[This article was first published on motorist.sg]
“With youthful and dynamic styling and the latest in advanced technologies, Kia cars are turning heads the world over with the power to surprise. Keep your eyes on Kia because our best has yet to come.” This excerpt from Kia’s brochure is bold but how does the new Sorento square up?
For a little context, Kia has been trying to put up a challenge to its continental rivals, namely the German Big 3 – BMW, Audi, and Mercedes. Their plan started with the Stinger and Stinger GT that launched in 2017 to much acclaim. Other models such as the Genesis G70 and K5 also brought them closer as a threat to the Germans.
Their move went as far as hiring an ex-BMW design chief, and senior vice-president for BMW Group (Asia, Pacific, and South America), Hendrik von Kuenheim, who himself said in 2015, “You see here a change of guards where some of the Korean products is replacing some of the Japanese product and eventually putting a challenge to BMW, clearly”. And you know what? After having driven the new Sorento for a couple of days, he’s damn right.
While the previous generation of Sorento always had a bit of a gawping look, this new version has much sharper and bolder body lines. Kia tells us the entire car is on a new platform and has been completely redesigned.
Like with many new cars, the lights have become a new frontier for designers to go wild. The LED head and taillights on this are no different.
The front headlights comprise four main vanes with the Daytime Running Lights underneath.
The taillights are tall and narrow and give a bit of an accent to the rear fascia and match the rest of the body’s styling.
The new Sorento’s body lines have moved away from the roundedness of the old model and now feature all kinds of edges, corners and harder lines.
Basically, the Sorento looks much more handsome and aggressive than its predecessor.
The Sorento also comes standard with 18-inch alloy rims in SX and SX Tech Pack trim. If you opt for the top of the line GT Tech Pack trim level, you’ll get bumped up to a slightly different-designed 19-inch alloy.
Move inside the Sorento and you will start to see what the car is truly about — comfort and convenience.
The Sorento is a 7-seater SUV which means it should be able to fit seven people comfortably. However, the nature of trying to cram seven passengers into anything smaller than a minibus is not the easiest thing to do and many cars often fall short of the mark
The Sorento has no such issues. Even with the second row in a comfortable position for its occupants, you can still fit two passengers comfortably in the third row. Of course, there isn’t a huge amount of wiggle room but there is enough for their knees and some personal space in between them. The third row also gets some ventilation and cold air through vents under the second row and what feels like an airstream along the roof of the car to the third row.
The second row seats are pretty normal but do have in-built window blinds so your passengers can block out the outside world to take a nap. The front seats are brilliant for one primary reason: ventilated seats.
Sure, the front seats are electrically adjustable with memory but for a warm climate like Singapore, ventilated seats are basically a godsent as far as we’re concerned. They come with a heated option too but how often would you want warmer seats in Singapore?
Moving on from the seats, the Sorento features one of the largest panoramic roofs we’ve ever seen in a car and it’s magnificent. Only the first half of the roof opens up but the size of the roof adds a sense of space and airiness to the car, especially from the third row.
There’s also a switch in the third row area to automatically lower the second row seats to either let yourself out, or so you can fit more cargo. Not that cargo space is something you’ll be short of in the Sorento anyways. With all three rows up, you still get a respectable 187l of boot space.
This jumps up to 616l – 812l depending on how you have the third row folded. With the second row folded down, you get a colossal 2011l of cargo space.
The sheer amount of available space is more than enough for almost anything you could possibly need to carry.
The interior has also clearly been designed with occupant convenience in mind. We counted eight cup holders, six USB ports, and two 12V ports.
Two of those USB ports are located on the sides of the front seats so second row passengers have their own port close by.
Even though the Sorento is a large car at 4.8m long and 1.9m wide, it doesn't feel all that big when you get it out on the road. Saying it shrinks around you is a bit of a stretch but it doesn't feel ungainly or unwieldy at all. It is able to navigate through multistorey carparks easier than expected.
The Sorento is powered by the new SmartStream 2.2l CRDI VGT Diesel powerplant making 199hp and a very healthy 440Nm of torque.
0-100kph is dispatched in just 9.0s which is plenty enough to get your kids to soccer practice in no time.
The oodles of torque are put to the ground through Kia’s new 8-speed Dual Clutch Transmission in a wet clutch setup. Gear changes when left in automatic are smooth and uneventful, gliding you down the road with zero fuss.
When you start to get on it though, the gearbox is a bit dim-witted and you get a sense the car doesn't feel all that comfortable with what you’re trying to do.
In Sport mode, getting on throttle and then letting off causes some rev-hang as it holds the RPMs at where you left it. Trying to use the paddles to shift manually is also pretty much pointless as the car isn’t keen on shifting according to your intentions but that's a pretty small issue as the large majority of Sorento owners will rarely, if ever, use the manual shift function.
