New Sorento AWD is a winner for Kia
SUVs are selling in large numbers once again, writes Martin Brennan, as the economy picks up and confidence soars
Motor manufacturers have gone a long way to make the face of large SUV models more acceptable in terms of style, handling and economy. The bulky-looking thirsty beasts of yesteryear have now been replaced with smarter-looking models that can hold their heads high in the good-looks department and in terms of running costs.
The Kia Sorento AWD, now in its third generation, is one of the latest examples of the refinement that has been brought to this segment of the market, where sales are improving in line with the recovering economy.
The all-singing, all-dancing bells and whistles brigade is alive and well aided these days by the softly, softly easy payments plan that is PCP, which is encouraging motorists into transport they would not normally aspire to - and in most cases will never own.
The first Sorento arrived on the market in 2002 with useful space and bulky looks.
The latest model has even more space but the look is much more refined, even though the dimensions have grown to allow for more boot space, head and leg room.
A strong front end, unremarkable side panels and LED daytime running lights front and rear help diminish the boxy look that was once the hallmark of all large SUVs.
Underneath the new panels is architecture that is now 14pc more rigid and safer. Doubling the amount of high-tensile steel has helped the Sorento gain a 5-star Euro Ncap safety rating. It scored 90pc on adult occupant protection and 83pc on child protection.
A good feature is the sliding second-row arrangement, which allows for larger passenger space at the rear.
With the three rows of seats in use, cargo space is reduced to 143 litres, but this can be improved to 605 litres and 1,662 litres as the rear seats are folded down.
The cabin, which was designed in Europe, has lots of storage areas and cup holders and benefits from the 80mm longer wheelbase, which allows for a body that is 95mm longer, 5mm wider and 15mm lower.
Noise levels and vibration in the cabin have been reduced and with better seating there is a definite feeling of luxury. Up front, the driver gets a large multifunction touchscreen and infotainment system surrounded by soft-touch black plastic.
The suspension is soft enough for relaxed driving over most roads and there is a new electric-powered steering, which works in tandem with a stability-management suspension. It makes for better handling, but there can be some body roll on corners.
The improved 2.2-litre CRDi engine offers 197bhp and 441Nm or torque (up 6bhp and 19Nm of torque) and comes with an improved six-speed manual or automatic transmission,
It is lively enough to sprint to 100kmh in under 10 seconds, which is good, considering the body size.
Towing capacity is rated at 2,500kg for the manual version and 2,000kg with the automatic transmission.
Kia says the 2.2-litre engine, which will be the big seller here, can return 6.9L/100km (49mpg) in mixed driving, with 149g/km of CO2.
Prices start at €38,995 for the EX five-seater version in manual transmission. The Platinum version seven-seater comes in at €43,995 and the automatic version rises to €49,500. Metallic paint adds €500.
There is a good level of equipment, including parking sensors and reversing camera; but if this is going to be an urban transporter, a 360-degree camera would be worthwhile for parking because of the big body size.
Kia gives a seven-year warranty on all its vehicles.