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First drive: Kia Sorento - on sale now



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Since going on sale on August 1, 2006, the facelifted Sorento has been slowly finding its feet as Kia dealers sell the few remaining models of the old SUV.

To date, 533 new Sorentos have been sold; this year, Kia hopes to sell 4,300 – a modest target given the 5,200 annual sales achieved by the outgoing model.

The new Sorento uses the same body panels as the original but features new front and rear bumpers, grille projection-style headlamps, tail lights and body mouldings. This gives it a more stylized and modern appearance overall and could appeal to customers looking for a chic alternative to its similarly priced boxy competitors.

With its facelift the car has grown by 20mm, giving an overall length of 4,590mm. Together with a wheelbase of 2,710mm, this makes for a more spacious interior than the Nissan X-Trail or Honda CR-V.

The Sorento comes with a 2.5-litre turbodiesel engine, though a 3.3-litre petrol version is set to go on sale in the future.

Kia says the diesel model will account for an increasing percentage of sales: it predicts 95%, and has made a number of revisions to make the engine more attractive to customers. It now delivers 21% more power and 25% more torque, reducing the 0-62mph time by 1.7sec.

The gearbox has been given higher top gear ratios, though there hasn’t been much improvement in the automatic version. Like the automatics in most South Korean cars, the box is jerky and unresponsive.

It doesn’t function any better in sport mode either, though fuel consumption overall has improved. Dealers should point customers in the direction of the manual transmission.

Standard equipment levels are good and offer a lot of value for money. All models are fitted with anti-lock brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution, air conditioning, self-levelling rear suspension, and twin front and side airbags. Top end models come equipped with in-car DVD and sat-nav.

There are two different 4x4 systems available, part-time or full-time, depending on whether XE, XS or XT trim is chosen.

Inside, not much has changed, though there are more options available to customers wishing to go a bit upmarket, peaking with the leather and wood effect trim on the Sorento XT.

The dash and centre console have been given a neater layout, resulting in a tidy interior that does exactly what a modern motorist expects without fancy extras.

Overall, this is a car that provides good value for money, especially compared to others in its class. Dealers can trade on this and, together with its good looks, have a product that should not be problematic to shift.

Behind the wheel

Look beyond the automatic gearbox and the Sorento is a comfortable, smooth ride both on the road and in more exotic conditions.

We drove extensively on bumpy roads, through the desert, sand dunes and on dirt tracks – allowing us to test the car to its limit. It always felt sturdy and safe, though the steering was not as responsive or sensitive as you would hope.

The 168bhp engine pulls adequately up steep inclines, which will maximize appeal to those looking for more than just a run-around 4x4.

Visibility from the cab is good out the front, but a little obstructed to the rear due to the narrow windscreen. The driver’s seat is easily adjustable, but the steering wheel is still not adjustable for reach – a problem afflicting the entire Kia range.

Price: £19,995-26,095
Engine: 2.5-litre turbodiesel
Performance: 0-62mph 11.6sec (manual), 11.9sec (automatic)
Efficiency: 32.8-35.8mpg combined, 209-228 g/km CO2
CAP RV 3yr 30k: XS: £8,825 (37%)
Rivals: Land Rover Freelander, Honda CR-V, Nissan X-Trail
Strength: Good price and reliability
Weakness: Automatic gearbox
Opportunity: 4x4 lovers looking for an alternative
Threat: Increasingly sophisticated opposition
USP: Big package for a small price

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