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Kia Sorento

 

Self-parking systems are so often a gimmick but the Kia’s is quite impressive...

Base price: $66,190

Powertrain and performance: 2.2-litre turbo-diesel four, 145kW/436Nm, 6-speed automatic, four-wheel drive, Combined economy 7.3 litres per 100km.

Vital statistics: 4685mm long, 1700mm high, kerb weight 1817kg, luggage capacity 258/1047/2052 litres, fuel tank 70 litres, 19-inch wheels on 235/55 tyres.

We like: Strong engine, great level of equipment, space and versatility.

We don’t like: Same-again styling doesn’t do Sorento justice, cheap cabin finish.

How it rates: 7/10

WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW?

A car might be new even if it doesn’t look it. That’s the curious case of the latest Kia Sorento, which carries over major body panels from the previous model but is actually based on a new platform underneath.

Why? Getting a new product to market at a certain cost is the logical answer. Athough Kia’s status as subsidiary of Hyundai might have something to do with it as well. Hyundai comes first in the company hierarchy, and it’s new (more expensive) Santa Fe uses the same basic platform – albeit with a brand new body on top.

WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE?

The 2.2-litre R-series diesel is carried over from the previous range and is still a beauty. It’s strong low-down and produces a lot of pulling power for an engine of such modest capacity. The six-speed automatic is smooth, albeit calibrated more for comfort and efficiency than speed.

The move to electric power steering isn’t a positive one in terms of driving appeal, but it does save fuel and allows the fitment of Kia’s trick self-parking technology (more about that below). However, the loss of 100kg thanks to the new platform has helped the Sorento’s performance/handling - not to mention pulling it back from the scary two-tonne mark.

IS IT EASY TO LIVE WITH?

It’s a big vehicle and a seven-seater that’s so right for the school run. Naturally, you lose quite a bit of luggage space with all chairs occupied, but even then 258 litres is comparable to a supermini.

Some of the cabin materials are a bit downmarket given the Premium’s price, but the new model has picked up some nice detail touches. The main instrument panel is now virtual, for example: what look like dials are actually just computer graphics and when you slip the gearlever into sport model the display changes to a speedier look. Not exactly functional, but quite good fun.

The Sorento Premium costs $5700 more than the Limited but adds luxury specification like adaptive headlights (which turn with the steering wheel), heated/ventilated seats, a heated steering wheel and power-operated passenger seat.

Self-parking systems are so often a gimmick but the Kia’s is quite impressive. It’s simple to activate, quick to respond and steers smoothly into the selected space (you do the pedals, the car does the rest). One word of warning through: it seems to read the position of the space relative to the cars ahead and behind, because when I used it to slot into a space between two vehicles that were nudged right up against the kerb, the Sorento did exactly the same – rubbing those nice 19-inch alloys perilously close to the concrete.

SHOULD I BUY ONE?

That’s a tricky question. The Sorento R Premium will not impress the neighbours as much as you hope a $66k vehicle should, because it’s very hard to spot from the previous model.

On the plus side, it’s significantly improved over the old car in every possible way and it stacks up well on value terms – especially if you need or want those seven seats. Its chief rivals are the Toyota Highlander, which comes only with a thirsty petrol engine, and the Ford Territory, which is talented but pretty long in the tooth. Or that new Hyundai Santa Fe, of course…

 

EQUIPMENT CHECKLIST

Air conditioning: Dual climate

Audio: CD, iPod compatible

Automatic lights/wipers: Yes/yes

Bluetooth: Yes

Cruise control: Yes

Driver footrest: Yes

Gas discharge headlights: Xenon

Head-up display: Yes

Heated/ventilated seats: Yes/yes

Keyless entry/start: Yes/yes

Leather upholstery: Yes

Parking radar: Yes with camera

Power seat adjustment/memory: Yes/yes

Remote audio controls: Yes

Satellite navigation: Yes

Seat height adjustment: Yes

Self-parking technology: Yes

Split/folding rear seats: 60/40 plus third-row stows

Steering reach adjustment: Yes

Trip computer: Yes


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