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Driven: All-new Kia Sorento lands

Bigger prospects: Kia’s third-generation Sorento is bigger overall, making more space for equipment and people, while European-inspired looks are meant to attract more attention.

Kia aims to take bigger chunk of large SUV segment with $40,990 third-gen Sorento

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Kia logo5 Jun 2015

By DANIEL GARDNER

KIA is confident its new-generation Sorento seven-seat large SUV will increase sales by as much as 10 per cent, winning new buyers with significant improvements to styling, build quality and standard equipment.

On sale now from $40,990 plus on-road costs, the third-generation Sorento competes in a segment that Kia Motors Australia chief operating officer Damien Meredith describes as “burgeoning”, with the sub-$70,000 large SUV class up 7.4 per cent to the end of May.

“We haven’t set high volumes on the vehicle but we believe it can do 350 to 400 a month in a (total large SUV) market that’s 12,000 month in, month out, so we are pretty confident we can achieve those numbers,” Mr Meredith said at this week’s national launch in far-north Queensland.

“That’s up about 10 per cent so that’s where we want to be.”

Mr Meredith explained that aesthetics and styling were of high importance to Australian consumers, giving the company confidence that the new looks of the Sorento – both inside and out – would translate to increased sales.

“The quality of the new product is unbelievable so we are very confident in what’s been produced and we believe the customers will put it on their shopping list,” he said.

“Aesthetics – I’m sure they matter to Australians. Evolution is a good word but I think the (deal) closer will be the interior, which is European standard. It will be one of its strong selling points.

“In general terms, the design is classical.”

Mr Meredith acknowledged there would always be a proportion of buyers driven by price, but added that the majority of Sorento owners have traditionally been drawn to the highest specification.

He said the new version was expected to continue the trend with more than 50 per cent of takers opting for the Platinum model.

For the third generation, Kia has stuck to the previous format of three diesel options with four-wheel drive, and two petrol variants with front-wheel drive.

Entry-level Si and mid-range SLi options are available in a choice of either petrol or diesel power, while the flagship Platinum version is available only as an oil-burner.

The petrol range kicks off with a new 3.3-litre V6 engine, and despite downsizing from 3.5 litres it produces almost as much power and torque at 199kW and 318Nm respectively compared to the 3.5’s 204kW/335Nm.

Official combined-cycle fuel consumption has increased marginally to 9.9 litres per 100km (up from 9.8L/100km), but CO2 emissions have fallen by 5g/km to 230g/km.

Like the outgoing version, both petrol versions drive the front wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission, which is now known as “Sports-matic” (previously Manu-matic).

Pricing increased across the board compared with the outgoing version, with the base Si up $2000 to $40,990, while moving up to the better-equipped SLi now costs $4500 more at $45,990.

The turbo-diesel trio remains powered by a 2.2-litre four-cylinder engine, with maximum output climbing slightly to 147kW (up 2kW) and 441Nm (up 5Nm) and fuel consumption also increasing – up 0.5L/100km to 7.8L/100km. The CO2 output is 205g/km.

Range for all variants has been extended with a larger 71-litre fuel tank (up from 64L).

Diesel model variants are subject to similar price increases, with the Si now starting from $44,490 – $4000 more than the second-generation equivalent, although its automatic transmission is now standard.

Mid-range SLi and top-spec Platinum versions are priced $4500 further upstream compared to the equivalent previous model, at $49,490 and $55,990 respectively.

Kia has dropped the diesel/manual gearbox option for the Si with the new generation, leaving the entire range as an auto-only proposition. Like the petrol versions, diesels have the same six-speed version, but with all wheels driven via a Dynamax transmission system.

The all-paw layout variably distributes torque to either axle under all circumstances, affording the maximum traction whether the Sorento is on-road in poor driving conditions, or on loose surfaces when off-road.

