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Kia Sorento SLi diesel 2010 review

THIS is a classic example of not being able to judge a book by its cover - or in this case, a brand by just one model, the Rio.  But the small car's maker, South Korea's Kia, is far from being just a cheap and cheerful car company. Kia also produces a fine soft-roader wagon.

We have been driving the most popular version of Sorento - the mid-spec SLi with an on-demand all-wheel drive system - and came away more than impressed.  It ticks the boxes as a quality family wagon with seven seats, it has a two-tonne tow capacity and, in diesel form at least, has terrific fuel economy.

The Sorento was reborn last year - the former body-on-frame chassis was replaced with a monocoque design, engine size was downsized to 2.2-litres in the diesel (offering 145kW and 436Nm), low range was ditched, the styling was sharpened and it lost weight. The result is a wagon which is remarkably quiet, comfortable and cheap to run.

Drivetrain and price

The SLi diesel with a six-speed automatic/sequential manual gearbox sells for $45,990, plus on-road costs. Two weeks behind the wheel, a mix of highway and urban driving, some easy off-road work and towing a trailer laden with half a tonne of firewood saw average fuel consumption swing from 8.4l/100km to 12.6l/100km. That gave the Sorento a range of about 800km between fills from the 70-litre tank.

Interior and equipment

There were two things which impressed - how easy it is to drive and how comfortable it is, with generous in-cabin storage space. With the third-row seats folded, the boot space is also generous but it all but disappears when the seats are in use. Once you climb in, the rear seats are not too bad in the comfort stakes, even for adults, unlike some seven-seaters I've driven.

The SLi comes with dual airconditioning, central locking, power windows and mirrors, 18in alloy wheels, fog lamps, cruise control, stability control, six airbags, rear park sensors, reversing camera, hill start and downhill assist.  Missing? The obvious ones are Bluetooth and satellite navigation but I'd like to see more 12-volt power outlets.

Driving

The Sorento's downsides are its ride, which can be annoyingly rigid at times, especially on poor urban roads, some of the cabin design (such as the awkward positioning of the trip computer button behind the steering wheel) is a work in progress and there's an odd, soft feeling to the brakes.

There's a little bit of traditional turbo lag off the line, but the diesel is punchy enough and remarkably quiet.  Push the wagon along the twisty stuff and it doesn't show any real vices, either. The wagon feels balanced and secure. The ride is good on gravel but poorly-surfaced urban streets can catch it out. It's almost if the dampening can't quite keep pace with the drive.

This is a soft-roader, so offroad work is limited by tyres. It comes big on value for money, economy - and quality.

Pricing guides

$13,897
Based on 44 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$9,990
Highest Price
$18,990

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
Platinum (4x4) 2.2L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO $13,000 – 18,990 2010 Kia Sorento 2010 Platinum (4x4) Pricing and Specs
Si (4x2) 2.3L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $9,990 – 15,990 2010 Kia Sorento 2010 Si (4x2) Pricing and Specs
Si (4x4) 2.2L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO $8,100 – 12,540 2010 Kia Sorento 2010 Si (4x4) Pricing and Specs
SLi (4x4) 2.2L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO $10,100 – 15,290 2010 Kia Sorento 2010 SLi (4x4) Pricing and Specs