Car reviews - Kia - Sorento - range
Great ride comfort, good levels of NVH, updated infotainment system, surprisingly nimble, smooth and willing diesel
Room for improvement
Increased fuel use for bigger V6, plastic-looking interior, smaller towing capacity than some rivals, no AWD V6
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16 Oct 2017
TWO years after the third-generation Sorento launched on the Australian market, Kia has given its largest SUV a mid-life update to keep it fresh against its rivals.
Changes have been made to the Sorento’s suspension, steering, safety features, design and infotainment, as well as the petrol V6 engine, which has swapped from a 3.3-litre V6 to a 3.5-litre unit.
The Sorento impressed when it arrived in 2015, picking up a number of industry awards, however it has failed to reach the lofty sales heights set by the likes of the Toyota Kluger and Mazda CX-9.
Are the new changes, along with Kia’s industry-leading seven-year warranty, enough to push the Sorento into the top echelon of sales in the seven-seat SUV segment?
When the third-generation Sorento landed in mid-2015, Kia hoped its new family hauler could sell around 500 units a month, which would translate to 6000 units per year.
After a 15 per cent lift in year-to-date sales, the Sorento’s 2017 tally has worked out to be around 400 per month, with Kia tempering expectations for the updated model, hoping for incremental growth to be between 420 and 440 monthly sales.
There is plenty of choice for buyers in the seven-seat SUV segment, with the likes of the Mazda CX-9, Toyota Kluger, Hyundai Santa Fe and Nissan Pathfinder joining the swathe of more recent ute-based SUVs such as the Ford Everest, Toyota Fortuner, Mitsubishi Pajero Sport, Isuzu MU-X and Holden Trailblazer as offerings with all-wheel drive and seven seats.
Despite the myriad choices in the segment, it comes as a surprise that the Sorento is only the tenth-best selling large SUV, as our time in the car left us with a decidedly positive impression of Kia’s largest SUV.
Driving a mix of model grades as well as both the diesel and petrol powertrains, it becomes apparent that there are a number of quality offerings in the Sorento line-up.
First impressions of the Sorento give us the indication that this model would make an excellent touring vehicle, with the revisions to the range’s suspension immediately apparent.
Kia updated the Sorento’s sub-frame and rear mounting bush, which has resulted in improved body control, better cornering and improved ride quality and bump absorption.
Ride comfort is excellent, and combined with the thick and well-supported seats makes for a breezy and supple driving experience.
Both even and uneven surfaces are dealt with well, with the suspension never feeling too firm or soft.
While the Sorento isn’t exactly the type of vehicle made to be thrown into corners at high speeds, when required it can handle cornering with ease, particularly the all-wheel-drive versions. Bodyroll is kept to a minimum, while steering feedback is pleasantly heavier thanks to a revision of the rack-mounted power steering system.
Noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) levels are also impressive, with cabin noise kept at a minimum, especially in more generously-equipped versions. Wind noise is the only intrusion worthy of note, and the base-level Si is a tad more susceptible to tyre roar and other general NVH grumbles.
The quiet cabin gives the Sorento the feel of a solidly-built vehicle, far from the days of when it was seen as a cheap and cheerful manufacturer clearly a cut below its Japanese competitors.
Interior layout is typically Kia, and the inclusion of an 8.0-inch touchscreen hosting Kia’s latest infotainment system is a boon, and gives it an advantage over the systems offered by Mazda and Toyota.
Interface navigation is simple, and the touchscreen operation is lag-free, which is a relief as laggy systems can be distracting while driving.
Standard equipment is shared generously across all model grades, with even the low-spec Si and Sport sharing a lot of the important features of the SLi and GT-Line, such as the 8.0-inch display with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, digital radio, dual-zone climate control and a raft of new safety features including autonomous emergency braking, lane keeping assist, driver attention alert and adaptive cruise control.
While soft-touch plastics have been added through the cabin, the Sorento’s interior is still a bit too dependent on the material, and could do with a greater inclusion of other materials, particularly on higher-spec variants.
Interior space is ample as expected of a large SUV, with front and rear legroom plentiful, and a bigger boot courtesy of a 20mm growth in rear overhang.
Engine noise is kept to a minimum while at cruising speeds, particularly in the diesel four-pot. It takes a heavy right foot for the engine to be heard, with the V6 the louder option of the two.
Of the two engine choices, the carry-over 2.2-litre turbo-diesel is the better pick, and comes exclusively in all-wheel-drive configuration, whereas the 3.5-litre V6 is a front-drive-only proposition.
Developing 147kW/441Nm, the diesel pulls the two-tonne Sorento with a minimum of fuss, rarely overexerting itself and delivering even and plentiful torque throughout the rev band.
Fuel economy got as low as six litres per 100km with mainly highway driving, up to around 8.2L/100km with a more varied driving experience.
The petrol V6, while adequate, is slightly underwhelming in comparison to its oil-burning partner, needing a good shove of the accelerator to get the Sorento moving, and returning a spongier throttle response than the diesel.
With the increase in displacement from 3.3 to 3.5 litres, the new petrol mill has seen an jump in fuel consumption. While only climbing 0.1 litres to 10.0L/100km, it is unusual for an updated engine to be thirstier than the one it replaces.
The increase in size and consumption has only returned a power increase of 7kW/18Nm to 206kW/336Nm, which is an underwhelming improvement and not immediately noticeable over the old unit.
Furthermore, the petrol is only available with front-wheel-drive configuration, something that Kia Motors Australia general manager product planning Roland Rivero said was due to the all-wheel-drive petrol only being offered in left-hand-drive guise.
Kia’s new eight-speed auto, which makes its SUV debut in the new Sorento, works well with both petrol and diesel variants, shifting smoothly and keeping revs low – the diesel tachometer sits at 1500rpm when cruising at 100km/h.
Our only gripe with the new auto is its tendency to occasionally hold gears too long. It does so particularly when travelling downhill, assumingly to aid in braking, however it can continue to do so once the terrain has levelled out and can prove to be quite distracting.
One area where the Sorento falls behind its other rivals, especially the ute-based SUVs with ladder-frame chassis construction, is its towing capacity.
Rated at 2000kg braked, the Sorento is 200kg shy of its mechanically related Hyundai Santa Fe cousin, and a tonne or more off the mark of the segment leaders.
Overall, the new Sorento is an excellent offering and a sign that Kia has comfortably caught up with its Japanese rivals. Its relatively low sales numbers belie the fact that it is one of the best offerings in its class, with generous standard equipment, quality driveability and comfortable ride quality.
Combined with Kia’s industry-leading seven year/unlimited kilometre warranty, the Sorento should be a serious consideration for anyone in the market for a large SUV capable of seating seven occupants.
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