For yet more grip, a 4WD Lock mode freezes the centre differential, sending torque equally to either end for when negotiating sand, snow or other low-friction surfaces, while the Advanced Traction Cornering Control’ (ATCC) system shares torque to individual wheels to further boost traction and mitigate understeer.

A ‘Drive Mode Select’ system is available on all versions and replaces the previous ‘Flex Steer’ system, allowing the driver to pick a preferred gear-change setting.

Eco mode upshifts early, promoting optimum fuel economy, Sport mode holds on to gears longer and increases steering weight and throttle sensitivity for more involved driving, while Normal mode sits somewhere in between.

Like all Kia models sold in Australia, the 2015 Sorento’s chassis has undergone local tuning.

Other than changes to spring, dampener and anti-rollbar settings, no significant changes have been made to the outgoing model’s suspension layout, with MacPherson struts up front and a multi-link set-up at the rear.

That said, Kia claims the modifications have improved noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) levels, as well as comfort and handling.

The chassis refinements are complemented by thicker soundproofing of the bulkhead and engine components, reducing cabin noise by between three and six per cent depending on the variant.

Brakes are still discs all-round with 320mm ventilated rotors at the front, but the solid rear discs have grown by 3mm in diameter (to 305mm).

Housing the brakes are 17-inch alloy wheels on the Si, 18s on SLi and 19-inch rims on Platinum.

ABS brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist are fitted, adding to a long list of standard safety equipment that includes electronic stability and traction control, six airbags (including curtain protection for all three rows), a reversing camera, parking sensors all-round, a tyre pressure monitoring system, hill-start assist and an emergency stop signal.

The Platinum version adds lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.

Improved manufacturing techniques have increased the Sorento’s structural strength as well as sharpening the quality and appearance with smoother weld- and shut-lines, while boosting safety – rated at the maximum five stars under the independent ANCAP regime.

High-strength steel has more than doubled for the 2015 model, added in areas such as the wheelarches, tailgate, rear-wheel surrounds and the A- and B-pillars.

Sitting on an 80mm-longer wheelbase (2780mm), the new Sorento is now 95mm longer (4780mm) and 5mm wider (1890mm), although overall height (with roofrails) is down 45mm to 1690mm.

Minimum ground clearance is 185mm, while the interior has more room for luggage and occupants.

With all seven seats in place, the remaining load area can accommodate 320 litres (+62L), with the 50/50-split third-row seats folded the load area increases to 1077 litres (+30L), while folding the 40/20/40 second row boosts space to 2066 litres (+14L).

A standard under-floor tonneau cover storage compartment with cargo net increases storage versatility and convenience, as does the power tailgate (for SLi and Platinum) that opens automatically when the correct key is sensed nearby.

Kia describes the Sorento’s interior styling as “modern and wide” with higher quality materials for a more luxurious feel. The wrap-around dashboard houses a 7.0 inch touchscreen, while the user interface was apparently inspired by a Swiss watch.

Entry-level Si cabins are upholstered in two-tone cloth, while higher-spec versions use leather. When painted Snow White Pearl, Aurora Black or Sunset Red, Platinum versions are available with a special black and “stone” interior theme.

In top-spec versions, the front seats are three-stage heated and cooled, the second-row passengers have two-stage heating and the leather-clad steering wheel is also heated for those chilly mornings.

The Sorento Si’s instrument cluster has two more conventional analogue gauges with a central 3.5-inch information screen for displaying onboard vehicle and trip information.

Moving up to SLi and Platinum replaces the tangible gauges with a 7.0-inch screen and an electro-luminescent cluster for a more versatile information display.

Information and entertainment systems are handled by the 7.0-inch TFT touchscreen and MP3 connectivity, USB and auxiliary ports and a six-speaker sound system. SLi and Platinum variants add four speakers with subwoofer and beefier amplifier.

Kia Sorento pricing*
Petrol
Si (a)$40,990
SLi (a)$45,990
Diesel
Si (a)$44,490
SLi (a)$49,490
Platinum (a)$55,990
*Excludes on-road costs.

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