KIA puts a great deal of effort into its vehicles, its Sorento SUVs in particular.
There are four of them in the range, each with its own suspension set-up because each is just that much different from the other.
Add the options of petrol or diesel power, 2 or 4WD, and you get eight to choose from.
The Sportage, quite a stunner in looks with its updated shiny grille, smart alloys and restyled bumpers, also has more muscle. Under the bonnet of its petrol-powered models is a 206kW/336Nm 3.5litre V6 that drives through a new eight-speed automatic.
The previous motor was a 3.3litre with 199kW and had a six-speed auto.
The diesels use a 2.2litre four-cylinder.
There’s also a raft of new safety equipment.
The revised range starts with the Si, then there’s the Sport, SLi and GT-Line, with prices ranging from $42,990 to $58,990.
Our Sport petrol was $44,990.
In keeping with data showing nine out of 10 vehicles that look like off roaders never actually go offroad, the Sorentos have jettisoned their original truck-style chassis and transfer boxes in favour of sophisticated monocoque construction and no option of dual-range.
Now more car-like than ever, and in its third generation, the Sorento not only has room for seven people, but also bristles with comfort and safety features.
Standard fare includes leather seat trim, dual-zone air conditioning, third-row ventilation and fan control, wood-look trim, an 8.0-inch colour touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, AM/FM/DAB+ radio, Aux and USB input, satellite navigation, Bluetooth connectivity and a six speaker audio. It also has adaptive cruise control.
Among the myriad safety items are autonomous emergency braking, lane-departure warning and lane-keep assist, plus a dozen or so acronyms for things electronic that theoretically save lives. Reversing camera too, and, for what it’s worth, a five-star safety rating.
Well, one can’t be too careful in these days of moronic drivers, many unlicensed or under the influence of funny cigarettes or pills other than Panadol, who regularly manage to crash into houses.
Interior passenger space is plentiful and there’s lots of storage too with big door bins, a centre console, cup holders et al. There are air vents for all three rows.
The handsome Sport runs on 18-inch alloy wheels with Hankook rubber and it drives like the proverbial dream.
The model-specific tuned suspension does a good job in containing body roll without adversely affecting ride quality, even on less than lovely surfaces.
On open roads or freeways, it feels secure and stable.
The Comfort, Eco and Sport drive modes now include a Smart mode which figures out your driving style all by itself and applies whichever mode is closes to your persona.
That V6 certainly has the goods for performance. Take a footfull of the right pedal and there’s a howl of protest from the Hankooks as it takes off with slightly embarrassing alacrity.
Well, it is the Sport, after all, but don’t try justifying that with an unimpressed police officer.
What it does not have is power adjustment for the front seats. But it is the Sport, after all. Puts a bit of fun back into DIY driving.
How big is the boot?
With all three rows full of people, there’s just 142litres. But turf out the backlist, flatten the seats and you get a magic 1662litre load capacity.
If you’re still deliberating, which is understandable in this overpopulated market segment, bear in mind Kia’s warranty: seven years, unlimited distance, and roadside assist back-up for the entire term.
Fuel use was interesting.
Kia claims an average 10.0litres/100km. We did our usual city and suburban drive, plus about 200km of country road – and the computer told us we’d averaged 8.8litres/100km.
Verdict: a great looking, great driving, spacious and well-mannered SUV – built by robots, so you won’t get a ‘Friday’ car – and it comes with the best warranty in the business.
- The looks
- Interior space, comfort
- Good handling
- Smooth transmission
- Powerful engine
- Big on safety
- Lack of traction on take off
- Limited cargo space 7-up