Taking the rough with the smooth is usually the kind of corny cliché trotted out by people while thinking “poor sucker, thank (insert deity of choice) it’s not me”. Other times it has an automotive connotation!
In automotive speak beloved of marketers and advertising specialists, this phrase slips so easily off the tongue when alluding to the off-road and on-road abilities of whatever vehicle. It’s old; it’s tired and is generally blatantly untrue.
So, when this popped up as a catchphrase in the armoury of the new Kia Sorento launch, it immediately set the bullshit deflectors to high alert mode. Fortunately, they were not needed.
“The dynamic design of the new Kia Sorento adopts simple, linear lines to create a powerful, yet polished appearance. Both sporty and striking, new Sorento represents a new breed of SUV,” says Peter Schreyer, Kia’s Chief Design Officer (CDO).
Introduced in 2002, the first generation Sorento marked a huge step for Kia, challenging many established brands and starting the process of changing public perception of Kia as a ‘maker of small cars’. Over the next seven years, it attracted thousands of customers who had not previously considered buying a Kia, and achieved global sales of almost 900 000 units.
New Sorento is sleeker than the previous model with an aerodynamic drag figure of Cd 0,38 – down from 0,425 – and is a ‘Highline Cruiser’ five or seven-seater. Ride and handling are more supple and more responsive. The cabin is more spacious and more luxurious. The vehicle delivers enhanced performance while consuming less fuel and the line-up offers a wide choice of engines, transmissions and drive trains.
The old body-on-frame structure has been ditched in favour of an all-new unitary (monocoque) body shell with room for up to seven occupants. The different construction method helped the new Sorento to achieve a weight loss of up to 215 kg, depending on model, compared with the previous Sorento – even though the new model incorporates numerous additional technical, safety and comfort features.
The new, longer body shell created for new Sorento, with its repositioned A-pillars and dashboard (moved forwards) and extended tailgate (moved rearwards), ensures the cabin is more spacious than the previous model.
The detailed design work for the new Sorento was carried out at Kia’s facility in California, USA.
“We wanted to create a modern design that reflects the vehicle’s all-new unitary platform,” says Tom Kearns, Chief Designer, Kia Design Centre America. “We wanted the exterior and interior design to consistently communicate the new attributes – better ride, handling and fuel efficiency – with a more advanced expression that also captured our new Kia design language. The vehicle is sleeker and sportier than its predecessor is. It communicates athleticism, precision and modernity and I think looks as good as it drives,”
The Sorento is available in a 5 or 7-seater options. The longer body shell means all three seat rows benefit from greater legroom and headroom. Legroom is increased by 13 mm (front) and 27 mm (second row); headroom is increased by 14 mm (front) and 1 mm (second row) and shoulder room by 10 mm (front) and 7 mm (second row). Third row headroom is 906 mm and legroom is 795 mm.
An electrically powered driver seat is standard, with electric adjustment of the cushion height (front and rear independently) and lumbar support, plus the regular fore/aft and backrest angle adjustments.
For maximum versatility when accommodating people and cargo, the new Sorento’s second row seat is split 60/40 and the third row seat is split 50/50. These seats’ backrests fold almost flat to extend available trunk space. The second row folds down to 9 degrees and the third row to 2.5 degrees.
Luggage space is up by 15%, thanks to moving the tailgate back by 70 mm. When using the vehicle as a five-seater, with the third row seats folded down, total capacity is now 1 047 litres – 137 litres more than the previous model. Cargo capacity with all seats upright is 258 litres and 2 052 litres when both the third and second row seats are folded down.
For 2010, customers will be offered the all-new 2,2-litre diesel engine with a choice of either a 6-speed manual or automatic transmission, customers will have a choice of either a 2WD or 4WD drive train option on the diesel engine. In 2010, Kia South Africa will release the 7-seater automatic 3,5-litre 4WD V6 engine derivative.
Features of the R2.2 engine include all-aluminium construction, an E-VGT (Electronic Variable Geometry Turbo-charger), an advanced ECU (Engine Control Unit) with a 32-bit microprocessor, a new high-efficiency EGR (Exhaust Gas Recirculation System) with cooler and bypass valve, a chain-driven DOHC 16-valve intake/exhaust system with needle-roller bearings and hydraulic lash adjusters, a balancer shaft and a close-coupled DPF (Diesel Particulate Filter) installed in the engine.
The R2.2 generates a maximum of 146,9 kW and 436,4 Nm of torque from 1 800 r/min. For use with the six-speed manual transmission, the engine is re-tuned to produce 421,7 Nm.
The 3 470 cm³ V6 engine features dual CVVT (Continuously Variable Valve Timing for both the intake and exhaust valves), four valves per cylinder, a higher rev-limit (6 300 r/min), a new variable oil pump, and a three stage VIS (Variable Intake System). It produces power of 206,6 kW at 6 300 r/min and torque of 335,4 Nm at 5 000 r/min.
The double wishbone front suspension of the previous model makes way for lighter, less expensive and much more compact MacPherson struts. These are mounted on a lightweight hydro-formed subframe. The subframe mountings and the rubber bushes throughout the suspension have been firmed up to deliver a more sporty ride and better steering ‘feel’ – without affecting ride smoothness and without transmitting vibrations into the cabin.
At the rear, the ‘live-axle’ of the previous model is ditched in favour of an all-new fully independent multi-link suspension, also mounted on a subframe. The coil springs are realigned to reduce side-loads and friction, and automatic self-levelling is available on all 7-seater models to compensate for varying people and cargo loads.
Active safety technologies include ABS (Anti-lock Braking System), EBD (Electronic Brake-force Distribution), ESC (Electronic Stability Control), HAC (Hill-start Assist Control), DBC (Downhill Brake Control) and a RPAS (Rear Parking Assist System), plus several systems to boost braking performance during extreme conditions.
So, how does the rough with the smooth fit into the picture. Quite well, actually. The new Sorento is far more tractable than its predecessor and the diesel engine impresses with both low-down torque and top end sustainability.
Driving through the Natal midlands on some wet and slippery dirt roads, the Sorento showed a level of surefootedness one would expect from Discovery or Range Rover. Poised, confident and agile, the Sorento handles responsively and behaves in a thoroughly – nice – and predictable way.
Its biggest downfall is the tiptronic element of the 6-speed auto box that refuses to allow the driver control. It simply will not downshift on demand to induce engine braking and it will not hold in gear, electing to upshift on its own.
For normal daily driving this will never be problem but for some press-on antics in the mud or dust where physics is testing the ability of the four-wheel drive system to keep it all on the road, the driver does need more from the gearbox.
|R2.2 2WD Manual||5 Seater||R339 995|
|R2.2 2WD Automatic||5 Seater||R349 995|
|R2.2 4WD Manual||5 Seater||R359 995|
|R2.2 4WD Automatic||5 Seater||R369 995|
|R2.2 4WD Manual||7 Seater||R389 995|
|R2.2 4WD Automatic||7 Seater||R399 995|