Published on December 16th, 2016 | by Subhash Nair0
Kia Sorento 2.2 LS (Diesel) Review: Big Where it Counts
Sometimes we forget that such a substantial number of car buyers in Malaysia ferry 6 or 7 people on a daily basis. So many Malaysian drivers take not just their children, but often their elderly parents as well as the nanny on trips. The Alza, Sienta, Avanza and Ertiga are all adequate for the job, and there’s the Q7, XC90 and Range Rover Sport for those looking for a little excess. But what about those families in the middle? Well, that’s where the new Kia Sorento comes in.
The Sorento name has been around since 2002, but the initial version is a dinosaur compared to this 3rd generation model. Though nearly every aspect of the vehicle has changed, the Sorento is still a mid-sized SUV with seating for 7 that’s wrapped up in a contemporary European design. This particular unit is the base model, so expect a basic set of features, which we’ll run though below.
The exterior design is largely clean and sharp – but there are quite a few more curves at the front end this time around. Kia is beginning to break away from the ‘snowflake’ path set by Petr Shreyer, but there is still a lot of masculinity left.
The most prominent feature of the Sorento is its large front grille, which features a diamond pattern a-la-Mercedes-Benz. This single element goes a long way in elevating the premium factor of the vehicle. From all other angles, the car is handsome without being too flaunty.
We do have to praise Kia for sticking to a more conservative design. Many car makers have caved in to demands for striking vehicles at EVERY price point, but Kia were sensible enough to give us a good-looking car that will age well.
This can be seen on the inside too. Many panels are large with simple textures, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It speaks to the company’s practical approach to industrial design – lowering cost where it is unnecessary to splurge and using fewer pieces to ensure longevity.
Design-wise, the interior is still modern looking despite the absence of a colour screen on the infotainment unit in this diesel unit. Still, it is a functional system, with USB/AUX connectivity. Just plug your phone in and play your music.
The seats are wrapped in fabric, but there are some unexpected amenities present. These include rain-sensing wipers, a tyre pressure monitoring system, and dual-zone automatic air conditioning with cluster ionizer. Yup, despite its no-frills approach, Kia still manage to cram some goodies in this entry-level Sorento. It even has gas-struts to hold the bonnet open!, it’s pretty big on safety. Doors lock automatically above a certain speed and unlock automatically in a crash. Kia’s suite of driving aids are present too, so expect stability control and the standard fare of braking aids. A couple of ISOFIX child seat anchors are present in the middle row. Plus, there’s a little indicator on the dashboard that shows whether the front five occupants have their safety belts on or not.
The Sorento is also pretty big on safety. Doors lock automatically above a certain speed and unlock automatically in a crash. Kia’s suite of driving aids are present too, so expect stability control and the standard fare of braking aids. A couple of ISOFIX child seat anchors are present in the middle row. Plus, there’s a little indicator on the dashboard that shows whether the front five occupants have their safety belts on or not.
This base model is the only one with a diesel motor. It’s a modern, all-aluminium engine with 4 valves per cylinder and a chain-driven DOHC system. Piezo-electric injectors are used on its common rail direct injection unit and to top it all off, a variable geometry turbocharger gives the motor some proper pulling power. That’s right, it may be targeted at large families, but it’s no slouch. With 441 Nm of torque available from 1750 rpm, this diesel is well equipped to handle the highway.
On our long distance journey, the Sorento managed to complete a 650km journey and was left with a quarter tank of diesel to spare. Mind you, we weren’t even on an eco-run! There were traffic jams and uneconomical overtaking manoeuvres – overall, very representative of real world driving conditions. It handled itself very well on the open road, with loads of power available immediately and 6 gear ratios to play around with.
The only complaint about the driving experience we have is that the steering is too numb in ECO mode and the engine too responsive in Sports mode. We would have preferred a single driving mode with a less limp steering and accelerator pedal, with an ECO mode solely for controlling how often the air cond compressor spooled up. This is a minor complaint, as the car’s default drive mode seems to balance things out well enough for a car of this class.
Dynamax continuously active all-wheel drive is a welcome addition. It gives the Sorento a little more confidence in the bends, automatically sending torque where it’s needed most. We’re not surprised that it’s included as the front wheel drive setup is only available with the manual transmission – and we’re pretty sure the typical Malaysian SUV buyer isn’t even considering that.
Most would classify the Sorento as ‘mid-sized’, but it’s really quite large. Seats are comfortable and accommodating for 7 large adults. Shopping at a lower price point will have you choosing between vehicles that fit 7 by measuring the volumetric capacity of the interior. In the Sorento, not only are you given ample space for all occupants, but room for luggage too. As seen in the photo, there’s still plenty of room for 2 large suitcases or 4-5 duffle bags. The seats can even fold flat – perfect for transporting furniture!
All-in-all, we found this base-model Sorento to be an honest, well-rounded and surprisingly economical vehicle. It fills a very important gap in the market, giving Japanese models like the Nissan X-Trail a run for its money. It may not have a lot of flashy features, but it’s well put together – well, what more could you ask for?
Kia Sorento 2.2 LS (Diesel) Specifications
Engine: Inline-4 VGT DOHC Diesel with Common Rail Direct Injection
Gearbox: 6-speed conventional automatic
Max power: 197hp @ 3800 rpm
Max torque: 441Nm @ 1750-2750rpm
Recommended Retail Price with GST: RM154,938.80