When I first moved to Auckland I kept getting lost. It’s a confounding city of roads that diverge insidiously, so that an east unknowingly becomes a south and all of a sudden Sandringham is Manukau, even though you may have been racing to your girlfriend’s place in Glendowie because her parents were out.
The roads may be able to fool me, but they can’t fool Kia’s latest Sorento. It knows where east is and tells you so in a natty multi-purpose trip computer device located (unusually) near the rear-view mirror¦where it’s difficult to see except by the rear passengers.
Anyway, a compass isn’t anything new, but I found myself once again in a position of not being in the place I expected to be. You see, when us journos get cars to review we occasionally forget to transfer the necessities from our usual daily drives (in this case my map and parking money). Andy the Hit Man and I had been to Muriwai to see how the Sorento Ltd dealt with soft roads (see the videos), and then I thought it would be great to head to Orewa, which is east¦sort of.
Along the way, I had a chance to reflect on the morning’s driving, how far Kia has come and that if you stuck another brand’s badge on the front of it you’d probably pay $20k more for exactly the same. Starting out on the motorway at 6:30 in the morning I was impressed at how comfortable the Kia felt. It’s not quick, but there is sufficient power for the onramps from the 2.5-litre diesel (125kW, which is 21% more than the outgoing model). Visibility is excellent and the entire interior is of extremely high quality.
For the urban warrior, the EX has heated front seats, powered driver’s seat, dual-zone climate control, electric sunroof and an MP3-compatible, six-disc CD changer. Cruise control and stereo control buttons are on the steering wheel and column. The stereo’s speaker setup in the front is exceptional, the bass is solid and the treble crisp, and right through to maximum volume it was relatively distortion free.
Most of the time you’ll leave the Sorento in rear-wheel drive, but if you want to get more adventurous than the kerbs outside little Timmy’s school, the Sorento has four-wheel drive in high and low ratios and it’s more than capable of handling the rough stuff. But it’s this compromise that makes it a bit fidgety once off the motorway on the twisty stuff.
Apart from the slightly nervous ride, there’s really not a great deal wrong with the Sorento. The gearbox lags a bit and if you want the auto to kick down coming out of a corner you need to plant your foot before the apex. The cruise control just did not work — set it at 105kph and it varies between around 112 and 100, constantly accelerating and decelerating. Finally, the position of the aforementioned trip computer was designed by an idiot, which is my excuse for eventually having to stop and ask directions, like every good bloke does.
But, you probably won’t care about these minor niggles (or my temporary blokish embarrassment) because, especially in black with its colour-coded bumpers, the Sorento has a huge presence. No longer is Kia the runt of the litter. Even our barely-in-her-twenties, highly fashion-conscious receptionist said it was cool. For the money this is an overachiever. However, you’ll need to bring your own map.
Price: from $54,800
Interested in purchasing a Kia Sorento? This website has secondhand ones for sale
- Styling inside and out
- Quite rugged and capable, for its looks
- Meets Euro 4 emission standards
We don’t like:
- Nervous ride on less-than-perfect tarmac
- Gearbox a bit slow
- Cruise control didn’t work well
Words Darren Cottingham, photos Adam Croy