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Car reviews - Kia - Sorento - SLi CRDi 5-dr wagon range

The Car

4 Jun 2010

WITH seven seats, six speeds, five-star safety, and four-cylinder efficiency for every model, the three-tier, second-generation Sorento is the first Kia to take on the Mitsubishi Outlander, Toyota Kluger, Holden Captiva, Ford Territory and Hyundai Santa Fe.

On sale now and priced from $36,490 for the front-wheel drive petrol-powered Si automatic, the base XM Sorento four-cylinder petrol costs $2200 more than the five-seater V6 petrol auto four-wheel drive (4WD) BL Sorento it replaces.

Customers wanting 4WD must go diesel and stump up another 10 per cent for the $39,990 Si CRDi, but that’s for the manual 4WD only, so another $5500 is needed to buy the $41,990 Si CRDi automatic 4WD.

In contrast, the base BL Sorrento diesel started at $4700 and $5200 less for the manual and automatic respectively.

But value, Kia claims, is core to the Korean-built Sorento, so even the Si models come with a five-year warranty, six-speed transaxles, third row of seats, six airbags, anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist, ESC, downhill brake control, hill-start assist control, active front headrests, dual-zone air-conditioning with a filter, cruise control, remote audio controls, trip computer, alloy wheels with a full-sized spare, fog lights, power windows, remote central locking, electric folding exterior mirrors, rear cargo blind, and CD audio with USB/MP3 compatibility.

Kia also throws in self-levelling ZF Sachs rear shockers on the Si CRDi.

The auto-only $45,990 SLi CRDi adds a reversing camera, leather seats, a powered driver’s seat, roof racks, visual/audio rear parking sensors, 18-inch alloys, LED tail-lights, third-row seating vents and fan control, and fancier trim, while the flagship $48,990 Platinum includes high intensity discharge headlights, privacy glass, an audio upgrade, a panoramic sunroof and keyless entry and start.

The last two features are new to the series, as are the reversing camera and Bluetooth telephony. A satellite navigation option is also on its way, and is expected sometime during 2010.

If there is customer demand, Kia says it may extend the availability of the petrol to the SLi and Platinum grades.

Central in luring new buyers to the mid-sized SUV is the XM Sorento’s clean styling, overseen by former Audi designer Peter Schreyer. Inspired by the KND-4 concept vehicle from the 2007 Seoul motor show, the production vehicle is more aerodynamic than before, boasting a drag co-efficiency rating drop from 0.43 to 0.38Cd.

Built on an evolution of the current Hyundai CM Santa Fe’s platform, Kia’s first seven-seater SUV eschews the off-road ability of the outgoing version by abandoning the body-on-chassis design for a lighter monocoque construction.

As a result key dimensions change (length: plus 95mm, height: minus 55mm, wheelbase: minus 10mm), but the amount of space inside rises, particularly in terms of available legroom (plus 102mm) and headroom (plus 64mm). Cargo capacity also grows, by 15 per cent, mainly due to an increase in floor length by about 70mm.

Other changes include a lower 37mm lower hip point and a 30mm lower ride height, while the whole centre of gravity falls 54mm. Front and rear track rise 38mm and 40mm respectively while the ground clearance drops 19mm to 203mm.

Tipping the scales at 1959kg, the XM Sorento is also lighter than before, by as much as 177kg, while the structure itself is 215kg lighter, yet towing capacity is 2000kg for the petrol and 2500kg for the diesel.

In lieu of the old Sorento’s 180kW/309Nm 3.3-litre petrol V6, the base model front-drive Si uses a revised version of Kia’s Theta II 2.4-litre dual CVVT Continuous Valve Timing Euro IV-rated four-cylinder petrol engine, producing just 128kW of power at 6000rpm and 225Nm of torque at 6000rpm.

Like the diesel, this 2349cc unit is mated to Hyundai/Kia’s new in-house six-speed automatic gearbox – a sealed unit that is 12kg lighter and 13 per cent more economical than the firm’s old five-speed automatic transmission, and incorporates a standstill ‘neutral’ mode to save fuel when the car is at a standstill in drive.

The four-pot petrol can sprint to 100km/h in 11.1 seconds and top 190km/h, while its combined fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions figures are 9.2 litres per 100 kilometres and 219 grams per kilometre respectively.

But the latter pale compared to the class-leading 6.7L/100km (auto: 7.4) and 177g/km (auto: 194) achieved by the all-new R-Series 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine – which allows the CRDi to achieve a range of 1040km from its 70-litre tank.

Available with a six-speed manual or auto gearbox, this Euro-IV rated 2199cc powerplant delivers 145kW at 3800rpm 422Nm between 1800-2500rpm (auto: 436Nm), thanks to its third-generation common-rail injection system and electrical variable geometry turbo-charger technology courtesy of Garrett.

This replaces the previous Sorento’s 125kW/392Nm 2.5-litre CRDi four-cylinder unit, and is 21 per cent more economical to boot.

Kia is contemplating importing the ‘Lambda II’ 3.5-litre quad-cam V6 petrol with continuously variable valve timing later in 2010, developing 206kW at 6300rpm and 335Nm at 5000rpm.

Unlike before, there is no low-range transfer case available on the part-time 4WD system, which apportions 100 per cent of drive frontwards until a loss of grip transfers up to 50 per cent rearwards. The driver can also use a dash switch to manually lock the system 50/50 for speeds up to 30km/h.

It is also all-change for the undercarriage, with the front suspension gaining a MacPherson strut arrangement (replacing the old wishbone design) while a new multi-link rear suspension set-up banishes the live rear axle of the BL Sorento.

The hydraulically powered rack and pinion steering system is also fresh, has a 10.9-metre turning circle, and lowers the number of turns lock-to-lock by around 25 per cent.

Kia says it has done Australian testing on prototypes over the past seven months, to fine-tune the suspension and steering system. As a result, local Sorentos score a unique state of tuning.

Drastically cutting noise-vibration-harshness levels was critical to the development team, helped by an increase in body stiffness: the amount of high-tensile strength steel rises from about 40 per cent to 70.4 per cent.

The new Sorento’s interior styling follows the clean functional form of the exterior, and features tri-cluster instrumentation, metallic painted trim highlights, and ‘mood lighting’ under the door trims on up-spec versions. Seating is the conventional 2+3+2 layout, with the middle row using a 60:40 split-fold seat and easy access system for the third row.

All models achieve a five-star Euro NCAP rating (and a three-star pedestrian result), but from December production the Sorento will include the passenger seatbelt reminder it needs to get the Australian NCAP five-star billing.

Kia hopes the latest Sorento range will impact the seven-seater SUV segment with the same ferocity the original Carnival did in the people mover segment 10 years ago.

Nevertheless, a conservative annual sales projection of 2000 units is forecast, with the Si diesel automatic expected to take the lion’s share of volume despite its $41,990 sticker price.

Since the old model’s Australian launch in January 2003, some 9000 have been sold, out of over 900,000 globally.

In that time, the rate of monocoque-to-ladder-frame chassis mid-sized SUVs have gone from 30:70 to 70:30, in a market that has grown from 38,000 too 76,000 sales.

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Did you know?

Tipping the scales from 1959kg, the XM Sorento is lighter than before, by as much as 177kg, and the structure itself weighs 215kg less yet body strength and stiffness increase markedly

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