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What - Kia Sorento
Where - Barcelona, Spain
Date - January 2010
Price - £20,495 - £29,795
Key rivals -Citroen C-Crosser/Peugeot 4007/Mitsubishi Outlander, Nissan Qashqai+2,Dodge Journey, Land Rover Discovery 4, Ford S-Max, Hyundai Santa Fe, Vauxhall Antara/Chevrolet Captiva
All-new Kia Sorento improves in every area that matters - from its exterior appearance to the way it drives on the road. A seven-year warranty and an SUV this good? Sign us up.
We like - looks good, goes well, decent build quality, seven seats, seven-year warranty
We don't like - ride perhaps a touch firm (but decent body control as a result), towing capability reduced (but still very high)
The 'off-road' segment of the new Kia Sorento launch would have troubled a Ford Fiesta but not, say, a Nissan Qashqai - a dust track with some deep puddles and occasionally pointy rocks. The new Sorento, then, isn't quite the rough and tumble old school 4x4 its predecessor revelled in being.
Rather, it is something far more mannered, gunning for on-road urbanites and the large MPV crowd. Gone is the traditional (ie: ancient tech) ladder frame chassis with bodywork bolted atop that gave the Sorento not only proper go anywhere gumption but also prodigious towing power. In its place comes modern monocoque construction, seating for up to seven and sharply sculpted style we're this close to pronouncing pretty darn cool.
Smartest in class? Quite possibly from the front. The Sorento is important to Kia - it's one of the vehicles that helped the Korean carmaker get a toe hold in this country; coming off the back of Kia's most successful year ever, the new one has a point to prove.
This - more than the cee'd, the Soul, the Venga - this, the all-new Sorento, is supposed to show beyond all doubt that Kia is no longer a budget brand. Does it succeed?
You can still buy a petrol Sorento, but probably not for much longer. The 2.4 carried over from the old version is only available with two-wheel drive and in entry-level '1' trim. Most buyers are firmly expected to choose the turbodiesel, which comes in four trim specifications and both two- and four-wheel drive variants. It's hardly a decision they will regret.
This 196hp 2.2-litre 'R' unit is both more powerful and more efficient than the 2.7 it replaces. Towing capacity is down to 2,500kg from 3,500kg, but still at least as good as everything in class. It's no slouch.
The four-wheel drive Sorentos we sampled take 9.6 seconds to get to 62mph in six-speed manual form, 10 flat when combined with Kia's also new six-speed automatic. Even better in everyday use is the torque. 311lb ft of the stuff is available 1,800-2,500rpm. It pulls like a tractor, and over time should become Roger Moore smooth.
We say 'over time'; the launch cars were barely run-in (our first had covered just 20 miles when we were handed the keys), so sounded like a bag of bolts on start-up. But the engine hauls hard straight out of the box, and was soothed as its fluids reached the correct temperature. Slower traffic is safely dispatched, the Sorento slick for something of its size.
The manual transmission is a touch ponderous, but feels 4x4 substantial enough. The auto hunted between gears and wasn't keen to rely on the engine's torque but, again, is likely to settle given time.
Ride and Handling
The new Sorento is longer, lower and lighter than the car it replaces. It also has better aerodynamics and is far more sophisticated in its construction and road-biased suspension design.
You'll never accuse it of being light on its feet; but the driving experience is weighty and substantial rather than heavy, the Kia feeling reassuringly planted and unflappable at speed. String together too many rapid direction changes and no doubt you'll be punished.
However, the Sorento's steering is precise, consistent and gives a clear indication of the vehicle's limits in relation to your intentions. Body roll is held in tight check - just maybe at the expense of the ride quality, which could be a touch on the firm side for the scarred tarmac at home in the UK.
That said it rarely goes from well-damped to crashy without fair warning, and there is enough suppleness to make the trade-off an easily acceptable one. Cool calm composure in the corners is worth the expense of an occasional jarring that points out you've driven over a speed hump or pot hole too fast.
Interior and Equipment
The instruments and secondary controls are clean and clear, the fit and finish basically flawless on the surface, and the design well considered if not exactly inspired. Welcome to the new Sorento's dashboard.
There is very little to complain about in the cabin. The materials might not be up to Volkswagen standards but in no way do they feel 'budget', either. The aura of solidaraty is just fine; some of the silver paint might eventually wear off, and there is a certain hollowness to a few panels but overall Kia can be proud.
Air conditioning is standard, and all but the petrol model have the option to transport seven, with third row seating that folds flat into the boot floor whenever it's not required. Boot space is 111 litres minimum, 531 litres as a five-seater and 1,525 litres maximum.
You can even cram in seven adults if necessary, but probably only for short periods of time. Partly it's the legroom, mostly its the tricky access to the very rear - the least well-considered part of the whole car, this involves some harder than it should be lever pulling and an overly athletic scramble.
Economy and Safety
Unsurprisingly the petrol lags well behind the diesel engine Sorentos when it comes to economy. But the difference between four-wheel drive and two-wheel drive is pleasantly petite. The penalty is just 3g/km on the manual version, 171g/km CO2 versus 174g/km, with mpg dropping just 0.7 from 43.5 to 42.8 combined.
Specifying the auto sees a bigger drop, however. Either way the Sorento is certainly class competitive, so although four-wheel drive adds 60kg in extra weight you needn't feel like a social pariah for wanting the extra traction.
It helps that in normal driving even the 4x4 models direct all power to the front wheels; the rear axle only comes into play if grip loss is detected, or the 4x4 lock is activated. This helps with the off-road ability, so automatically disengages at speeds above 19mph.
You also get standard hill descent control, limiting downhill off-road speeds to a manageable 5mph. Meanwhile 'Hill-start Assist Control' prevents wheelspin and slipping backwards when setting off uphill, and stability control is fitted to all models. The new Sorento has a five-star Euro NCAP rating.
MSN Cars Verdict
The all-new Kia Sorento is priced from £20,495 for the petrol model, £22,495 if you want a diesel, and £23,495 if you want four-wheel drive. So it doesn't startle you by looking mega cheap. But it really doesn't need to.
This is a fine car, one that easily stands up against any of its major rivals with an agreeable on road driving experience, solid construction and high levels of kit. And to top it all, like every other Kia it comes with a seven-year, 100,000 mile warranty. Kia continues to represent almost staggering value - but 'budget'? Not a bit.
Gallery: Kia Sorento
Read more Kia reviews
|Need to know|
|Engines - petrol||2.4|
|Engines - diesel||2.2|
|Torque (lb ft)||165-311|
|Top speed (mph)||118|
|Rating||Kia Sorento 22 CDRi LX-3 manual|
|Ride and handling||***|
|MSN Cars verdict||****|
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