Thursday 22 February 2018

A capable beast of an ocean liner

The Kia Sorento may not be the stuff of fantasy, but it is a really competent creature, writes Campbell Spray


LAST thing at night, I follow roughly the same route taking Sam for his last walk. He cocks his leg, lunges at discarded chicken bones and dreams of the chewstick waiting at home. I have less important things on my mind and, as we walk pass a car dealer, I begin to fantasise. For there on the forecourt are nearly always a few Saab convertibles. The most expensive at the moment is around €10,000; the cheapest, €4k. One day, one day I'll kick over the traces and buy one.

Until then, I had better get on with the job.

So last Tuesday, as I was returning the Sorento to Kia's Dublin HQ, I met the editor of a parents' and children's magazine. I don't know what he was testing but it should have been the big seven-seater beast that I had been in for a week and rarely had more than me, partner and dog on board. It brought home that these big MPVs and SUVs like the Sorento and its sibling the Hyundai Santa Fe aren't my thing any more. In fact, having a use for seven seats is a pretty rare occurrence for most people. A number of colleagues have bought such vehicles but found out that they hardly ever use all five main seats, let alone the two that pull up in the rear. I caution every car buyer to be realistic about their needs. There's no point in having wardrobes of designer clothes if you always go round in jeans.

That said, the Sorento is a very competent creature for those who do need it and has good all-wheel drive and towing ability. It is most at home on the motorway where it settles down like an ocean liner to a very relaxed, fast, quiet and confident drive. It didn't quite have the same panache on country lanes and I never quite trust the stability of these beasts going fast around corners, but the Sorento didn't put a foot wrong.

The 2.2 diesel claims an mpg of more than 45 and the emissions are now in the €390-a-year car tax bracket. While I found the gearbox not as precise as I would like, it is a safe, well-equipped vehicle at €37,990 before p&p, with a Platinum model with leather seats, panoramic sun roof, reversing camera et al for another €3,800. The Sorento won't set pulses racing like those Saabs, but it is a really competent package – and you do have the seven-year warranty. It was also surprisingly easy to park in tight spaces. But do check that you really need such a beast.

The Kia brand image is growing across Europe and along with sister company, Hyundai, is showing growth in sales; while more familiar big-name European companies are struggling. The main reason for Kia's success is that it has turned the corner from its cheap and cheerful image into a brand that produces stylish, well-kitted vehicles.

The model line-up has been totally refreshed with the new Picanto, Rio, Cee'd, Pro_Cee'd, Sportage and Sorento and the latest arrival, the Carens MPV. Better style, furnishings, handling and economy combined with the impressive seven- year warranty are the keys to the ongoing success story.

My leg-man Martin Brennan tells me that the fourth generation Carens, which arrives here in May, is lower and has sleeker lines than the model it replaces. It is powered by the same 1.7 litre 115 bhp diesel engine that is used in the Sportage model. In the Carens it can return up to 4.9L/100km (58mpg) and the C02 output of 129g/km means a road tax of €270 – not bad for a spacious seven-seater.

Prices start at €26,490 for the entry TX model, which comes with alloy wheels, air conditioning, cornering lights, steering-mounted audio control, voice-activated Bluetooth and Emergency Stop signal. The mid-range EX version adds dual zone climate control, privacy glass, parking sensors and rear view camera, while the Platinum gets leather upholstery, heated front seats and panoramic sunroof.

The new body is shorter than on the outgoing model but the wheelbase has been increased by 50mm, which allows for more room inside.

Also on the way is a new Pro_Cee'd, a three-door version of the Cee'd with sporty look incorporated into a coupe-like body. A Pro_Cee'd GT will arrive in the summer with a 240 bhp power plant under the bonnet. It will add more power and passion to the Kia brand image.

Not the stuff of dreams, but pretty good all the same.

Irish Independent

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