New Kia Sorento has just been launched in Australia. It’s aimed at those looking for the comfort of a sedan / people mover type vehicle, not simply an SUV.

The fourth generation of Kia’s popular Sorento SUV is the first vehicle to be based on Kia’s new-generation ‘N3’ SUV platform. It is wider and than its predecessor and sits on a longer wheelbase so can accommodate seven people in comfort, and a significant amount of luggage.

Even with all seven seats in place, boot space is 32 percent larger than the superseded Sorento.

The new shape is a collaborative design between all three studios in Kia’s worldwide design network – in Korea, Europe and North America.

It is more sculpted than before with the front having the latest interpretation of Kia’s hallmark ‘tiger nose’ grille. There are rectangular lower air intakes, wing-shaped air curtains channel air around the car. The sharp bumper lip is capped with a skid plate.

The trailing edge of the bonnet wraps around the front wings and turns into a single, strong character line which extends along the side of the Sorento and into the rear lights.

The wide D-pillars that have defined all three Sorento previous generations have been retained but this time with a fair bit more style than previously.

New Sorento has a choice of seven paint finishes; one standard colour in Clear White, and six Premium Paints ($695 option); Mineral Blue (New Colour), Snow White Pearl, Steel Grey, Silky Silver, Aurora Black and Gravity Blue.

The dashboard area is reminiscent of the current Mercedes-Benz design, with two wide rectangular screens occupying an area stretching about two thirds of the way across the dashboard.

Sorento is fitted with premium-quality materials and cutting-edge infotainment.more about the latter later in this report.

Depending on grade there is embossed black cloth, leather appointed black cloth and black quilted Nappa leather appointed seats.

A powerful 12-speaker BOSE surround-sound audio system is standard in the GT-Line. The S, Sport and Sport+ come with what Kia simply calls, “a quality six-speaker sound system”.

The new Sorento incorporates Kia’s latest 10.25-inch touchscreen infotainment system (Sport, Sport+ and GT-Line), offering audio-visual navigation. Entry-level S features an eight-inch colour LCD touch screen, and along with Sport and Sport+, a 4.2-inch colour TFT supervision instrument cluster.

The infotainment system also allows Bluetooth smartphone pairing for two phones concurrently, enabling separate phones to be used for, for instance, phone calls and music, while front passengers can also plug in their mobile devices via three USB chargers.

For second-row passengers, two USB charging sockets are integrated into the backs of the front seats (Sport+ & GT-Line only), with a third at the back of the front-row centre console.

Both third-row passengers also have their own 12V Power Outlet charging points (whilst Sport+ and GT-Line offers two additional USB chargers), meaning all seven passengers can keep their mobile device charged – the perfect measure to maintain harmony in a full car during longer journeys.

The 10.25-inch touchscreen infotainment and navigation system has many functions can also be controlled with new capacitive buttons on either side of the screen.

Kia’s new four-cylinder 2.2-litre ‘Smartstream’ diesel engine debuts in Australia in the Sorento. Producing 148kW and 440Nm torque it is paired with Kia’s new eight-speed wet double-clutch transmission and drives all four wheels.

An updated Lambda III 3.5 litre V6 petrol engine producing 200kW and 332Nm will drive the front wheels through Kia’s eight-speed torque converter automatic. It won’t be here till late November, perhaps early December.

A plugin hybrid Sorento is due to be launched in 2001, it’s likely to come to Australia but Kia won’t comment at this stage.

The Sorento is fitted with seven airbags (dual front airbags, dual front seat-mounted side airbags, side curtain airbags with rollover sensor, and front centre airbag).

The front centre airbag is segment first for Australia and provides head protection for front-seat occupants by preventing their heads coming into contact during a crash.

Kia’s Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) includes Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) technology with pedestrian, cyclist and vehicle detection. This also detects oncoming traffic when making a turn at a junction.

