Kia Sorento R Premium 2013 Review

Kia Sorento R Premium 2013 Review


Kia’s new Sorento comes with a ‘premium’ moniker, but should Japanese and European vehicle manufacturers be concerned? Could it really be a premium SUV? Let’s look at it objectively: leather seats (heated and cooled in the front row, and heated in the back row), heated steering wheel, it parallel parks itself, there’s excellent fuel economy (7.3l/100km), mood lighting, a panoramic sun roof and a blinging set

of 19-inch wheels. Five years ago you didn’t get these things in anything but the most expensive SUVs.

Kia-Sorento-rqKia-Sorento-boot-2Kia-Sorento-radioKia-Sorento-sKia-Sorento-inside-fIt even feels ‘premium’ from the outside. As you walk up to the car, even before unlocking it, puddle lamps illuminate under the handles. Then when you get inside it’s a mix of comfortable leather and well-designed ergonomics. But it’s not quite premium. While Kia has come from near the back of the field up to the pointy end with its mix of extreme value-for-money and practical vehicle features, there’s still another lap of the track to go (and there’s always the risk the Chinese will catch up, too).

Kia has called this the Premium model, but there is room to have a premium-premium model that could, with the exception of the badge, mix it with the next level up. Another ten or fifteen grand could see satellite navigation, rear screen and some additional electronic safety trickery such as lane departure warning and adaptive cruise control. A bigger in-dash touchscreen with a better reversing camera would be nice. It could also slightly improve the stereo and its ability to reliably connect to my iPhone 5 and display what I’m streaming (10% of the time it didn’t connect straight away and displayed ‘no media’). Finally, slightly better quality plastics would round it off.

For $66,190, this top-of-the-line, all-wheel drive, diesel Sorento would easily go 12 rounds and score a draw with other 7-seater vehicles in its price bracket. For example, the Mitsubishi Outlander and Mazda CX-9 have the same towing capacity, similar performance and similar features. The Holden Colorado 7, which is far less refined, is far more capable off-road and will tow 1000kg more, but obviously the compromise is the comfort and noise level. You could consider a Nissan Pathfinder or Ford Territory, too. The Sorento does still retain, at least, a locking differential to help on really slippery ground.

In terms of looks, for me, the Kia sits fractionally behind the CX-9, but definitely ahead of the chunky Colorado and  frumpy Outlander. But when you look at the specs in this Kia compared to what you could get five years ago for the same price, it’s a totally different reality.

The driving experience is aimed at comfort and won’t set your pants on fire – you have to give it a real prod to make it move, which belies its reasonably good power and torque figures. At idle, the engine is too noisy, but it’s less noticeable once you’re moving. Corners are best dispatched at slow-to-medium speed on the racing line to keep passengers happy; there’s body roll if you’re too enthusiastic. There’s plenty of grip, though, if you don’t mind it being on the lean, and you’ve got the four-wheel drive to back you up. The five-star safety is courtesy of anti-lock brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution, brake-assist, electronic stability program, adaptive headlights, six airbags and more.

Kia-Sorento-wheelYou can fit seven occupants in the Kia. The third row of seats folds flat into the floor and can be easily erected by pulling on a strap. The middle row also folds flat to create a 2052-litre space. With the middle row up there’s 1047 litres and with the third row up there’s 258 litres (including a convenient hidden compartment under the floor. When the cargo blind isn’t being used (i.e. when the third row is up), it sits conveniently across the floor of the boot.

In the centre of the speedo there’s a multifunction display that will show range, parking sensors, outside temperature, vehicle settings and more.

Like the CX-9, it’s a big beast of a car and sits at 1885mm wide. This does make it feel spacious inside. There’s plenty of room for three across the back.

There’s a 70-litre fuel tank. Kia quotes 7.3l/100km. This, for me, is a little optimistic. I drove from Auckland to Leigh and back in light traffic, most of which was on the motorway or at highway speeds between 80-100, and averaged 7.7 carrying two passengers and light luggage. This is better than the previous model – a result of it being over 100kg lighter than the previous model due to a lightweight chassis, plus its clever turbodiesel R-Series engine.

Apart from the noisy idle, sitting in the Kia, driving it around and using it for road trips and general fun was satisfying. The refinement has been improved over the outgoing model. It sits at a competitive price point among its peers and provides some premium features.

Price: From $46,490 (2wD petrol), up to the Premium (as tested) at $66,190


  • Packed with useful features
  • Good load space
  • Excellent fuel economy


  • No sat nav
  • Noisy at idle
  • Feels a bit slow

Words and photos: Darren Cottingham

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