Diesel doesn’t completely dominate the large SUV segment: big petrol engines are still a thing. Kia has joined the party with a luxury-oriented V6 version of its third-generation Sorento.
Base price: $60,990.
Powertrain and performance: 3.3-litre petrol V6, 199kW/318Nm, 6-speed automatic, front-drive., Combined economy 9.9 litres per 100km.
Vital statistics: 4780mm long, 1690mm high, 2780mm wheelbase, luggage capacity 605-1662 litres (142 litres with third row in use), fuel tank 71 litres, 19-inch alloy wheels on 235/55 tyres.
We like: High style, cabin quality, value for money.
We don’t like: High-riding SUV and front-drive not a great combination.
How it rates: 7/10
WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW? For some reason, there’s a small but significant market for V6-petrol-powered versions of large sports utility vehicles (SUVs) in New Zealand.
It might be partly due to Toyota’s Highlander, which is a big seller (it’s a Toyota, after all) and only available as a petrol V6 because it’s essentially an American model. But Ford still offers a petrol Territory, Mazda has its CX-9 and Nissan the Pathfinder (another piece of Japanese Americana).
Even Hyundai, a devotee of diesel, still offers a petrol V6-powered version of its Santa Fe. Which brings us nicely to the third-generation Kia Sorento, which is based on the same platform as the Santa Fe. The range now includes a top-specification Limited model powered by the same 3.3-litre V6 as the Hyundai, with front-drive.
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE? The Limited V6 is arguably the least SUV-like Sorento in the range. It’s a luxury cruiser, no question: the V6 engine makes a nice growl and the ride is compliant in highway driving - albeit with a fussy response to low-frequency bumps in urban driving.
Being front-drive means the Limited is not going anywhere off-road, of course. Neither is it conducive to hard driving. The V6 engine is not outrageously powerful, but with front-drive, soft suspension and a high centre of gravity, it’s very easy to induce wheelspin on wet roads or through tight corners.
Drive it with moderation and the Sorento is competent enough, with good body control. But in this specification, it’s a car that prefers straight roads and smooth driving.
IS IT EASY TO LIVE WITH? The Limited V6 is not the flagship Sorento. That honour belongs to the Premium diesel, which adds features such as dynamic cruise control, adaptive headlights, heated steering wheel and separate third-row air conditioning. Not to mention a torquey 441Nm diesel and four-wheel drive.
Still, the Limited boasts plenty of equipment and with excellent interior fit/finish, it makes a credible case for itself as a luxury seven-seater.
Kia certainly has the edge in cabin design over parent company Hyundai. The dashboard is dominated by jellymould shapes, but it’s entirely cohesive and the switchgear is logically laid out.
Access to the third row is improved compared with the previous model thanks to a greater range of movement in the sliding mechanism. The seat itself is also now split 40/20/40, so there’s greater ability to mix-and-match passenger and load spaces.
The Sorento picks up a neat trick from the Santa Fe with a hands-free tailgate. Simply walk up to the back of the car with the keys in your pocket and when you’re within a metre of the vehicle for more than three seconds, the fifth door will open automatically.
SHOULD I BUY ONE? It’s a shame we couldn’t have kicked off our Sorento evaluation with the diesel, four-wheel drive model. It’s likely to be a far better drive and offer a broader range of performance and handling. The V6 Limited, on the other hand, is something of a niche concern with a narrow range of abilities. But it’s not pretending to be anything else and Kia argues it will comprise 30 percent of Sorento sales.
Putting the powertrain aside for a moment, we can’t help but be impressed with the Sorento’s style and quality. Indeed, it seems to outpoint its sister Santa Fe in both of these areas. Not to mention a highly attractive price.
- Blind spot warning: No
- Lane guidance: No
- Cruise control: Yes
- Automatic lights/wipers: Yes/yes
- Parking radar: Yes with camera
- Self-parking technology: No
- Head-up display: No
- Satellite navigation: Yes
- Keyless entry/start: Yes/Yes
- Air conditioning: Dual climate
- Heated/ventilated seats: Yes/Yes
- Power seat adjustment/memory: Yes/Yes
- Leather upholstery: Yes
- Power boot or tailgate: Yes
- Split/folding rear seats: 40/20/40 second row, 50/50 third row