All owners, however, will certainly enjoy the way the Sorento moves. The suspension is well dampened and handles uneven road surfaces with ease. Long drives are absolutely no issue at all in this, and you can bring your whole family along for the ride too. Family trips up North once the borders reopen will be a cinch in the new Sorento.
The car is quiet and reserved, and even with a full load of passengers, it never feels over-encumbered or like you have to push it. Body roll is substantial but it’s not unexpected in a car of this size and with the softer suspension setup necessary to haul around your entire kampung in comfort.
Kia also boasts the off-roading capability of the Sorento, although only the GT Tech variant comes with All-Wheel Drive (AWD). The SX and SX Tech variants are only available in Front-Wheel Drive.
With the addition of AWD, the GT Tech variant also receives Kia’s Multi-Terrain Control that allows you to toggle between drive modes for Snow, Mud, and Sand.
The brakes, on the other hand, could definitely use an improvement. They are not very confidence-inspiring and they don't feel like they have much stopping power, something you usually want in a large family SUV.
But again, dynamic driving isn’t really the main point of the Sorento, as much as Kia claims it to be. The main allure, we feel, comes from the effortless integration of a comfortable drive with modern safety and technology features.
The new Sorento is absolutely chock full of new features that really add an element of modernity and brings the Sorento up to modern standards. Chief of which is the full suite of Kia’s Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS) technologies.
Kia has moved in under a sub-brand called DRIVE WiSE, with the aim of eliminating “tediousness and fatigue from even the most stressful daily commutes”.
The ADAS is fitted to the SX Tech and GT Tech pack trim levels of the Sorento and includes safety and driver aid features such as Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist, Lane Keeping Assist, Surround View Monitor, Blind-Spot View Monitor, and Smart Cruise Control.
None of these features are gimmicky either—each works well and is well-integrated into the driving experience of the Sorento.
For example, the Smart Cruise Control can work in conjunction with the Lane Keeping Assist to keep you in your lane on the expressway with minimal effort.
The Lane Keeping Assist keeps you in your lane by moving your steering wheel for you and the adaptive cruise control will track the car in front of you and match his speed at a safe distance, even in start-stop traffic.
The technology is impressive as well. For example, if the Lane Keeping Assist cannot accurately detect the lane markings, it will follow the tracks of the car in front of you to keep your car centred in its lane.
This integration can also be found with the Forward Collision-Avoidance and Surround View Monitor. If the car detects a vehicle or something too close to the front or sides of the car, it automatically beeps at you and brings up the 360˚ camera to show you where exactly the foreign object is.
Our favourite feature though is without a doubt the Blind-Spot View Monitor.
Sure, it still has the little triangles that light up in the wing mirrors when there’s a car in your blind spot, but flick the turn signals and a live video feed from the cameras on the underside of the wing mirrors is displayed in the gauge cluster.
We’ve never seen this feature on any other car but it is fantastic and should be on every car with side cameras and a digital cluster.
The ADAS features are not intrusive at all and are a great value-add to the driving experience of the Sorento. The seamlessness with which all the features work together make driving an effortless affair. Combined with an incredible 12-speaker BOSE Sound System, it makes the Sorento a lovely place to sit in as the car basically drives itself to your destination.
As with most other modern cars, the Sorento comes standard with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, all projected onto the 8-inch touchscreen display in the centre console.
However, the CarPlay isn’t wireless which means that even if you want to use the wireless charger for your phone, you still have to plug a cable in to use CarPlay. In our experience, it could be a bit finicky with it not responding to inputs at times.
All in all though, we feel the Kia Sorento makes for an incredibly compelling option if you're in the market for an SUV, or any 7-seater vehicle. And if you don't believe me, you can see what Jackie has to say in his review here.
The variant you want is the SX Tech (the SX doesn’t come with a bunch of features and the GT Tech only has the addition of AWD and Multi-Terrain Control) which goes for S$169,999 including COE and after in-house subsidies.
Of course, $180k isn’t cheap so let’s compare it to the other 7-seater SUVs in the market. The cheapest Mercedes Benz GLB (which we reviewed here) still starts at $176,000, while the base model Mazda CX-8 starts at $157,888 and the 2.0l Skoda Kodiaq is at $169,400.
There are cheaper options like the Mitsubishi Outlander starting at $119,999 and the Peugeot 5008 at $122,888 but the Outlander still uses a CVT gearbox instead of the more modern and involving dual-clutch in the Sorento.
The 5008 only has a measly 1.2l engine with 129hp, and if you opt for the more powerful 1.6l engine, the price jumps up to $148,888.
You’ll pay a little more in road tax with the diesel engine in the Sorento but still it has great fuel consumption for a car of this size – 11.4km/l average over the course of our test.
We feel that with as many modern features as the Sorento has crammed into it, along with markedly improved build quality, fantastic ride quality, decent fuel consumption, and its handsome looks, the Sorento is incredibly value-for-money and should definitely be considered if you’re looking for a 7-seater SUV.
[Source article: motorist.sg/article/749/mreview-2021-kia-sorento-a-new-standard]