New seven-seat Kia Sorento road test
IF YOU can convince James Bond to turn in his Aston Martin DB5 and BMW Z8 roadster for a seven-seater Sorento, your job is probably just about done.
That's just what Kia managed to do in a tongue-in-cheek commercial featuring former 007, Pierce Brosnan, with the MI6 agent escaping to tell the heady tale.
There was not a snow-capped mountain, an angry Russian or an exploding cabin in sight when the latest Sorento was launched in Australia this week, but the beautiful beaches of Port Douglas and the Kuranda ranges still proved a lovely backdrop.
The interior of this new Sorento has a decidedly more upmarket feel with a sweeping dash, textured soft touch plastics and stylish highlights irrespective of the grade you choose.
Kia's generosity is apparent too with a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system with sat nav and reverse camera as standard.
Seats are better bolstered and more supportive. All three rows sport good materials and finishing touches.
A longer, wider car translates into better interior space all round although the third pew is still better suited to children.
There are anchors for child seats in the second row only with access to the third row limited if they are in use. The seats are easy to slide forward, lift and drop. Cargo space is a useful 605 litres with only five on board.
There are a large number of storage options in the cabin, including door bins that are actually useful in the real world and cup holders that hold a large coffee cup.
The tailgate, powered in the SLi and Premium models, can be operated by a proximity key.
On the road
The new Sorento is quiet, almost eerily so, and we had to check on more than one occasion the car had actually been switched on.
It is thanks in part to the use of new engine mounts, additional sound deadening material and single-piece doors.
Buyers have the option of either a reworked 2.2-litre turbo-diesel or a new 3.3-litre petrol paired with an efficient six-speed automatic gearbox.
For us, the former with its all-wheel-drive capability (petrols available in FWD only) is probably the pick using its torque band with dexterity and extra weight for a more planted field.
It offers greater traction at lower speeds, is more comfortable on a variety of surfaces and significantly more fuel efficient.
Not that the petrol is a poor cousin. It responds well to instruction, is the more eager of the two when asked for a burst of speed with smooth acceleration and able road manners.
The nose can feel a bit heavy in the corners if you brake too soon but it remains composed with much less body roll than you would expect from a car of this size.
Steering in both variants is quite light and much more effective in Sports mode, which offers a more enthusiastic ride.
This Sorento is a welcome recipient of effective tuning for Australian conditions with engineers revising shock absorbers, adding firmer springs and anti-roll bars at both ends as well as damper and steering wheel tunes. The well-rounded effort has resulted in a car that delivers a supple, comfy ride and maintains its feet and balance on unruly surfaces.
What do you get?
Kia is never one to scrimp on inclusions, and the entry-level Si gets nearly as many goodies as the range-topping Platinum.
The Si comes standard with 17-inch alloys, cloth trim, seven seats, seven-inch display with sat nav and reverse camera, front and rear parking sensors, dual-zone climate control auto headlights.
The SLi adds 18-inch alloys, leather trim, eight-way powered driver seat, powered hands-free tailgate and a seven-inch multi-info display in the instrument cluster.
For an additional $5000, the Premium brings ventilated or heated front seats, a heated second row, panoramic sunroof, adaptive HID headlights, heated steering wheel, 19-inch alloys and 10-speaker audio.
The Sorento received an incredible 36.62 out of a possible 37 ANCAP safety rating, a score anchored by curtain airbags for all rows, ABS with traction and stability control, brake assist, hill start assist and emergency stop signal.
The Platinum also features blind-spot assist, lane departure warning, smart cruise control and rear cross traffic alert.
Bigger and heavier, the Sorento is also slightly thirstier than the outgoing model. Official figures for the petrol are 9.9l/100km with the diesel coming in at 7.8l/100km. We were closer to 12.5l and 9l respectively which is acceptable for a seven-seater. The Sorento is, of course, backed by Kia's seven-year unlimited kilometre warranty.
Family SUVs are an ever-expanding market and while some of these competitors don't have seven seats or a diesel engine, the Sorento will still have to fight off the Ford Territory (from $36,990), Nissan Pathfinder (from $39,990), Hyundai Santa Fe ($38,490), Toyota Kluger (from $39,990) and Jeep Grand Cherokee (from $45,190)
From its spacious interior, easy-fold seven seats, on-road manners and creature comforts, this Sorento is all about practicality.
There are some nice touches like a second 12V plug and USB output in the middle row and things that are sometimes overlooked, like air vents in the third row and storage compartments that are large enough to be useful.
Designers have added interest with a larger tiger nose grille, wrap-around headlamps, prominent fog lamps and a lower roofline.
The lines are sweeping and the stance more muscular. Not enough to get the heart racing but enough to keep a steady beat.
There is no doubt the Sorento is an important vehicle for Kia and this latest edition with its all-round performance, more luxurious interior and decent inclusions will make greater inroads into a segment the Korean manufacturer is looking to dominate.
What Matters Most
What we liked: Value-for-money proposition, quiet comfortable drive, more upmarket interior.
What we'd like to see: Petrol AWD option, child seat anchors in the third row, more steering feel.
Warranty and servicing: Seven-year unlimited warranty with capped-price servicing and roadside assist.
Model: 2015 Kia Sorento.
Details: Five-door front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive family SUV.
Engines: 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel generating maximum power of 147kW @ 3800rpm and peak torque of 441Nm @ 1750rpm; 3.3-litre V6 petrol generating maximum power of 199kW @ 6400rpm and peak torque of 318Nm @ 5000rpm.
Transmission: Six-speed automatic.
Consumption: 7.8 litres/100km combined for diesel and 9.9l/100km for the petrol.
CO2 emissions: 205g/km for diesel and 230g/km for petrol.
Bottom line (before on-roads): From $40,990 (Si 2WD), $44,490 (Si AWD), $45,990 (SLi 2WD), $49,490 (SLi AWD), $55,990 (Platinum AWD).