Being Korea Driven: Sorento Si and SLi

Sorento SiEvolution, said Charles Darwin, is what makes good things better. Well, something like that but it applies to car manufacturers to a great degree. There’s little doubt that the two main Korean brands, Hyundai and Kia, are part of this evolutionary factor and Kia’s Sorento is a great example.
It feels as if the car has been around longer since its release in 2002; to compare the 2013 model A Wheel Thing has had over two weeks (Si and SLi) to the original shows how quickly it’s evolved.
Sorento SLi profileA seven seater SUV, the Sorento comes in three trim levels and with a choice of two powerplants; a 3.5L petrol or 2.2L diesel. There’s also a choice of 2WD (front) or AWD. The Si provided was the diesel AWD, the SLi the petrol 2WD combo. With a manual or auto available for the diesel, it provides a stonking 421/436Nm from 1800 to 2500 rpm. The auto would have to be the pick, to take advantage of that figure, especially on the highway/freeway when going to overtake; the electronically controlled auto simply shrugs itself into the right gear and a hand between the shoulder blades gives you a hefty shove. The petrol is only available with the 2WD, a seemingly odd decision, as it has unquestioned ability to light the tyres when asked (204kW and 335 torques) and would be a good match with the AWD system.
The 2WD suspension is a touch tighter than the AWD, being taut and refined; both handle and absorb road imperfections well with the AWD being a touch, noticeably, softer. The AWDs tail follows the front naturally while the 2WD occasionally has a touch of oversteer coming out of corners and understeer when pushed hard into a corner. The steering has a slightly numb feel dead centre but loads up nicely off centre. Having the 2WD power down through the front wheels, there’s no noticeable torque steer (and traction control cuts in when the go pedal is pressed hard, Sorento Si dash Sorento SLi dashespecially on Sydney’s wet roads) but it’s perceptible that it’s a front wheel drive vehicle.
The interior, a seven seater, is somewhat of a let down in the Si and SLi trim levels; hard plastics abound, the Si has Kia’s red backlit display for the radio and standard dash whilst the SLi wavers between tech (a beautifully presented digital dash) and minimalism (a barely useable LED screen for radio and rear camera) with electric Sorento SLi digital speedoseating in the SLi, although nice enough to look at, offers no real support. The third row of seats are activated by a simple pull strap system, however, in order to use the seats, the cargo blind mechanism needs to be removed and it’s fiddly. A highlight however, is the soft red glow of the nameplate embedded in the door sills. Interior cargo space is flexible; the middle row seats also fold, providing either 2052L or 1047L or a drastically reduced 258L with the Sorento cargothird row seats in use. Naturally there’s cup holders, 12V sockets and Sorento SLi tail lightsaircon vents throughout the interior.
The exterior is a refinement of the previous model; with the LED dot style tail light clusters changed to an almost neon tube style (SLi) while the front receives the same for the running lights, plus the nosecone is a refinement of the previous version and brings the big car a more familialSorento SLi sill2 resemblance to the Sportage and Optima. There’s a distinctive wedge cut into the rear doors plus privacy glass in the windows above. Parking sensors front and rear are standard across the three model range as are cornering lamps.
Sorento Si frontFuel economy varies; both the diesel and petrol deliver better figures, Sorento SLi frontnot unexpectedly, on the freeway, however it’s the gap between city and highway driving for the petrol that is a surprise, with Kia’s figures showing 13.7 down to 7.7 litres per 100 kilometres. The diesel varies by just over 3.5L per 100.
The 2013/14 Sorento is a pretty car, a good car, with grunt and style, let down at Si and SLi level by the interior trim and look. The Si diesel provided is priced at $40990 (plus metallic paint at $595) with the SLi petrol almost lineball at $40490 plus paint.
Details of the Sorento are here: http://www.kia.com.au/showroom/next-gen-sorento

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