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Kia Sorento toughens up

Spaced out: The new Kia Sorento is not only stronger but also more spacious in the rear seats.

All-new Kia Sorento SUV pumps iron to boost safety, refinement and handling


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17 Aug 2012

KIA has revealed that its all-new Sorento large SUV will be stronger, more spacious, better equipped and – by the time Kia Australia’s chassis tuning team gets its hands on it – more agile.

The fast-growing South Korean company yesterday released mechanical details of the third-generation Sorento ahead of its domestic launch in Seoul, two months before its arrival in Australian showrooms in October when it will also go in show at the Australian International Motor Show.

It claims the vehicle will use 25 per cent more ultra-high tensile steel than most vehicles in its class, helping to improve crash protection and refinement.

The company says super-strong components such as the front bumper, centre floor member and rear floor side-members are stamped from steel so strong that it has to be heated to 900 degrees to be formed in the stamping presses.

Torsional rigidity of the body has been improved by 18 per cent, not only enhancing refinement but, according to Kia, providing a stronger foundation for improved ride comfort and directional stability.

The new model – which will remain a seven-seater Australia – will get the full chassis-tuning treatment from Kia Australia’s engineering team ahead of its local release.

The current model that was released in 2009 received only cursory local tuning, as the localisation program led by engineer Graeme Gambold was only in its early stages at that time.

As GoAuto reported last week, the Sorento will continue in Australia with the 2.2-litre diesel and 3.5-litre V6 engine line-up, but has homologated a 2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with direct injection in case it decides on this option at a later point.

Kia has now confirmed that the four-cylinder petrol engine has been revised with new components including the cylinder head, pistons, direct fuel injection (from Optima) and intake systems.

It says the engine generates nine per cent more power – up 13 kW to 141kW – and seven per cent more torque (242 Nm), while delivering better fuel economy and lower carbon dioxide emissions, down to 199 grams per kilometre.

Kia says the 145kW 2.2-litre TCI diesel engine gets a new exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) system to reduce CO2 emissions to 153g/km. In Australia, the lowest C02 emissions reading in the current Sorento range is 177g/km for the manual diesel.

Like the 204kW 3.5-litre Lambda V6, the six-speed manual and automatic transmissions will be carried over.

In Australia, the V6 Sorento will be available only in front-wheel drive fomat with automatic transmission, while the diesel gets a choice of manual and automatic transmissions and both front- and all-wheel drive.

The 4WD drivetrain is an ‘on demand’ system that powers the front wheels until slip is detected, when it delivers half of the torque to the rear axle. The driver can also override the system by selecting lock mode for constant AWD.

As before, the new Sorento is related to the new Hyundai Santa Fe, which will be launched in Australia in September, one month ahead of the Kia version.

Fresh details of the Sorento released by Kia in Seoul suggest the new model will be easier to access, with a floor height 10mm lower than before.

Cabin space has been enhanced in the back with 30mm more legroom in the second row and 9mm extra in the third row.

Trimmed in either black or beige cloth or leather, the Sorento gets more soft-touch surfaces along with satin-chrome trim on the door handles, air-vent surrounds and switches.

A modern eight-inch LCD instrument cluster is front and centre, while premium models will get powered, heated and ventilated front seats, heated second-row seat cushions, Bluetooth phone connectivity, UV-reflecting solar glass and air-conditioning for the third-row seats.

Kia claims the Sorento is now one of the quietest it is class thanks to more noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) reduction measures.

While the suspension remains the same – MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear – Kia says the cross-members and other chassis elements have been upgraded for superior ride and handling. As well, the Sorento gets bigger front disc brakes (320mm).

As we have seen from pictures released in June, the upgraded Sorento’s new look is evolutionary by the Korean company’s bold standards, continuing with the trademark “tiger nose” grille from former Audi designer Peter Schreyer.

The overall look is smoother, with larger panel surfaces that Kia claims contributes to the 0.34Cd aerodynamic drag figure.

One standout design feature is the vertically mounted front driving lights in the bumper, while the rear tail-light clusters get LED lighting.

Options include 19-inch alloy wheels, a two-part panoramic sunroof with a powered shade and a range of modern safety technologies such as radar-based blind-spot detection, lane-departure warning system using a camera above the windshield, and a parking assist system.

With 1817 units shifted in Australia to the end of July, Australian Sorento sales are up 37.4 per cent this year, tracking well against the large SUV segment’s 31.3 per cent growth.

Around the world, Kia has sold more than 620,000 units of the current second-generation model, bringing total Sorento sales to more than 1.5 million.

Kia international business division executive vice-president Thomas Oh said the original Sorento launched in 2002 had been a landmark for Kia, starting the process of changing public perception of the company as a small-car manufacturer.

“During the last decade, Sorento has earned widespread media and public acclaim and attracted thousands of customers to Kia who had not previously considered our brand,” he said.

“While creating the upgraded Sorento, we have given very careful attention to owners’ feedback, and the result is a new Kia model which is not just a cosmetic exercise but represents a major step forwards for our popular CUV [crossover utility vehicle].

“Despite the current economic uncertainties in some markets, we are confident that upgraded Sorento with its fresh look and significant improvements will increase Kia’s share of the utility vehicle market, achieving annual global sales of 265,000 units from 2013.”

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