A good SUV is as vital to a company's success as a compact car, with medium and large variants especially popular. So Kia's determined to make a splash with this new Sorento before Hyundai's all new Santa Fe takes the Korean high ground.
This fourth-generation Sorento sticks with the 145kW/436Nm 2.2-litre diesel or 130kW/227Nm 2.4-litre petrol engines in a lower, stiffer car on a substantially revised platform that uses lighter weight and a sleeker profile to cut fuel use.
Changes to the grille, headlights and bumper, to the tailgate, rear lights and wheels impart a sleeker, smarter look that's matched by new materials in the cabin.
A more refined ride comes from extra stiffening, a subframe that's rubber-mounted to cut vibration and suspension changes that liberate more cabin space. Better dampers reduce yaw, roll and improve straight line stability.
The steering's electric, not hydraulic, to improve thirst, a side benefit being auto parallel parking for some variants, and the front disc brakes are beefier - the car stopping with confidence. Specification remains generous, with a rear vision camera, rain-sensing wipers and cornering lights standard from the $46,490 entry-level petrol and $50,690 diesel LX. Features increasing up the price ladder top out with the $66,190 Premium's 19-inch wheels, integrated window blinds, heated and cooled front seats, heated steering wheel and heated rear seats.
The company line
Kia NZ general manager Todd McDonald has lifted the specification, but not the price while adding three new variants to keep Sorento's primarily private buyers happy.
What we say
Basic body parts like the doors, roof and windscreen are identical to gen three but you won't notice as the overall look and feel is smarter. Tow rating is 2000kg, and our drive - including back-country swervery and slow going on lumpy forestry tracks - peaked average fuel use at 7.8l/100km and subsiding to 7.7, not far above the 4WD's 7.4l/100km claim.
On the road
The 10mm drop in height will be noticed in terms of ground clearance though bush-bashers are unlikely to buy soft-focus Sorento. Our route took in a track that's likely to match the worst most owners will encounter. But, on road it impressed, with very little in-cabin noise, confident handling and impressive ride. Only the auto's habit of changing gear in manual as if you'd stayed in full auto annoyed.
Why you'll buy one?
You want a smart seven-seater with road manners, generous specification and Euro looks without a Euro price.
Why you won't?
You don't like Sorento's softer focus via lower ride height and the omission of hill descent control.