The Kia Sorento has undergone what Kia describes as a “midlife product enhancement”. Sales of the large seven-seat SUV have averaged around 400 units per month so far in 2017, up 15 per cent on the previous year, but Kia admits its initial target for the vehicle that was launched in 2015 was closer to 500 units per month.
Kia is obviously hoping that this midlife update and model realignment, which is headlined by a new eight-speed automatic transmission and the inclusion of a host of standard safety features, will help boost sales volume.
What is the Kia Sorento?
Launched in 2015, the third-generation Kia Sorento is based on the same platform as the Carnival people mover. There are two engine options: a 3.5-litre V6 petrol and a 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel. The petrol engine is only available with front wheel drive while the diesel has an on-demand all-wheel drive system with a lockable centre clutch pack for a 50:50 front and rear torque split.
As well as the new eight-speed auto, which was developed in-house by Kia, the Sorento has received a larger capacity, longer-stroke V6 petrol engine (now 3.5-litres up from 3.3-litres), a slightly higher (5mm) and longer (20mm) body for increased internal space, a revised Australian-tuned suspension, a new multi-media cluster with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and additional safety features.
The model range has been revamped with the deletion of the Si Limited and Platinum. The petrol line-up now consists Si $42,990 (+$2000); Sport $44,990 (previously Si Limited +$1000); and SLi $46,990 (+$1000). The diesel line-up is Si $45,490 (+$1000); Sport $48,490 (previously Si Limited +$1000); SLi $50,490 (+$1000); Platinum discontinued; and GT-Line $58,990 (+$500).
Exterior styling upgrades include a new grille, new headlights (LED units on the GT-Line), new fog lights, new tail lights, revised front and rear bumpers, redesigned wheels (17-inch on Si, 18-inch on Sport and SLi and 19-inch on GT-Line) and a chrome exhaust tip (dual tips on the GT-Line).
The Sorento is no longer available in red; the once vibrant colour option has been dropped in favour of Gravity Blue, which is more in line with the other conservative colours offered: whites, greys, silver and black.
Minor interior revisions include a perforated steering wheel with paddle shifters, new instrument cluster and climate control display, larger 8-inch multimedia display, additional soft-touch and leather surfaces throughout the cabin, and black leather appointed trims with GT logo for the GT-Line. The GT-Line is also equipped with four-way lumbar support while the SLi has two-way lumbar adjustment.
What’s the interior like?
Slip behind the wheel of the new Sorento GT-Line and you’re cosseted by a comfy eight-way electrically adjustable driver’s seat with four-way lumbar adjustment and thigh extender. If you can’t find a comfortable driving position in this seat you must have a very unusual body shape.
The black leather trim with its grey stitching and GT-Line logos looks great, there’s plenty of storage courtesy a number of covered console bins, and there are several power options including two 12V outlets up front as well as a USB connector and auxiliary plug. The instrument display, or ‘Graphical User Interface’, on the GT-Line and SLi models is a full colour 7-inch LCD cluster, and the 8-inch multimedia display that’s standard fitment across the range is nicely integrated into the dash.
The Sport and SLi grades also have leather trim, and while the base-spec Si makes do with black cloth on the seats, it still has a nice feel about it. The Graphical User Interface on the Si and Sport models is a more basic and much smaller 3.5-inch unit. The air conditioning display has been upgraded across the range and big dials and buttons are easy to read and operate.
Second-row occupants are provided decent width for three adults and plenty of legroom, although the centre position is not as comfortable as the outer seats. There’s fore/aft and backrest adjustment for the second row, air conditioning vents, two 12V power outlets and a USB connector.
The third-row seats fold flat when not in use and are pulled out of the floor via a long strap. They’re easy to set up and put away. Access to the third row is not great; the second row slides forward but does not completely fold away, so while the climb to the very back seats might be okay for flexible kids, adults will struggle. Once in there, the passengers have to adopt a knees-up seating position, although there’s plenty of width for two people, storage bins and cup holders on each side, and rear air conditioning controls.
