Phase two of Kia’s “coming of age” is kicking in with the third-generation Sorento seven-seater sport utility vehicle, Kia says. The all-new Sorento is the first Kia to be developed with new emphasis on technological advancement, mechanical and precision of build quality, combined with solidity and material richness in the cabin for comfort and refinement in everyday use.
However, with all those transformative advances, let’s find out what ever-humble Kia is truly serious about in leading the car-making world in so many ways.
The Sorento, having been around since 2002, has created quite a stir in the automotive industry. It has been a decade since Peter Schreyer, the current architect of Kia sedans, hatchbacks, crossovers and this third generation SUV, has combined Asian traditions with European opulence.
Design and Structure
The all-steel platform has been completely redesigned. Its uni-body platform now has twice the proportion of high-strength steel, and torsional rigidity is up 14 percent compared to the first-generation, ladder-frame set-up. A new rack-mounted electro-mechanical power steering set-up is intended to deliver greater directional precision to the handling. It is also lot softer to move around with.
A new geometry front-mounted struts as well as new shock absorbers and hydraulic rebound springs are also all new. Same as the repositioned shocks fitted for the multi-link arrangement at the rear, as well as a new sub-frame bush to enhance ride comfort.
As for off-road ability, steel coils give a fixed ride height that delivers only modest approach and break-over angles and ground clearance of 185 millimeters, none of which makes the Sorento looking rugged.
The dashboard is generously covered in soft-touch plastics, with glossy piano black trim and satin chrome accents for decoration. The cabin ambience is dark and black, somewhat restrained and lacking a bit of warmth. Although the materials chosen could appeal more to the senses, they are needed to bring greater sophistication and richness to the package.
The layout of instruments, major controls for the stereo and secondary systems is very conventional and turning up the climate control temperature, turning off the parking sensors and opening the automatic tailgate are easy and intuitive.
Coming standard with the Sorento is the TFT instrument screen, occupying the car’s central speedometer, that feels more like a modern trip computer than a truly configurable TFT-style display. It has some extended menus like a digital display of average per kilometer and mileage per 100 kilometers
With a slightly lower hip point than that of the previous Sorento and most full-sized SUVs, this one allowed most people to slide straight in without needing to climb up or drop down into the driver’s seat – a favorite for senior citizens like my mom.
Big, firm front seats with plentiful knee-room and well-placed support for your elbows make you instantly comfortable, and further back the occupants will find lots of space in the second row that has a large square boot with a convenient loading height. The third row of seats is relatively easy to put up, as the load bay cover stows in its own recess below the boot floor and the seats click into place at the tug of a belt strap.
Access to the third row could be better, since the second row of seats slides fore and aft but doesn’t tumble forward. But once they’re in, passengers will find as much room back there as in most seven-seaters (enough for the tall adults) having their own air conditioning vents and controls.
Only one engine is currently available on the new Sorento – a 2.2-liter turbo diesel four-cylinder motor developing 197 brake horsepower (199 horsepower) at 3,800 revolutions per minute and 311 pound-feet of torque from 1,800 to 2,500 rpm. The engine is mated to a fast-acting Dynamax clutch-based four-wheel drive system introduced on last year’s updated Sportage that allows a 50/50 front-to-rear torque split to be locked in at up to 40 kilometers per hour. There’s also a new brake-actuated torque vectoring system called Advanced Traction Cornering Control.
A higher-pressure fuel injection system has been adopted, as well as a new intake manifold and more precise variable-geometry turbo control. Although it now complies with Euro 5 emissions standards, this remains one of the gutsier, thirstier engines in the class.
The engine, tempered by the car’s weight, hardly feels substantial in the manner of a big-capacity modern oil-burner, but for the most part, it’s far easier to appreciate the well-matched combination of torque delivery and six-speed gear ratios while under way. Flat out, it takes 9.3 seconds to reach 90 kilometers per hour and mid-range pull is generally rewarding.
With an average of 6.4 kilometers per liter on the worse two-hours of traffic, I get 15.6 kpl on the digital display in the Southern Luzon Expressway while merging aggressively on the faster lane where the Sorento is likely to find itself going faster without feeling the sensation of speed.
There has been much anticipation on what Kia has in store for their full-sized third generation SUV. With increased demand on these vehicles because of their versatility, size and price, manufacturers have been upping the ante as too how an SUV should be like.
The 2015 Kia Sorento is certainly improved, but in a way that marks it out as evolutionary rather than newly extraordinary. It’s a real threat to volume-brand rivals but less so to the premium players. Consequently, for the almost P2 million asking price of the test vehicle, Kia’s best effort of feeling more European than Korean may feel still a bit too plain compared to their European rivals. However, outdoing a range of other more mainstream options to finish in this SUV, their best of the rest, in a segment of ever-increasing popularity, is something you get more from what it is expected.