Kia Sorento R Ltd 2010 Review

Kia Sorento R Ltd 2010 Review

Kia is currently shifting from a bit player to a serious force in the NZ car market with its keenly priced vehicles and a rapidly modernising range. Where Kia got one of its first big breaks was with the Sorento medium-sized SUV. Released in 2002 the first-generation Sorento helped put Kia on the map and went on to sell more than 900,000 units globally.  For 2010 Kia has released the new Sorento R and it comes carrying high hopes that it can again fight its way to contention in a very competitive segment. The Ford Territory, Nissan X-Trail, Holden Captiva and close relative Hyundai Santa Fe are all pushing their case. To stand out the Sorento will need sharp looks, strong mechanicals and to offer good value. Car and SUV spent a week with the new Kia Sorento R to find out if it delivers.

From the outside the Sorento looks purposeful, uncluttered and ultra-modern. As the handiwork of ex-Audi designer Peter Schreyer there is a distinct European influence at work in the rear LED lights and bludging front-fascia. It’s a smart look with good colour coding, chrome accents and a practical strip of black plastic guarding the underside. Kia’s corporate tiger-nose grille now features, as do other signature touches like the thick character line along the bottom of the doors. Paintwork and panel fit looks to be good quality and the doors close with a reassuring thud.

Inside, the Sorento has seven seats on offer in its stretched cabin. The third row of seating is best suited to children with restrictive legroom and a high floor stopping adults from being fully comfortable there. Further forward it’s a different story and the second row boasts plenty of head and knee room. The front seats are well contoured and comfortable with various adjustments. There’s also a generous foot well for the driver making it easy to stay comfortable on longer journeys. All seats are easily adjusted particularly the third row which drops flush into the floor. With the third row up luggage capacity is just 258-litres, with it down that increases to 1047-litres and drop the second row to create an enormous 2052 litres and a flat floor.

The dashboard on the Sorento is a modern mixture of dark plastics and silver trim. The chrome ringed instrument cluster is easily read and a class touch. All illumination is uniformed in orange and the central control stack is logically laid out. The steering wheel offers cruise and audio controls and there is ample small storage and cup holders. Overall, it’s a very good cabin, it’s also very practical and comfortable with a good SUV driving position, and the only negative may come with durability. While the fit feels solid, some of the lighter untextured plastics don’t feel quality and with time could prove prone to chips and marks. When new, the Sorento interior is definitely not a weakness and will be viewed by many as a strength. The equipment list for the Sorento Ltd is lengthy and includes an eight speaker i-pod integrated stereo, full leather interior, dual zone air-con, trip computer, rain sensing wipers, reversing camera, panoramic sunroof and 18-inch alloys all as standard fare.

Exterior and interior styling is top notch for the Sorento R but it’s under the bonnet where the biggest leap forward has been taken. The 2.2-litre turbo-diesel motor is the only option here in NZ which is fine because it’s an absolute gem. The diesel lump puts out a charging 145kW of power and a massive 445Nm of torque. These are impressive figures from the Hyundai/Kia unit that took 42 months and 150 engineers to fully develop. It uses an aluminium block and head, variable-geometry turbocharger and a high-pressure common-rail injection system. The end result is a strong engine with a bolshy torque surge that is surprisingly rapid even when shifting the 1800kg SUV body around. It offers decent refinement during urban driving and quietly hums along at low rpm when motorway cruising. There is some turbo lag on occasion, but the six-speed auto transmission works hard to keep it in the power band. There is also a sequential manual mode that can help extract all available power.

The Sorento’s strong performance doesn’t come at the cost of fuel economy with the engine sipping away on a quoted 7.4L/100km of diesel on the combined cycle. Spend some long stretches on motorways and open roads and that could drop to around 5L/100km and Kia even claims the Sorento can travel over 1,000km on a single tank.

On road the Sorento offers a fairly refined ride with compliant suspension that gobbles up most bumps and ruts. Great soundproofing guarantees that very little road or wheel noise enters the cabin and the engine remains quiet until it reaches high revs. The suspension is set very soft and while it adds to the comfort level on straight roads it can leave the Sorento feeling floaty during cornering. Body roll can be felt on windy roads but the Sorento offers a good level of grip and won’t get out of shape without serious provocation.

When it comes to leaving the tarmac the new Sorento isn’t ideally set up for off-road enthusiasts. The new model has shifted away from a ladder chassis and now uses a lighter monocoque body. The 4WD system has also changed and is now on demand, with the rear wheels only engaging when the front wheels lose traction. This is a clever system that functions impressively well but the absence of a dual-range transfer case could put off the hardcore. Towing capacity has also seen a reduction from the changes and is now rated at 2000kg for a braked trailer.

Standard safety features include sash seat belts in every position, six airbags, a stability control system with traction control and ABS brakes with brake assist.  Hill-start assist and downhill brake control are also there to make life easier.

The top-spec Sorento Ltd is heavily priced at $63,990, which is a lot of money and moving towards unfamiliar pricing territory for Kia. That said, the diesel engine matches up with any other in the class, the exterior styling is sharp and the cabin is comfortably appealing. The lesser models in the Kia range come with all the important gear and the same engine, these may represent better value for many buyers.

If you’re looking for a practical 7-seat capable medium SUV then don’t be put off by the badge on the Sorento R because lying underneath it is a much-improved vehicle that’s a genuine class act.  Be sure to check it out.

Price: $63,990 (2WD base model $46,990)

What we like:

  • Strong and economical diesel engine
  • Bold exterior styling
  • Comfortable ride

What we don’t like:

  • Interior materials are mixed quality
  • Body roll
  • Ltd model is expensive

Words and photos: Adam Mamo

Other reviews of interest (click on link):

Great Wall X240 (2010) — Road Test

Hyundai Santa Fe CRDi Elite (2010) — Road Test

Mitsubishi Outlander VR (2010) — Road Test

Toyota Land Cruiser Prado (2010) — Road Test

Volvo XC60 D5 (2009) — Road Test

Kia Sorento R Ltd (2010) – Specifcations

Engine type 2.2L R Series DOHC CRDi diesel turbo
Displacement (cc) 2199 cc
Compression ratio 16:0
Max. power 145 kW @ 3800 rpm
Max. torque 445 Nm @ 1800-2500 rpm
Fuel economy (combined cycle) 7.4L / 100km
Co2 emissions (g/km) 194


Gear box 6 speed automatic with sport shift
Drivetrain Front wheel drive
On demand 4WD with downhill brake control and hill-start assist control

Front suspension MacPherson strut
Rear suspension Multi link

Tyres 235/60 R18
Braking system Ventilated front discs, solid rear discs
Alloy wheels 18″
Full size spare wheel and tyre

Steering system Power assisted rack & pinion

Overall length 4685 mm
Overall width 1885 mm
Overall height 1710 mm
Wheelbase 2700 mm
Min. ground clearance 184 mm
Kerb weight min. / max 1760 / 1896 kg
Cargo capacity (SAE 1st/2nd/3rd row) 2052 / 1047 / 258 litres
Fuel tank capacity 70 litres
Towing capacity – unbraked (kg) 750
Towing capacity – braked (kg) 2000

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