The Sorento is available with Blind-spot View Monitor (GT-Line only), Surround View Monitor (GT-Line) and Blind-spot Collision-avoid Assist, Advanced Smart Cruise Control, Lane Following Assist and Driver Attention Warning.

Kia’s ‘level two’ autonomous driving technology, Lane Following Assist (LFA), controls acceleration, braking and steering depending on the vehicles in front. It operates between speeds of 0 and 180 km/h, using camera and radar sensors to maintain a safe distance from the car in front, while monitoring road markings to keep the Sorento in the centre of its lane.

Like all Kia models, the Sorento’s on-road capability and comfort has been optimised to best suit the tastes of Australian drivers through the local tuning program.

On road the designers have come close to providing the sedan like comfort they were aiming for. Noise levels are low in general driving, bump-thump on joining strips on bridges is minimal, sound does increase on concretes motorways but is lower than average for a vehicle of this type.

Cornering is positive, with good feedback through the steering wheel an positive changes in direction when the driver wants it. Obviously it’s no sports car, nor a sports sedan, but those who enjoy diving won’t feel as frustrated as they would in others in this vehicle class.

The engine is quiet even when accelerated hard. The automatic transmission changes imperceptibly and responds quickly to the conditions. Manual control through steering wheel paddles is there but unless you’re pedalling hard on your favourite driving road – which seems unlikely in an SUV – you’re probably not going to need the transmission overrides.

Off road the Sorento has enhanced all-terrain ability thanks to having Terrain Mode (only in the diesels, keep in mind the petrols only have 2WD). TM assists the driver in mud, snow and sand. It controls the car’s standard electronic stability control, as well as the distribution of torque to all four wheels.

The TM adapts transmission shift times to help maintain traction in hard off road driving.

However we didn’t do any off-road testing as many tracks are closed at the moment as locals are keen to keep strangers out.

As with all Kia models Sorento is covered by the seven-year unlimited kilometre warranty, seven-year capped price service and seven-year roadside assist.

Kia has made a large leap forward in the affordable SUV’s with its new Sorento. It’s pleasant to drive provides very good interior space and comfort and it seems likely it will carve out a large slice of the large SUV market in Australia.


S 3.5-litre petrol 2WD: $46,990
Sport 3.5-litre petrol 2WD: $49,990
Sport+ 3.5-litre petrol 2WD: $54,390
GT-Line 3.5-litre petrol 2WD: $61,990
S 2.2-litre diesel AWD: $49,990
Sport 2.2-litre diesel AWD: $52,990
Sport+ 2.2-litre diesel AWD: $57,390
GT-Line 2.2-litre diesel AWD: $64,990
Note: These are drive-away prices and include all government or dealer delivery charges.

SPECIFICATIONS (Kia Sorento S 3.5-litre petrol five-door wagon)

Capacity: 3.470 litres
Configuration: V6
Maximum Power: 200 kW @ 6300 rpm
Maximum Torque: 332 Nm @ 5000 rpm
Fuel Type: Standard unleaded petrol
Combined Fuel Cycle (ADR 81/02): 9.7 L/100km
CO2 Emissions: 222 g/km

DRIVELINE: Eight-speed automatic

Length: 4810 mm
Wheelbase: 2815 mm
Width: 1900 mm
Height: 1700 mm
Turning Circle: 11.6 metres
Kerb Mass: 1898 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 67 litres

Front: Ventilated disc
Rear: Ventilated disc

Seven years / unlimited kilometres

About Ewan Kennedy

Ewan Kennedy, a long-time car enthusiast, was Technical Research Librarian with the NRMA from 1970 until 1985. He worked part-time as a freelance motoring journalist from 1977 until 1985, when he took a full-time position as Technical Editor with Modern Motor magazine. Late in 1987 he left to set up a full-time business as a freelance motoring journalist. Ewan is an associate member of the Society of Automotive Engineers - International. An economy driving expert, he set the Guinness World Record for the greatest distance travelled in a standard road vehicle on a single fuel fill. He lists his hobbies as stage acting, travelling, boating and reading.
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