As for luggage, there’s generous space when the third-row seats are folded flat, and room for a few small shopping bags when all seats are in use. There’s also a sub-floor compartment that houses the cargo blind and tool kit.
My first stint behind the wheel was in the top-spec turbo-diesel AWD Sorento GT-Line, starting from Sydney Airport and heading north across the harbour and then eventually escaping the gridlock on the western-run up the Bells Line of Road towards Lithgow.
Slogging away through Sydney’s ever-worsening traffic chaos is no fun in any car, but if you have to do it then it might as well be in something comfortable as the Sorento GT-Line. The rattle from the turbo-diesel engine is barely audible at idle and certainly not excessive when accelerating. And as speeds increase, wind and road noise are also well suppressed.
The turbo-diesel engine offers good response from idle and makes plenty of torque from low in the rev range, and it’s well matched to the new eight-speed auto, which offers super-smooth shifts that are barely detectable at partial throttle. Overall gearing is quite tall in eighth, resulting in relaxed highway touring with only 1500rpm showing on the tacho at 100km/h.
The 3.5-litre V6 also benefits from the new eight-speed auto gearbox. Although peak torque is well down on the turbo-diesel (336Nm compared with 441Nm), with eight ratios to play with you never feel as though the V6 is wanting. Put your boot into it and hold on to a lower gear, and the V6 delivers plenty of poke as revs climb; after all, it produces a healthy 206kW at 6300rpm. The downside is torque steer under full throttle; it’s not too bad but it’s a pity the V6 doesn’t pack the AWD driveline of the turbo-diesel.
There are four different drive modes – Eco, Comfort, Sport and Smart – which allow the driver to customise the powertrain’s characteristics. The system also adapts the weight of the power steering, so in Comfort it offers a more relaxed steering response while in Sport it provides more immediate response, as well as increased throttle response. In Smart mode, the system is designed to anticipate the driver’s preference by monitoring steering input and automatically making changes as deemed necessary.
The electronically assisted steering is well weighted and offers good feedback, but it does feel a bit wooden on centre, especially on the top-spec GT-Line with its bigger 19-inch wheels. According to a Kia Australia spokesperson, the steering tune is generally calculated on a mid-spec model and then applied across the range, despite the potential for different wheel/tyre combinations.
Local tuning of the suspension was aimed at improving roll damping and body control, and on twisting crook secondary roads west of the Divide, the Sorento certainly exhibited confident handling. The suspension does a good job of soaking up road surface irregularities and the vehicle is unfazed by all but the biggest bumps. As a back-road tourer, the Sorento works well.
What safety features does it get?
Kia has upped the ante when it comes to safety features on the revised Sorento. In addition to the usual active safety features such as ABS, EBD, BA and ESC, all Sorento models are now equipped with standard Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) with Forward Collision Warning System (FCWS), Lane Keeping Assist (LKA) and Driver Attention Alert (DAA).
Additional active safety features on the GT-Line include 360° Camera View, Blind Spot Detection, Rear Cross Traffic Alert and LED headlights with auto-levelling and Dynamic Bending Light.
Passive safety includes driver and passenger SRS airbags, front side SRS airbags, and first and second row curtain SRS airbags. And for those with little’uns, there are three top-tether and two ISOFIX child-seat anchorage points.
So, what do we think of the revised Kia Sorento?
Kia must be wondering why more buyers haven’t flocked to the Sorento; after all, it’s an impressive vehicle that’s jam-packed with features and is competitively priced. Fortunately, the Sorento’s “midlife product enhancement” has made a good thing better. Despite moderate price increases across the range, the Sorento upgrades should be enough to entice buyers looking for a large seven-seat SUV. It’s well built, offers good performance, has a big, comfy interior and has attractive if conservative styling.