Kia’s flagship, the Sorento, sold really well, the new, totally uprated 2015 model is continuing the trend
Kia says it has taken note of areas that its owners, generally satisfied, said could do with improvement: steering and economy.
Car Tested: All-New Sorento KX-3
The official combined fuel consumption figure from the new Sorento ranges from 49.5 mpg for a manual car on 17-inch wheels down to 42.2 for an automatic on 19-inch wheels.
My test car was a KX-3 (one below top-of-the-range) manual on 18-inch wheels (46.3 mpg) whose trip computer showed a return overall of 38.8 mpg. This was over around four hundred miles of quite hard driving in all sorts of traffic conditions and at regular autobahn speeds of between eighty and ninety miles an hour.
This is comparable to other similar big SUVs, but what was noticeable — or, in a way, un-noticeable — was the noise in the cabin: there was hardly any. The 2.2-litre engine has had a lot of work done on it to improve its performance, being lighter and more efficient in other ways, with, for example, a new coating on the piston skirts, illustrating the detail to which the designers were prepared to go. There was very little of the old diesel rattle on starting up and at high speed it was a a gentle swishing of wind that in any way disturbed the quiet.
Under the driver’s foot it all felt very refined; performance was impressive, particularly at motorway speed, when a little pressure on the accelerator released easy overtaking power.
Zero to 62 mph if you maximise the manual gearbox’s workings takes just 9.0 seconds, which is pretty good, but it’s that surge on tap at higher speeds that is more important.
The manual gearbox is at its slickest also at speed; otherwise it is perfectly adequate, if not quite so smooth.
As to the steering (a minor problem, it seems, for Sorento drivers before), it is really good. I found it to be quick and precise, nicely-weighted at whatever speed, and the steering wheel itself was very comfortable over long periods at the wheel.
The ride was excellent. The car absorbed poor road surfaces very well, even if I could sometimes feel little vibrations through the seat-back…not unpleasant. The seats themselves were very comfortable and, having established my ideal driving position, i never had to fiddle about with any adjustments.
Having had a rare opportunity to explore the handling and braking of the Sorento on a test track, I can report that these score high marks, too. The road-holding is excellent, with the car clinging on to quite a high ‘G’ force, and with not much roll, although you do have to hang on hard to the steering wheel. Nothing unusual in that…nor in the braking, where the Sorento stopped strongly with little front-end dip in a straight line; similarly hard braking on corners caused some lurching upwards on releasing the pressure, but the car remained pointing in the right direction. Only lunatic driving would get the car into trouble; it does of course have the current range of inbuilt automatic safety systems, with its four-wheel-drive of the sophisticated type that detects slippage at any wheel and allows or limits power where necessary.
Sorentos remain as seven-seaters. My question as to whether they may be available as five-seaters was pre-answered in Kia’s research that indicated that seven seats is what customers wanted. It would be revealing to know how often all seven seats are used compared with how often owners might actually prefer to have the boot area more available for large loads. In fact, the third two-seat row can be easily folded flat, and the middle, three-seat row can be folded flat via a lever handily placed in the luggage area.
Access to the third row via the rear side door is aided via a press-down button on the shoulder of the near-side outer middle-row seat. This seems to assume that all access to the third row should be through the near side of the car. However, it would be an improvement if there could also be similar access also from the off-side. Forgetting the seven-seat idea for the moment, many car manufacturers claim that their cars are five-seaters when they are not. Why? Because the transmission tunnel leaves nowhere for the feet of whoever is stuck in the middle seat; Kia has overcome this problem by having a flat floor.
Interior space is improved over the previous version and the quality of fit and finish is also notable. This car is a real challenger to so-called premium SUVs, with a stylish dashboard and console that includes very neat stitching on the seams and a generally clean, uncluttered and properly-organised placing of all the controls. Too much bling has been avoided, so the car, for me, oozes good taste.
Amongst the technological features are DAB radio and a seven-inch touchscreen sat-nav with current traffic information. (But why, having entered my destination address, did it on one occasion warn me of a major issue near but not on my route and offer of selecting a detour onto roads bypassing that problem? All that did was worry me until I decided that I was right to ignore it.) If every little helps, then the KX-4 range-topper is worth investigating for its extra driver-aids aimed at keeping you free of scrapes and collisions.
Amongst the many other improvements that your Kia dealer may point out are the shut-lines between the exterior panelling. They will tell you that this has allowed the design team to come up with interesting new styling. The Sorento is certainly a smart-looker. The only question remaining is whether it is real value-for-money. There is still, of course, that seven-year manufacturer warranty. Emissions put the KX-3 test car in Band G, which means £180 per annum. On-the-road price was £35,845. Your decision.
Oh…I could have done with a grab-handle.
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