The SUV segment has taken a major slice of the market and many show good tow-tug potential. The new, third-generation Kia Sorento, introduced in 2015, appears to be one of them, although there’s a catch, as I will explain.
The Sorento arrived with the promise of improved ride and handling and less noise, vibration and harshness (NVH). Kia says that NVH reduction was achieved with new transmission tunnel soundproofing material, a 29 per cent thicker dashboard soundproofing panel and larger engine and transmission mounts. For the engine, a new diesel particulate filter (DPF) cover and an acoustic shield integrated into the engine’s timing chain cover cut down engine noise. Kia claims that interior noise is down by up to six per cent.
For the suspension tuning, Kia says it invested hundreds of man-hours and covered thousands of kilometres locally to provide the Sorento with a local suspension tune.
Unique to this premium model are HID front headlamps with washer and auto-levelling, static cornering lights, blind spot detection and lane change assist, rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning system, powered panoramic glass sunroof, active cruise control, sunshade blinds in the second row, a 10-way power driver’s seat (with four-way lumbar support and two memory positions), eight-way power front passenger’s seat, heated seats (for first and second row outer seats) and 19in alloys (including the spare wheel).
The Kia’s cabin is a roomy and comfortable place to be. The front seats offer plenty of support and the 40/20/40-split second row seat is well-contoured and the quick seat-folding process makes access to the third row easy. The third row seats are not adult-friendly for long trips (no surprises there) but for sub-teens they should be more than adequate. Good ventilation and storage are also offered up the back.
ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION
The R-Series 2.2L turbodiesel is a carry-over from the second-gen Sorento. It has a new injection system which Kia claims improves fuel economy, performance and engine response, and also reduces engine noise. There’s a new exhaust gas recirculation cooler, again in the quest for better fuel efficiency.
A new electronic swirl control valve in the intake manifold cuts emissions by more carefully controlling the intake of oxygen to the combustion chamber. The R-Series is Euro 5 compliant.
Like its predecessor, the Sorento has an independent front and rear suspension (MacPherson struts at the front and multi-link at the rear), but it has been improved for the new model. Larger bushes have been fitted to the rear subframe to better isolate it from the cabin and dampers are now mounted vertically behind the axle line, improving body control. Kia’s tuning of its products in Australia for local use has made a significant difference in the ride and handling of Kia’s local cars and SUVs, and the Sorento is no different.
The Sorento absorbs bumps well, taking in poor-quality secondary roads without fuss. The 19in wheels with their low-profile tyres still thump over sharp bumps (such as potholes) but do not transfer as much road shock to the cabin as you might think.
The steering lacks much feel, as is common in SUVs, while remaining direct. The Kia’s cornering attitude was pretty flat and the standard Kumho tyres gripped well.
The Sorento was very stable when towing, not even flinching with a change in direction or when we experienced cross-winds. Engine braking was not as strong as you might hope it to be, perhaps a result of the diesel’s free-revving nature.
It’s worth noting that Kia restricts speed to 70km/h up inclines when towing, to avoid overheating, and the Kia held its speed up our test hill with the camper behind.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The Sorento is a good all-round wagon with a smooth, quiet diesel engine, a roomy, quality interior and very good ride and handling. It is unfortunate that Kia has kerbed the Sorento’s towball mass and speed when driving up inclines, but if you need a tow tug to haul your European van with its light towball load, the Sorento might be just the ticket.