Kia Sorento has gone ultra stylish in its just-released third generation.
As almost a third of vehicles sold in Australia in 2015 will be SUVs the Sorento's "look at me" style is certainly important.
Sorento's front grille has the now familiar 'Schreyer' shape and leaves no doubt which brand it belongs to. The headlights join the grille in a BMW-like manner to increase the visual effect of width. Large cut outs for the foglights join the party and the lower grille is hardly of the shy and retiring type.
We like the side profile, particularly the deep windows that continue all the way to the rear. Too many stylists are going for a shapely kick up in the rear-side glass which looks nice, but can ruin the view for the children in the rearmost seats. Sorento is a seven-seater, indeed almost a people mover, so it's important that the little darlings back there don't get bored.
Similarly, we like the practical squared-off tail designed to carry a decent amount of luggage even when all seven seats are in use.
As before the Kia Sorento is offered in Si, SLi and Platinum grades. Prices begin at a pretty reasonable $40,990 for a petrol two-wheel-drive Si and run up to $55,990 if you chose a Platinum with the turbo-diesel and all-wheel-drive.
Even the lower cost Sorento Si is well equipped, with 17-inch alloy wheels, cruise control, power windows and mirrors and wood-look interior trim amongst quite a list of other upmarket features. The SLi has 18-inch alloys, the wood-look is extended to the steering wheel and centre console and there are sporty looking alloy pedals.
Topping it off is the Sorento Platinum, with a huge sunroof, 19-inch alloy wheels, a heated steering wheel and a more powerful stereo.
A feature we particularly liked in the Sorento Platinum is the choice of two-tone interior trim. It really makes a pleasant change from the all-black interiors that are so common in most cars and SUVs these days. There's even better news on the two-tone look – it comes at no extra charge.
All-new Kia Sorento comes with a choice of petrol or diesel engines. The 3.3-litre V6 petrol is an all-new design and puts out 199kW and 318Nm. Torque peak is at a silly 5300 revs, a number the average driver may never reach, but our initial road testing at the Sorento launch out of Port Douglas shows there's decent torque at normal engine revs and the lighter weight of the new design petrol made it our favourite. More drive impression in a moment.
The petrol powerplant is only offered in 2WD models (the front wheels). As befits its heavier duty use the diesel is used in Sorentos with all-wheel-drive.
The Sorento's four-cylinder 2.2-litre turbo-diesel is a unit already familiar to us from other Kia models, but has had significant changes throughout its design. In its latest iteration it produces 147kW and a big 441Nm that runs all the way from 1750 to 2750 revs.
In a sign of the times all Sorento models have a six-speed automatic.
On the road over a comprehensive 400+ kilometre driving program in far North Queensland we found the big Sorento to be smooth, quiet and comfortable. It certainly leans in the people mover direction rather than that of a bush basher, which makes a huge amount of sense in this market segment.
As has become the norm with all new model Kias, the Sorento's suspension and steering have a lot of Australian input. This firms it up in road grip without any obvious loss of comfort. It handled dirt sections with some big potholes without missing a beach. The Sorento can be set to Sport or Eco modes and as keen drivers we preferred the Sport setting. Try for yourself during your private road test.
The front seats are large and support well, perhaps not in a pure sports SUV manner, but ideal for a people mover. The second row seas can slide back and forward and in their rearmost position provide a lot of legroom, there will be no problem in transporting four large adults in comfort in new Sorento. The rearmost pair of seats and the centre seat in the second row are best left for the kids on anything other than short trips.
Both the petrol and diesel engines are quiet and have good torque, see our above remarks about the all-new V6 petrol above. Indeed, the petrol is our choice between the two as it's physically lighter, has no turbocharger to dampen response and is a sheer delight to sit behind.
We can't comment on fuel consumption until we have borrowed a couple of Sorentos for a week in our home ground on the Gold Coast, but initial impressions are that the petrol is only a little thirstier than the diesel.