Flagship Sorento Delivers Premium Driving at a Fraction of the Cost

My flight landed late that evening after a particularly tough few days, when I pitched up at the parking desk from which I often collect test cars at the airport. I had a quick chat with the lad who’d waited for me before he knocked off and he showed me where the car was parked in a dark bay.

What Was I Driving?

I was busy on WhatsApp or something as I approached it and I just clicked the remote, tossed my bag in the back, climbed aboard, and headed off into the night. Home’s an hour’s drive from there, but the prospect of a deserted Helshoogte perked me up, as it always does.

I’d just cruised along in the comfort of the machine and not given what I was driving a thought until the pass. Not halfway up I was already impressed. I needed to know what I was driving, so I clicked the dome light on to see the new age Kia badge on the steering boss. The big 4×4 tacked the deserted midnight pass with the aplomb of a sportscar – it’s composed, predictable and fun to push to the limit. Quite unlike what this car seemed.

We grew ever more impressed with this Kia Sorento 2.2CRDi AWD SXL as the week progressed. Even more so as I sat to write this report. I mean look at the price. This is a hell of a lot of car for not all that much money and there’s far more to this smart SUV than just its surprising attitude on the road. It’s big enough, spacious, very well equipped, and it’s a most comfortable cruiser too.

All New Lightweight Turbodiesel

Don’t be fooled though. While it makes just a kilowatt more at the same torque peak, this latest Sorento’s 148kW 440Nm 2.2-litre Smartstream four-pot turbodiesel is all-new and a whole 38.2 kg lighter than its predecessor. And then while at first sight you may expect it to be a carryover, Kia says its new eight-speed wet double-clutch transmission marries smooth shifting with great fuel efficiency.

There’s more to it than just a kilowatt though – this latest Sorento proved almost a second quicker to 100 km/h than its allegedly similarly endowed predecessor on our secret yet famous test strip, and maintains that throughout its range. Overtaking acceleration is eerily similar however, suggesting its diet is part of the plan. Sorento also now gets a new Terrain Mode for its all-wheel-drive system to make it even more capable in mud, snow and sand. Talking about efficiency, believe Kia’s claimed 6.8 litres per hundred claim. Sorento manages that easily.

The big Kia SUV looks far mor the part too, especially in this latest generation get-up. Its latest Donckerwolfe scalpel job brings sharper lines, adds fine high-tech details, and lengthens Sorento’s proportions to deliver an even more confident presence. There’s nothing to tell you that it is not a is not a premium German SUV, because this humble Korean lacks none of that premium allure.

Sorento Seems So Much More Premium

Sorento’s beauty is more than skin deep. Its lightweight composite steel and aluminium shell maximises rigidity, improvs handling and reduces vibration and noise to deliver a fine ride. It also rides on a 35 mm longer wheelbase to add room, practicality and easier third row passenger access to that couple of extra seats hidden under the cavernous boot. It’s also 90 kilos lighter than the car it replaces in top specification

There’s another reason you may be fooled into thinking you are driving something far more premium in here. That wide twin display dash comprising Kia’s latest 10.25- inch touchscreen infotainment alongside high-resolution new digital 12.3-inch instrumentation is what you’d expect from top of the line rivals. It packs audio-visual navigation, CarPlay, Auto and Bluetooth pairing for two phones and seven USB chargers – one per passenger.

Best of all, this his Sorento boasts spec you’d likely add a six digit amount to, to have those options in its ‘more premium’ rivals. Everything from heads-up display, to powerful 12-speaker BOSE surround-sound audio, a power memory driver’s seat, a panoramic sunroof and smart cruise control are all part of the deal. As are those brighter, sexier and safer dual LED high and low beam headlamps, and LED combination taillights.

Safe SorentO Dodges Rampant Inflation

Speaking about safety, Sorento’s Advanced Driver Assistance is unbeatable at this price point. It comprises everything from Kia’s latest Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist with pedestrian, cyclist and vehicle detection and even detects oncoming traffic when making a turn at a junction. Add Blindspot, Around View, Lane Following Assist and Driver Assistants. That’s all over and above six dual front, dual side and side curtain airbags, Vehicle Stability Management, Electronic Stability Control, Multi-Collision ABS brakes and much more too.

The Kia Sorento is a hell of a lot of car for this side of a million bucks. Just compare it to an entry level R1.5-million BMW X5 30d, or Mercedes-Benz GLE300d 4Matic. Or even the R1.25M entry Volvo XC90. No, we’re not saying that it’s any better than any of those cars, but it’s not at all far off. It’s far, far closer than that half or quarter-million premium would ever suggest. In fact, to match this great all-round SUV with another badge on the bonnet, expect to add a good half more to your investment…

So, if you feel compromised by this rampant inflation the world is forcing on us and need to buy down from a million and a half sportute, remember this Kia Sorento. The point is, with this car, you won’t really be downscaling after all… – Michele Lupini

Images & Testing; Giordano Lupini

ROAD TEST: Kia Sorento 2.2CRDi AWD SXL
Engine: 148 kW 440 Nm 2.2-litre turbodiesel I4
Drive: 8-speed automatic AWD
0-60 km/h:        3.85 sec
0-100 km/h:       8.26 sec
0-120 km/h        11.52 sec
0-160 km/h:       20.71 sec
400m:             16.0 sec @ 143 km/h
80-120 km/h:      5.71 sec
120-160 km/h:     9.19 sec
VMax:             205 km/h
Fuel:             6.8 l/100km
CO2:              177 g/km
Warranty/Service: 5y unlimited / 6y 90K km
LIST PRICE:       R995K
RATED:            9
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