Kia has given its medium-large Sorento SUV a facelift aimed at giving it a more purposeful appearance. However, the biggest changes are out of sight, with new engines and transmission, as well as added infotainment features and added safety.
Once regarded as the ‘other’ marque from South Korea, Kia is rapidly becoming a major player in Australia in its own right. With sales increasing by 28 per cent year to date over 2016 Kia chief, Damien Meredith is cautiously optimistic of getting into the top 10 list on the sales charts by the end of this year.
SUVs are all the rage at the moment and the revised Kia Sorento is in there to play its part. As before it’s sold with a choice of petrol and diesel engines and either two- or all-wheel drive.
New Sorento features revised front and rear bumpers, LED headlamps on the GT-Line, and tail-lamps (SLi and GT-Line). The dark metallic finish on the Kia ‘tiger-nose’ grille gives it a purposeful appearance. Sorento has 17-, 18- or 19-inch alloy wheels depending on model, these are also to a new design.
Inside, the cabin changes are minimal, a four-spoke steering wheel, revised instruments and a new climate control LCD display. Softer touch materials are used to give Sorento a more upmarket look and feel.
For 2018 the Sorento is available with a 8.0-inch touchscreen with navigation. Android Auto is designed to work with Android phones running 5.0 (Lollipop) or higher; Apple CarPlay, for iPhone 5 or newer.
A high-end Harman/Kardon sound system is used in Sorento SLi and GT-Line grades. The powerful 640-watt, 10-speaker surround-sound audio system features QuantumLogic Surround Sound technology extracting signals from the original recording, redistributing them into an authentic, multi-dimensional soundstage.
The 3.5-litre petrol engine is virtually all-new for Sorento. Though the outputs (206 kW and 306 Nm) are only slightly higher than before the torque spread has been widened and emissions and fuel consumption are lower.
Kia’s 2.2-litre turbo-diesel engine (147 kW / 441 Nm) has received minor revisions.
The biggest news is that both automatics are now eight-speed units (up from six), permitting lower ratios at the bottom for round-town work and a high top gear for very comfortable cruising. It offers four drive modes: Eco, Comfort, Sport and Smart.
The new Smart Mode understands and anticipate the driver’s steering preferences, automatically switching between Eco, Comfort and Sport modes. This enables the Sorento to adapt to the driver’s steering behaviour as road conditions change, pre-empting the driver’s preference for different speeds and driving environments.
Sorento now uses Kia’s latest Drive Wise Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS). The new Driver Attention Alert (DAA) system combats distracted or drowsy driving. The system monitors a number of inputs from the vehicle and the driver. It sounds a warning chime and displays a graphic in the instrument binnacle if it senses a lapse in concentration from the driver.
Other new safety features on the Sorento include: Lane Keeping Assist System; and full LED headlamps with Dynamic Bending Light (GT-Line only). These new technologies make the Sorento one of the safest cars in its class.
Front seats are large and comfortable. Legroom in the second row seats is impressive and tall adults will have little need to do a deal with those in the front about stretch out space.
The third row seats are aimed at the kids and aren’t too difficult to get in and out of.
We took a range of 2018 Kia Sorentos on a sensible drive program organised by Kia out of Sydney airport as part of the launch. It took us from aweful Sydney traffic north on the motorway to the Richmond turnoff, west on a roundabout route to Katoomba, with a couple of refreshment stops along the way. Followed the next morning by a return to the airport.
Ride comfort is good as changes have been made to the suspension and steering by the Kia team of Australian and South Korean engineers. The emphasis has been moved slightly to the comfort direction in the eternal ride versus handling equation. We feel they have got it spot on.
There’s plenty of safety built into the way the SUV looks after itself in tight situations if the driver misreads the road and goes too hard at a bend.
Noise and vibration reduction is impressive, with the feel of a luxury car on smooth roads and only a mild increase in noise levels when tackling rough n’ ready Aussie country backroads.
However, coarse-chip roads did create quite a bit of noise, even some vibration at times.
Rough dirt backroads failed to upset the big Korean people movers in the ride and handling stakes.
New Sorento is on sale now and has Kia’s industry-leading 7-year warranty, 7-year capped price servicing and 7-year roadside assist.
MODELS AND PRICES
Model range names have been changed in some instances from those of the outgoing Kia Sorento. There are only small price rises despite significant improvements offered. The latter a smart move when you’re chasing additional sales.
Pricing for the petrol models: Si $42,990 (+$2000); Sport $44,990 (previously called the Si Limited +$1000); SLi $46,990 (+$1000).
Diesel pricing: Si $45,490 (+$1000); Sport $48,490 (previously Si Limited +$1000); SLi $50,490 (+$1000); Platinum discontinued; GT-Line $58,990 (+$500).