The Sorento has, in the past, been the bargain basement of the large SUV and many buyers have loved it for this. Overnight though, the Sorento has gone all posh and can now be mentioned in the same sentence as the Land Rover Discovery Sport and even the BMW X3. Say what?!
The new Sorento has a much bolder on-the-road presence than before. The standout feature for me has to be the larger, more upright tiger-nose-like grille, with a distinctive three-dimensional diamond pattern. The car, although large comes across as sleek thanks to its design. I particularly like its long bonnet. The view from the rear is not too shabby.
Back to my burg journey... my girlfriend, mom, dad, my younger brother and I, as well as our luggage all squeezed into the Sorento. Much to my surprise the boot was big enough to hold the entire load and the standard electric tail gate came in handy. Inside, all five of us had enough space and legroom to keep us happy. The last thing you want on a long journey is uncomfortable passengers. All Sorento models are seven seaters but due to the amount of luggage, we needed to fold those last two seats down.
The interior of the Sorento, compared to the previous model is much better in terms of quality, fit and finish and there is also a decent amount of tech inside. The dashboard is ergonomically laid out and one thing that I liked was the fact that the seats are set slightly lower than in conventional SUVs, thus giving a more car-like driving position. A lot of small storage compartments inside the cabin are handy for storing all the sweets and juice that you need on a long family trip. The panoramic sunroof also gives a nice air feel to the cabin.
On the open road, it’s clear to see that Kia has set the Sorneto up with comfort in mind; the suspension is nice and soft and the ride is fuss-free. I was given the 2.2 CRDi EX AWD derivative, which makes use of a four cylinder 2.2-litre turbo diesel motor mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. Not only is it economical, it is fairly powerful as well with 147kW and 440Nm of torque. I managed a fuel consumption figure of around 8.5 litres/100km with a fully loaded car on my trip to and from the Drakensburg.
There are some issues with the Sorento, though. Firstly, I found that when called upon to overtake, the engine seems to run out of puff quite quickly; it’s not slow, but the engine doesn’t like to be rushed. The second issue is that of ground clearance. Even though the Sorento that I drove featured AWD with a centre diff-lock, it still felt slightly low to the ground, which could compromise its off-road appeal.
If you want a sporty SUV then best look elsewhere, but if you want a laid-back, comfortable, economical family car with loads of space and seating configurations then the Sorento is a good choice. It is fitted with all the safety features one expects from a premium car and it also benefits from a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating. I use the word premium because the Sorento 2.2 CRDi AWD carries a premium price tag of R619 995. After spending many hours behind the wheel of the new Kia Sorento, it is clear to see why it was nominated as a Car of the Year finalist.