Kia Sorento: car review
Top speed: 124mph
0-62mph: 9 seconds
“Good things come to those who wait”; “Every little helps”; “It does exactly what it says on the tin”. These taglines are so familiar they’ve entered our everyday lexicon and become as famous as the products they advertise. But what about “Dignity wrapped up in a solid package”? I’m not sure it’s going to catch on. It sounds like an advert for a fast-acting antidiarrhoeal medicine. In fact it’s the phrase the product planners and designers used to crystallise their focus while developing the third generation of Kia’s new Sorento.
Originally launched in 2002, the Sorento was a lumpen hunk that would lug or tow anything that wasn’t bolted down. It was as sophisticated as a knuckle sandwich, but it always got the job done. A few years later the brilliant Peter Schreyer, the designer behind both Audi’s TT and VW’s new Beetle, was poached by Kia and set about revamping its fleet with an emphasis on style, refinement and technological sophistication. It was the Korean New Wave for cars rather than cinema. I remember asking him once about the radical shape of the headlamps on Kia’s breakout Sportage. “Why did I design them like that? Because I felt like it…” he shrugged. But his insouciance belies an obsession with detail and a driving ambition to make Kia compete at the highest levels.
This new Sorento is certainly striking. It’s not so much a large SUV as a ginormous one. It’s longer, lower and wider than the previous model, and the extended wheelbase means the cabin is huge. The boot has an additional 90 litres of storage and it was already cavernous.
It’s a seven-seater, and a proper one at that. I headed off in it for the weekend with my wife, three kids and a pair of their friends. The shortest person in the car was 5ft 7in, the tallest 6ft 2in, but we all basked in space. The panoramic glass roof made the interior light, bright and airy. If the dog hadn’t thrown up a sock in the footwell, causing the car to stink for most of the trip, it would have been a blissful journey.
Cars are like people and extra girth can look unsightly, but Schreyer and his team have worked hard to keep the Sorento looking trim and as untrucklike as possible. The roof has been lowered and pronounced rear shoulders make the car look bold and muscular. Inside, the designers have also gone to great lengths to reinforce the sense of space, quality and practicality. The shape of the bottom of the windscreen, for instance, has been carefully crafted to emphasise the car’s increased width.
When remaking a car like this, you have two choices. Stick with its workmanlike credentials (towing and off-road ability) or begin the process of gentrification (premium comfort and road-going performance). It’s tuff or toff. But the Sorento has tried to balance both, like Land Rover’s Discovery Sport. All versions are powered by a smooth 197bhp 2.2-litre turbo diesel linked to the new Dynamax intelligent all-wheel drive system. It’s incredibly strong and can tow to a limit of 2,500kg, but it also does almost 50mpg, which is gobsmacking. Emissions are not brilliant and it is worth remembering it’s a diesel, so only consider buying if most of your driving is not urban. To be honest, though, you’d be crazy to opt for a car of this size if you lived in town, so that shouldn’t be an issue. Safety, performance and convenience gadgetry is all top notch: smart cruise control, blind spot detection, rear cross traffic alert, 360-degree monitoring, self parking… the list is exhaustive.
It’s solid and very dignified. You know what? That tagline is spot on.
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