Wednesday 21 March 2018

up there with the best

Across the road from the old midlands' home is a triangular green field, fringed with old trees, bordered by two churches and embalmed in memories.

The Green Field once hosted a chestnut pony and was traversed thousands and thousands of times by, among many others, my family, cousins and neighbours.

So it a was strange feeling to traverse it in a brand new SUV the other evening. I've done it many times in test 4x4s over the years but there was definitely something unusual about this.

Maybe it was the onset of spring. Or perhaps it was the ever-yawning gap in years and the chasm in the means of travel: from pony's cart, to a red tractor, to a spanking new Kia sports utility vehicle.

I certainly wasn't trying out its off-road performance. Frankly, to most potential buyers, getting the tyres muddy in a pothole is as much non-tarmac driving as they'll ever do.

The reason I nipped across it was to retrace old steps and see for a moment or two how this new Sorento behaved off 'terra firma'.

Perhaps in the back of my mind, I was conscious of a link. . . I think it is only fair to mention that one or two relations of mine drive Sorentos.

They like them a lot. So much so, they'd have liked to know more about this new one. And they were a tad disappointed with the version I had.

Their older ones have four-wheel-drive and high and low register for getting down and dirty with a trailer on tow across the fields and lanes -- no, not the Green Field.

There is a 4x4 version of this but the one I had down home at the weekend was a 4x2. Bit of a different proposition, you see.

I must admit I was taken by how much the old Sorentos are liked. There are a lot of them around and they seem to last well.

In a way, the old one was the SUV that was bought in spite of being a Kia.

There is no such brand impediment with this new one. Indeed not.

Particularly when it comes with a seven-year warranty that applies to all their motors. That is a long, long time to back a motor against major breakdown. But Sorento 2010 relies on much, much more than that.

It's big, without being brash and overstretched. It's stylish, without trying to be too smart. It's roomy, without being an echo-chamber and it's built to look powerful, without going on a muscular binge.

And it has a seriously high level of standard equipment.

There are three rows of seats, with absolute lashings of space for middle-row passengers where we agreed (one of my cousins and I) that three adults would be comfortably accommodated.

The third row is for tots. I kept it flattened all the time. I had stuff to carry. My toddlers are long grown now.

This was comfortable, with a cabin decked out in decent material, well finished and simple, straightforward instrumentation.

I ask myself when I see things done simply, why all the fuss with so many others, who seem to make a mess of placing the most basic switches in the most appropriate places?

Maybe it is because I jogged along on far more basic modes of transport all those years ago that I usually pay so much attention to the source of propulsion than anything else.

The new 2.2-litre diesel engine is quite a player. It had plenty of power, good pulling ability up and down the gears and decent pep when I put the foot down. And with the six-speed gearbox, it cruised quietly and fairly frugally.

For some reason, it sneaks over the Band E emissions border by a mere gram, which unfortunately adds a good few euro to the road tax.

Anyway, there are roads around this country that have far more bumps and crushing hollows than the Green Field. Have you driven through Enfield's main street lately? -- there's a far better off-road drive location for you.

Not that it bothered my Sorento too much. Its suspension and body are all built as one (monocoque, they call it) and while a large, tall vehicle of this sort is naturally prone to a bit more sway than your road-hugging coupe, I must say this swung around bends without any serious hint of dip or swing and was agile throughout the test drives.

In other words, yummy mummies will find it most pleasing when dropping the children to school because they are unlikely to get car-sick.

The only criticism I'd have would be the amount of road noise that can come through under certain conditions -- for example, out the Howth Road on Monday, where there are so many joins it can feel like you're on a slow-moving train. On better roads, it was quite smooth.

The cousins? Well there is the 4x4 for them to savour and Kia assure us the off-road ability is better than ever.

On the tarmac, and that brief traverse of an old way, my 4x2 test car was a big improvement on the old one (yet as much as 215 kg lighter).

I have no doubt one or two of the rivals are more agile and some are better established, but this is up there with the best.

Irish Independent

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