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Kia Sorento & Cerato

 

We test drive the improved Sorento SUV and handsome Cerato Koup

No wonder Kia NZ folk are looking perky. Their year to date sales are up three per cent in a severely depressed market, their share up 37 per cent. And now they've got a much improved Sorento R SUV to sell, and the handsome Cerato Koup coupe, to boot.

That Koup may be based on the sedan, and use its running gear albeit with suspension modifications, but every body panel bar the bonnet is new and it boasts more compact dimensions, and sleeker lines.

Despite the suspension mods - and the performance benefits of lighter weight - this is not a sports car. Instead it's an attractive and practical alternative to a traditional hatchback, enhanced by the 336-litre boot, the ABS, stability control and six airbags all fitted as standard.

Koup will sell on its looks - and the fact it's more affordable than it appears, priced as it is against the likes of Honda's diminutive Jazz and Toyota's sensible Corolla.

Though Kia doesn't expect Koup to retail in large numbers, I suspect it'll be a hot prospect on the nearly-new market. Its 2.0-litre 115kW/194Nm engine and its handling are relaxed enough to suit relatively inexperienced drivers who may initially be disappointed their parents haven't bought them a tarmac tearaway, but will definitely be impressed by its style.

Meanwhile the Sorento's got more car-like, and most buyers will benefit. It's longer and wider too, though height and wheelbase are down. The more spacious cabin now fits seven seats, the second row folding forward for access and the last row flat. Now it's a boot, now it's car-pool seating, with only one strap to pull to complete the switch.

The engine's a 2.2-litre, 145kW/421Nm diesel with a claimed thirst of 6.6/7.2l/100km manual/auto. It's a variable geometry turbo with exhaust gas recirculation that delivers 16 per cent more power than before.

That's mated to an improved six-speed auto or manual transmission and tucked into a more handsome body with better aerodynamics.

The auto initially disappointed. It's all new, uses 62 fewer parts and is 12kg lighter, but in manual mode it'll still change cogs for you. Kia says it'll measure throttle and rpm, so if you're in first and pulling a boat up a ramp it'll know not to switch to second - but it was a nuisance when tackling corners at a reasonably brisk rate, as you couldn't settle her on the throttle without risking a gear change.

That said, big SUV-wagons aren't usually driven like this, and in standard auto she performed perfectly well.

Certainly Sorento's as assured on dirt as on seal, assisted by stability control, hill hold and ABS which are all standard. On-road feel is a lot better than before - less tippy-toe, and less cut-price, though still not cutting edge.

Sorento makes up for that in terms of features, including its safety equation which numbers six airbags, and a five-star crash test rating.

The standard LX model is certainly a handsome, value proposition. Whether to pay more for its upscale LTD sibling depends on what you value most. Some other SUVs feel better on road, but you may be happy to trade that feel for the extra goodies on this Sorento's features list, which include a twin electric panoramic sunroof, cruise control, a reverse camera to supplement the standard rear park control (that offsets the slightly limited rear three-quarter view), the leather seats, the rain-sensing wipers - and more.

See the Kia Sorento for sale here.

See the Kia Cerato for sale here.


Auto Trader New Zealand