Technology: is Korea now beating the Euros for advanced SUV features?
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A brace of new SUVs from Kia are showcasing a broad range of technological innovations – some of them giving the Korean carmaker one-up on premium brands.
The all-new Sorento just launched in New Zealand is upping the ante substantially, with new technology both under bonnet and in the cabin.
The 2.2-litre “Smartstream” diesel engine makes its debut in the Sorento, matched to an eight-speed wet double-clutch transmission that Kia claims is a first for the segment, matching the efficiency and performance of a DCT with the smoother shifting of a conventional automatic.
In the top-specification model, the gearlever is an electronic “E-Shift Dial”.
Inside, the Sorento dashboard is digital-centric, with most models having a 10.25-inch touch screen infotainment system, 12.3in high-res instrument cluster and 8.5in head-up display.
Safety equipment has also advanced, including a new airbag design that’s located in the left-hand side of the driver’s seat, to help separate driver and front occupant in the event of a side impact.
The cabin is ready for digital life with no few than seven USB connections: two up front, three in the second row (including one in the back of the centre console) and another two for the third row.
There’s a bit of sci-fi atmosphere in the interior as well with Kia’s Mood Lighting system, which lets users tailor the cabin with one of seven pre-selected colours or further customisation from up to 64 different hues.
The Sorento also features Remote Smart Parking Assist (RSPA), which enables the driver to manoeuvre the vehicle in and out of a tight space (in a straight line) with nobody inside the car, using the key fob.
RSPA applies the brakes automatically if it detects another, pedestrian or cyclist in the path of the vehicle.
Other assistance systems include Blind Spot View Monitor (BVW) and a new Forward Collision Avoidance (FCA) system, which can recognise vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians; it also detects oncoming traffic when making a turn at a junction.
The BVM takes tech a step further by incorporating a high-resolution video feed on either side of the instrument cluster if the driver indicates to change lanes when another vehicle is hidden in the blind spot. The video briefly takes the place of either the speedometer or tachometer display (although speed is still shown).
The images come from wide-angle cameras fitted to the exterior rearvision mirrors, hidden in the housing.
The Sorento also features Safe Exit Assist (SEA), which prevents the rear doors from being opened if the sensors detect a vehicle or hazard approaching from behind.
Kia NZ has also announced a number of technology upgrades to its Niro, which it claims is the first SUV to be designed from the ground up as an electrified vehicle.
The Kiwi range has been doubled, with five Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV) and Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) models, and three pure-electric BEVs.
Along with some minor styling upgrades, the original entry EX version has been joined by mid-range SX and upmarket Premium grades across all three electrified powertrains.
Even the EX now has a large 8in touch screen and the SX/Premium versions get a 10.25in display.
The Niro HEV models get Kia’s Smart Cruise Control with stop and go functionality, which joins the existing safety suite of autonomous braking, lane-keep assistance, driver attention warning, automatic high-beam, blind-spot monitor and intelligent speed limit warning. The SX and Premium also have rear cross-traffic alert.
The PHEV models have gained a larger 8.9kWh battery to improve performance, with bigger rear brakes on all models.
Kia NZ has now standardised the larger 64kWh battery on the BEV model, which boasts one of the most impressive ranges on the market at 455km. It can also be charged at up to 100kW on a Hyper Charger, or around twice as fast as the industry standard.