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New Kia Sorento unveiled

Skin deep: The familiar-looking updated Kia Sorento will drive like a completely different car than the outgoing model due to the fact it is completely new underneath.

Subtle styling update hides all-new underpinnings for new Kia Sorento due here in Q4

19 Jun 2012

IT MAY look like a mild facelift of Kia’s popular Sorento seven-seat SUV, but behind the familiar-looking skin are new underpinnings shared with the next-generation Santa Fe from sister company Hyundai that debuted at the New York motor show in April.

Due for Australian release in the fourth quarter of this year, Kia says the updated Sorento will go upmarket with more soft-touch cabin surfaces, a new eight-inch multi-function display and an LCD instrument cluster.

The optional panoramic sunroof has been enlarged and Kia has ditched its cross-beam in the roof, while the redesigned centre console has a straight gate for automatic variants (rather than the outgoing model’s staggered shift) and the selector gets a leather boot.

External changes also indicate the Sorento’s posher aspirations, comprising a new headlight design with LED daytime-running lights, a redesigned tailgate panel with re-shaped LED tail-light clusters and new bumpers featuring more body-coloured areas.

Vertical foglights in the front and rear bumpers replace the circular front units and horizontal rear units, while the new look is topped off with a larger range of alloy wheel choices, including 19-inch items.

17 center imageFrom top: The 2012 Kia Sorento 2012 Hyundai Santa Fe.

The new Sorento is claimed to have improved ride, handling and refinement characteristics and, as with other models in its line-up, Kia Australia says it will apply local ride and handling tweaks to the Sorento.

Executive vice-president and COO of Kia’s international business division, Thomas Oh, said the company has “given very careful attention to owners’ feedback”.

“The upgraded Sorento is not just a cosmetic exercise but a major step forward for our popular SUV.” Without going into detail, Kia also promises “enhanced powertrains for best-in-class fuel economy with lower emissions” plus “additional convenience and safety measures”.

A new 3.3-litre direct-injection petrol V6 engine that will go into long-wheelbase versions of the US market third-generation Hyundai Santa Fe is a likely candidate for the Australian Sorento, to replace the 3.5-litre unit of the outgoing model.

The well-regarded 2.2-litre CRDi turbo-diesel will probably continue service, albeit with some running changes to improve efficiency and refinement.

Weight savings applied to the Santa Fe could also turn up on the Sorento, with the Hyundai using 30 per cent more high-strength steel to increase rigidity by 16 per cent while reducing mass by up to 136kg.

At least some technology from the new Santa Fe will make its way to the Sorento, such as the torque vectoring system that distributes drive to – or brakes – individual wheels according to need as a way of improving cornering stability and reducing oversteer or understeer.

The Santa Fe also has a three-mode steering system – enabled by the switch to fuel-saving electric assistance – that varies steering weight according to taste and conditions.

Santa Fe safety also gets a boost with the addition of an airbag for the driver’s knee, blind-spot monitoring system and a new Blue Link telematics system that can alert emergency services in the event of a crash.

Australian Kia sales are up 22.8 per cent with 12,409 units shifted to the end of May and the Sorento contributing 1229 of those – a handsome 31.7 per cent sales surge.

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