Coming towards the end of its current model life, the Kia Sorento (a sister, under the skin, to the Hyunda Santa Fe) is still a cracker of a car. Weighing in at a touch under 2000kgs, the 3.5L petrol engine (204 kW @ 6300rpm, 335 Nm @ 5000rpm) is a willing if thirsty beast, whilst the torquey 2.2 diesel (145kW @ 3800rpm, 436 Nm @ 1800 – 2500rpm, auto) is a much better fit. Matched with the six speed auto, with the turbo kicking in at just under 2000rpm,a good prod of the pedal will have the Sorento launch off the line and press you back into the seat. The Si cops the petrol engine whilst the SLi and Platinum are motorvated by the diesel and have a manual gearbox option.
If pushed hard, the petrol engine Si will certainly empty the tank faster than an iceblock melts in the Simpson Desert, whilst the front wheel drive setup will understeer to a reasonable but not unmanageable degree. The SLi and Platinum (the Platinum gets some extra fruit over the SLi) will also understeer but, having the all wheel drive system, not to the same degree. The diesel is definitely economical, with the potential to reach 1000 kilometres from the 70 litre tank.
The ride quality from both is, apart from the understeer, comfortable, easy to like and live with however the front suspension will crash out over some speed bumps. Most normal roadbumps are dispatched with a touch of indifference, there’s some but not an intrusive amount of body roll and acceleration when the turbo is on song is startling in its intensity, making freeway driving a doddle. Towing is standard nowadays at 2000kgs (braked) for the autos and 2500kgs for the manual.
The exterior is not unattractive, with the corporate grille blending harmoniously into the slanted headlights whilst the D pillar is intrusive. The rear light cluster on the SLI/Platinum are LED lit as are the indicator lights on the mirrors plus there’s red backlighting on the Sorento logo near the scuff plates. There is no rear parking sensors on the Si, which, although a seemingly od choice, DOES force the driver to do what a driver should do; concentrate and drive. Roofrails are standard on the SLi and Platinum, optional on the Si.
The interior is spacious, comfortable, with cloth vs leather and all versions are seven seaters. The centre console on the SLi and Platinum has a slot to insert the remote key whilst also having a removable CD tray, should you choose to use the USB/iPod/Bluetooth streaming.
The rear seats in the SLi/Platinum receive their own aircon controls with the Platinum getting a dual look sunroof; electric and sliding shade at the front, sliding shade for the rear. Although the dash is starting to age, it’s still nice to look at and on the SLi/Platinum, the dash has a hologram look when lit up. The SLi/Platinum navigation pack includes GPS and a touch screen operated system.
Safety and tech wise, there’s a plethora of things: hill descent control, hill start assist control, smart key and push button start (Platinum),an intrusion aware system on the electric windows (SLi/Platinum), airbags all round, ABS, stability control and reverse camera for the SLi/Platinum.
Starting from $36990 (plus $450 for metallic paint) and ranging up to the $50k mark, the Sorento, as an outgoing model, still represents great value. With the new model due in the fourth quarter of 2012, the Sorento remains a viable option as a vehicle of choice and with the flexibility of seven seats, certainly offers a great deal for a family.