Feb 8 2010 John Murdoch
Kia dumps brawn for style
KIA has opted for style and comfort instead of muscle and brawn for the new Sorento 4x4 which has just gone on sale.
The old ladder-frame chassis has been ditched in favour of monocoque bodywork and refinement has replaced brute force in an effort to push the Sorento upmarket.
The new Sorento is transformed with a more sporting look and it is also now much better on the road.
Designed in California it is now more relevant to today's lifestyle market and it can be ordered with two or four-wheel-drive depending on customer's needs.
The Sorento also features a new 2.2-litre diesel engine which can still pull up to 2,500kg but it is much more efficient and powerful than the 2.5-litre unit it replaces.
It boasts an average 42.8mpg figure, a substantial seven per cent improvement over the old model.
It is available in six-speed automatic or manual form and my choice would be the excellent automatic.
Kia claims it wanted to give the Sorento 'urban sophistication' and they have certainly achieved that, although at a price.
The top of the range KX-3 model costs £29,795 and comes complete with all the goodies including an automatic gearbox, full leather seats, a panoramic electric sunroof, electrically adjustable seats and self levelling headlights as well as full climate control.
Lesser models are also very well specced and the mid-range KX-2 models also enjoy full leather.
Although the new Sorento looks to be a smaller package it is not. It still features seven seats with the two rear units vanishing beneath the floor when more luggage space is required.
The much improved dash has been pushed forward and the tailgate altered and the combination means there is more room for passengers and luggage.
With the two rear rows of seats folded flat the luggage space is enormous at 1525 litres and with the middle row in place you get 531 litres - almost 100 litres more than in the previous model. This makes the Sorento very attractive against some of the bigger and much more expensive opposition.
If you don't need four-wheel-drive prices start at £20,495 for the 2.4 petrol model or £22,495 for the new diesel. The spec on these cars is slightly lower than on the 4WD versions.
On the open road the Sorento is as easy to handle as a family saloon or hatchback and you don't notice its size as it is light and easy to drive.
Quiet and refined at all times it handled all surfaces well on the test launch even over a fairly rugged mountain track.
Performance is also more than useful with a top speed of 118mph and a sprint time of 0-62mph in just 9.6 seconds. The auto version is only a tiny bit slower while the two-wheel-drive model is a little quicker due to being lighter.
Kia may have reduced the brawn but has certainly improved the quality and the cabin of the new Sorento is a fine place to be. Six airbags also make it safe for the occupants.
The new Sorento is a handsome looking vehicle and very refined. It also features Kia's magnificent seven year warranty and the result is a package which is hard to beat.