SPARKLING LINE-UP OF THE ALL-NEW SORENTO IS A BIG THREAT TO COMPETITORS
According to Marilyn Monroe, diamonds are a girl’s best friend. These days, diamonds are a car designer’s best friend.
Mercedes-Benz started the trend of a front grille with diamond-shaped inserts when it launched the latest A-Class hatchback, turning the premium hatchback into a head-turner. Now it’s Kia’s turn to use diamonds to add appeal to one of its popular products — the all-new Sorento. The third-generation large SUV goes on sale next month and Driven was given an exclusive first drive of a model in New Zealand for evaluation.
Longer, lower and wider than the previous model, the seven-seater Sorento features Kia’s latest platform.
It’s set to be a direct competitor to Toyota’s Highlander, Ford’s Territory and sister brand Hyundai’s Santa Fe.
Kia NZ is planning on four models in the range with three engine variants — a 2.4-litre and 3.3-litre V6 petrol plus a 2.2-litre diesel — all paired to a six-speed auto transmission.
The model range will include entry-level two-wheel-drive LX diesel and petrol that Kia expects to be the choice for the rental car market.
Next up are the all-wheel-drive models, starting with the EX diesel, then the Limited model that Kia expects to be a popular pick. It will be equipped with the diesel and 3.3-litre petrol engines.
Kia NZ’s managing director, Todd McDonald, said the EX has “better specifications than the previous generation Limited”.
The top model will be the Premium with the 2.2-litre diesel engine. Alongside the Limited, it gains electric heated and cooled seats plus electric opening boot. Prices are still to be set, but indications are that the product will start just under $50,000.
Kia NZ has already sold out of the previous generation Sorento. “We have been struggling in the petrol segment so now we have introduced the V6 to compete in that market,” McDonald said. “But still, in New Zealand there is demand for the large SUV with the diesel engine.”
Kia NZ has a private showroom at its Auckland headquarters where it is showing the Sorento to prospective customers and where Driven was given a walk-through of the SUV then a drive of the EX diesel model.
The immediate impact of the vehicle is the grille with those inserts and the sculptured bonnet.
It keeps the Kia “DNA”, said McDonald, including the now-famous “tiger nose” design features that are reflected in the grille shape and front window. A front skid plate gives the Sorento a masculine appearance. All models will sit on 19in wheels with the Limited and Premium specced up to a chrome finish that adds a new dimension to the once conservatively styled SUV.
And on the topic of dimensions they too have changed, the reduction in height giving the Sorento more of a crossover look than that of a large SUV. It is now 4780mm long — an addition of 95mm over second-generation Sorento; 5mm wider at 1890mm; and 15mm lower at 1685mm.
Inside the Sorento has a new-look clean lined dash that includes a touchscreen infotainment centre. The second row of seats, now with a flat floor, are a 40:20:40 split over the previous 60:40 and slide individually to help easy access to the third row. That has two seats which store in the boot. The third row is ideal for primary school-sized kids while the moveable second row means the passengers in the last row can have increased legroom. If you fold down the second and third rows, you gain 1662 litres of storage, an increase of 132 litres.
The Sorento has a five-star Euro Ancap rating and features an active hood with a popup sensor that lifts the bonnet if you hit a pedestrian, to protect them from serious damage from the engine.
It also has an electric brake over a foot or hand brake, plus hill assent control to give a firm position when stopped on a slope.
The Sorento’s lower height gives a solid hold on the road while sound deadening in the bonnet helps reduce cabin noise.
When it’s on the road it turns heads thanks to the new-look grille. Going past a primary school just before 3pm, the Sorento caught the attention of parents. And that’s exactly what Kia NZ is hoping for when it goes on sale mid-April.