme Gambold, the Australian Kia team aimed to boost the previous model’s level of ride comfort and handling. That meant big changes to the steering and suspension.
However, there may have been some budget constraints here as the basic suspension – front MacPherson struts and rear multi-link with coils – is unchanged.
It now has stiffer springs, a better roll angle – claimed to equate to one of the best SUVs, the Volkswagen Touareg – and fresh damper and rollbar ratings.
The steering system now places the electric motor – which is the power assistance unit – directly onto the steering rack.
This design, used by most top-end car makers, is claimed to improve steering feel to improve the positive and accurate reaction to steering input.
Previously, the electric motor was attached to the steering column. Kia is to adopt the new design on future models.
The turning circle is slightly wider, now 11.1m compared with the previous generation’s 10.9m. It remains within parameters for a 4.8m long vehicle.
With the new power steering design and firmer suspension, the Sorento has improved ride comfort and is a better vehicle to manoeuvre through twisting roads.
But despite the heavier springs, it is more comfortable and has a quieter ride.
Kia suggests this is attributed to the stronger and less-flexible body.
Safety and servicing
The latest Sorento gets a five-star crash rating from ANCAP, EuroNCAP and the top-level “good” rating from the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The stronger body, with 52.7 per cent made from high-tensile steel compared with the outgoing model’s 24.4 per cent, has reinforcements around the wheel arches and tailgate surround that benefits handling and safety.
It also has twice the hot-stamped steel as before, which has been used to strengthen the A-pillars and B-pillars.
All Sorento variants also get the complete suite of electronic brake and chassis aids, six airbags including front-to-rear curtain coverage, hill-start assist, emergency brake display, front and rear park sensors, a reverse camera and tyre-pressure monitor. There’s also a full-size spare wheel.
The Platinum adds active cruise control, blind-spot detection, rear cross-path traffic alert and lane-departure warning.
Kia has an outstanding seven-year, unlimited distance warranty and seven-year roadside assistance. The service intervals are annual and the capped-price service program lasts for seven years.
It costs $1330 to service the Sorento for three years, a little bit more expensive than the Ford Territory diesel at $1160 and the Toyota Prado at $1320, but cheaper than the Nissan Pathfinder at $1831.
Overall, however, the Kia’s lower fuel consumption may negate any savings made in rival servicing costs.
Glass’s Guide estimates that the Sorento Platinum has a 54 per cent resale value after three years, slightly less than its Toyota and Ford rivals and equal to the Nissan Pathfinder.
If you never considered a Kia in your driveway, it’s probably time. In its broad vehicle range, the Sorento aims mainly at the growing family but its flexibility will lure leisure-focused motorists.
The Platinum is expansively kitted, offers a very quiet and comfortable ride, is easy on the fuel and its ownership costs are pleasantly low. But this top-shelf model is relatively expensive and the SLi variant, with diesel engine and all-wheel drive, will save you $6500 with almost no equipment withdrawal symptoms.
However, up against its rivals, the Platinum presents a solid argument.
Ford Territory Titanium from $56,740 plus on-road costs
The ubiquitous Territory is an unfortunate victim of a dissolving Australian car building industry. While it’s still available, the performances of the diesel models stack up well against the more modern rivals. The 140kW/440Nm 2.7-litre V6 turbo-diesel claims 9.0L/100km and drives all wheels through a six-speed automatic. It can tow up to 2700kg making it the caravan king here. Boot space is 441-1153 litres. Features include leather upholstery, sat-nav, opening window glass within the tail gate, auto headlights and 18-inch wheels. Ford has a three-year, 100,000km warranty with one-year roadside assistance. The capped-price service lasts six years and costs $1160 for three years. Service intervals are annual. Glass’s Guide estimates resale after three years at 56 per cent of the purchase price.
Toyota Kluger GXL from $53,990 plus on-road costs
One of the most popular SUVs in the Toyota clan retains its petrol-only philosophy with a 201kW/337Nm 3.5-litre V6 engine. It mates to a six-speed automatic driving an on-demand all-wheel drive system. Toyota claims 10.6L/100km. It can tow up to 2000kg and has a boot capacity of 195 litres (all seats up), 529 litres (third row down) and 1872 litres with two rows flat. Features include seven airbags, front and rear park sensors with a reverse camera, heated front seats, leather trim, LED daytime running lights and 18-inch alloy wheels with a full-size spare. The warranty is three-years or 100,000km and service intervals are every six months. The capped-price service program costs $1080 for three years and resale is 56 per cent.
Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid ST-L from $57,490 plus on-road costs
A strong alternative to a diesel engine, the Pathfinder uses a supercharged 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine mated to a small electric motor for a combined 188kW/329Nm. It has a CVT automatic and an on-demand all-wheel drive system. It has a fuel thirst of 8.5L/100km. The CVT reduces tow rating to 1650kg but the spacious cabin has a capacity of 453 litres to a large 2259 litres. Features include Active Noise Cancellation to ensure a quiet cabin, sunroof, heated front seats, DVD player, leather upholstery and rear park sensors with a camera. It has a three-year, 100,000km warranty and three years of roadside assistance. The service intervals are six months or 7000km and the capped-price service program costs $1831 for three years. The resale is 54 per cent.
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