AMMAN — Introduced in 2009 as a more road-oriented monocoque frame crossover utility vehicle rather than the more rugged body-on-chassis original version, the Kia Sorento has been further refined and fine-tuned in 2012. More than just a mild mid-life face-lift, the 2012 Sorento’s styling makeover is one component of model line revision that includes considerable platform alterations designed to make it a better riding, smoother, quieter and stiffer vehicle.
Smarter on the outside and improved under the skin, Kia’s 7-seat family crossover also receives a minor interior refresh and improved engine bay and transmission tunnel noise deadening lining to improve noise, vibration and harshness isolation.
Subtly exterior styling tweaks have gone a long way for the revised Sorento circa 2012, with the light touches serving to give it a more refined, sleek and up-market feel compare to the original second generation model of 2009. Virtually unchanged at first glance, the new Sorento’s styling revisions are confined to its front and rear bumpers and fascias, as well as a 10mm lower ride height owing to its reengineered suspension.
Benefiting from a more subtle and restrained use of black lower body cladding, the Sorento’s bumper has also taken on a more upright and decisive line in silhouette, while its lower air intake is wider and its upper air intake is slim and surrounded by bodywork.
The new Sorento’s front view is further improved with the replacement of the previous version’s round fog lights and their trapezoidal housing with vertical items seemingly chiselled into the body-colour bumper. New clear side indicators and greater use of LED elements in its light cluster go hand-in-hand with a revised honeycomb grille re-design and straighter upper and lower horizontal fascia lines for an altogether smarter and more concise look that better highlights the Sorento’s clamshell bonnet. These small changes much improve the Sorento’s silhouette, while rear changes include more stylish rear lights similar to the Kia Optima and Cadenza rather than the Mohave, as well as tidier rear bumper sculpting and vertical lower lights.
Control and comfort
While its exterior design noticeably but subtly improved, with a lower ride height and enhanced aerodynamic efficiency, the new Sorento also features a re-worked platform, which includes suspension and body structure enhancements.
Using the same front MacPherson strut and rear multi-link independent suspension system, the new Sorento’s suspension sub-frames have been redesigned to be stronger, with better geometry for more driving precision, with a more compact rear design allowing for a lower cabin floor for improved legroom. Improved dampers, suspension bushes and a slightly wider track lend the Sorento better shock absorbance, comfort and high speed stability.
The new Sorento also features a bracing bar across its front suspension towers and a 25 per cent increase in the use of ultra-high tensile steel for an 18 per cent stiffer body and improved handling and comfort.
On the road, the new Sorento feels like a subtly more refined and precise vehicle, with a smooth and pinned down ride quality that combines the right level of suppleness and body control to be a comfortable long distance family cruiser and a confident proposition on winding roads.
With its revised suspension and damper settings the new Sorento is more buttoned down on the rebound, as it settles back tidily after road peaks and dips. Featuring a faster steering ratio on all models, the tested Sorento featured Kia’s optional FlexSteer system with three steering assistance levels.
Though the FlexSteer only alter steering resistance and not ratios, one felt that the default setting offered the most natural feel and best feedback than ‘comfort’ or ‘sport’ settings.
Smooth and flexible
Driven with the range-topping 3.5-litre V6 engine, the Kia Sorento is a lively performer, with 280ps power available at 6300rpm and 248lb/ft torque peaking at 5000rpm. A smooth and quiet operator, the Sorento’s V6 is a relatively high revving engine with a progressive power delivery and good throttle control, but is backed up with a healthy dose of mid-range torque despite its high peak point.
Particularly lively on the highway, the Sorento feels brisk and confident in overtaking manoeuvres and on-the-move acceleration. In terms of headline figures, the Sorento 3.6 will complete the 0-100km/h dash in 8.2-seconds and on to 190km/h, while combined 9.5l/100km fuel economy and 227gkm carbon dioxide emissions are restrained for a 1673kg seven-seat family crossover.
Fitted with a compact designed 6-speed automatic gearbox, the Sorento’s shifts feature a good combination of responsiveness and smoothness, while a “Neutral Control” feature automatically shifts the gearbox into neutral when stopped for more than a few seconds to reduce engine load and improve economy.
Well-spaced gear ratios include a particularly low first gear to provide brisk acceleration and low speed off-road driving. A direct 5th gear allows for good on-the-move flexibility and an overdrive 6th reduces noise and fuel consumption.
Fitted with a part-time four-wheel-drive system, the Sorneto ostensibly drives through its front wheels, but if slippage is detected, up to 50 per cent torque can be sent to the rear wheels for improved traction, and is particularly useful in wet conditions.
Safety and space
Though designed as a road-going crossover and without the benefit of hardcore SUV equipment like a low gear transfer case or locking rear differential, the Kia Sorento is capable of modest off-road abilities.
The Sorento’s four-wheel-drive mode can be locked for an even front-to-rear torque split at up to 40km/h, while 19.7° approach, 17.1° ramp-over and 22.4° departure angles are also useful. With a five-star Euro NCAP rating, the Sorento’s safety level is world class, and the new version features improved rear side members around the fuel tank and other platform strengthening for better crash worthiness.
Up to six airbags and a 130° can be optioned on the new Sorento, while all-disc brakes with ABS, electronic brake-force distribution and brake assistance ensure 36.3-metre stopping distance from 100km/h.
Spacious, comfortable and well-kitted the Kia Sorento’s cabin has also been face-lifted for 2012, with changes primarily being in the centre stack and console. Along with tidier buttons, mouldings and details, the new Sorento’s centre stack receives a colour LCD infotainment screen, while the centre console gets a more up-market treatment, with a slide closing cupholder cover and a leather-bound straight gate gear lever instead of the outgoing open and stepped design.
A full seven-seater with improved legroom and generous front two rows and an adequately useable third row, the Sorento also boasts a deep rear boot floor and luggage capacity ranging from 258-litres with all seats up and 2052-litres with the rear two rows folded. Equipment levels are high, with EX spec models featuring a six-way electric adjustable driver’s seat, Bluetooth hands-free system and panoramic roof.
Engine: 3.5-litre, transverse V6-cylinders
Bore x stroke: 92 x 87mm
Compression ratio: 10.6:1
Valve-train: 24-valve, DOHC, variable timing
Gearbox: 6-speed automatic, four-wheel-drive
Gear ratios: 1st 4.651:1; 2nd 2.831:1; 3rd 1.842:1; 4th 1.386:1; 5th 1:1 6th 0.772:1
Power, PS (kW): 280 (206) @ 6300rpm
Torque, lb/ft (Nm): 248 (336) @ 5000rpm
Top speed: 190km/h
Fuel consumption, combined: 9.5-litres/100km
Carbon dioxide emissions, combined: 227g/km
Track, F/R: 1626/1621
Overhang, F/R: 945/1040mm
Ground clearance: 185mm
Approach/departure/ramp over angles: 19.7°/17.1°/22.4°
Headroom, 1st/2nd/3rd row: 996/995/906mm
Legroom, 1st/2nd/3rd row: 1048/985/804mm
Shoulder-room, 1st/2nd/3rd row: 1506/1491/1045mm
Luggage volume, min/max: 258/2052-litres
Fuel capacity: 70-litres
Aerodynamics: CD 0.34
Kerb weight: 1673kg
Steering: Power rack & pinion
Turning Circle: 10.9-metres
Suspension, F/R: MacPherson struts/multi-link, coils, gas dampers, anti-roll bar
Brakes, F/R: 320mm ventilated discs/302mm discs
Stopping distance: 100-0km/h: 36.3-metres