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Cuts costs not corners

Posted on: 14th Nov 2012

Cuts costs not corners image

This is by no means a common occurrence. Cars do not tend to get launched and then heavily revised just two years later unless the original was a bit of a duffer. I'm looking at you now, Lotus. Kia is different. It's a company that can't afford to hang around if it wants to achieve its ambitious sales targets and also to change public perception.

The Kia Sorento that was introduced in 2010 was by no means a bad car. Offered with two or three rows of seats, it was certainly very different to the model that preceded it, offering a muddy-tyred appeal that was more based on lifestyle and less on pulling a drowned heifer out of a drainage ditch.

It would have quite happily stayed in the showrooms for another couple of years in its original form. But this is Kia and the usual rules of 'facelift at three or four years' and 'replacement at seven years' just don't apply. Hence the early arrival of this much improved seven-seat-only version.

Driving Experience

Normally, little changes with the oily bits during a midlife facelift. This is Kia though and everything has changed. The very underpinnings of this Sorento are new, with a revised chassis that's a good deal stiffer, and significant changes to the suspension, steering and brakes. Straight line stability, ride comfort and body control have all improved, while the old hydraulic power steering system has inevitably given way to a more efficient setup.

The Power Steering in the latest Sorento saves fuel by drawing power from the engine only when the car is turning and improves agility thanks to a lower steering gear ratio.

All versions of the Sorento are powered by a revised version of Kia's 2.2-litre CRDi turbodiesel engine, driving all four wheels via a six-speed manual gearbox or a six-speed automatic. This powerplant makes 194bhp at 3,800 rpm and 422Nm of torque from just 1,800 rpm, giving the Sorento the ability to sprint to 60mph in just 9.4 seconds and then on to a top end of 118mph.

Design and Build

The usual targets of the midlife facelift are grille, lights and bumpers. Tick all three of those and add a revised rear tailgate. The big vertical fog lights are what most people will notice, but otherwise the basic proportions have been left well alone.

Back in 2010, the original version of this design offered a choice of either five or seven seats but it's a seven-seat-only formula now - and a more spacious one.

The downside of more passenger space is a marginally smaller boot of between 116-litres (seven seats upright) and 1,530-litres (all rear seats folded) but it does include utility features like a an under-floor storage tray and power outlet.

Market and Model

Prices start at just over £26,000 and range up to the £35,000 point. That's not too bad for a highly specified, reasonably sized seven-seat Crossover/SUV-style vehicle but it does mean that this Sorento has officially graduated out of the bargain basement.

All models get a leather-trimmed wheel, body-coloured bumpers, chrome exterior door handles, aero blade-type front wipers, projection headlamps with cornering lights, electrically folding, adjustable and heated door mirrors, chrome interior garnish, rear air ventilation, LED daytime running lamps, cruise control and reversing sensors. Go for a 'KX-2' version and you'll also get rain-sensing front wipers, a leather-trimmed instrument panel and a 4.3-inch LCD colour touch-screen with reversing sensors.

The 'KX-2 Sat-Nav' version adds a seven inch touch-screen navigation system with European mapping and Traffic Messaging Channel (TMC) while the luxurious 'KX-3' model also has a panoramic sunroof, Xenon adaptive front lighting with automatic levelling, an eight-way power-adjustable driver's seat and a four-way power-adjustable front passenger seat, ventilated front seats, heated outer rear seats, a heated steering wheel, a multi-function full colour display.

The satellite navigation system is no feeble effort. It's combined with a 10-speaker premium audio system delivering 495 watts of power.

Cost of Ownership

The 2.2-litre diesel engine has been improved in a bid to better the car's efficiency. It drives all four wheels via a six-speed manual gearbox or you can opt for a six-speed automatic. An exhaust-gas recirculation system has helped the Sorento achieve class-leading fuel economy and CO2 emissions of 47.9 mpg and 155g/km. Those figures are for the manual model and represent improvements of 5.7 mpg and 22g/km over the outgoing model, which in turn rewards buyers with a significant saving in the first year's road tax (VED).

The figures for the Sorento with a six-speed automatic transmission are either 42.2 mpg and 175g/km with the 17-inch wheels fitted to the majority of models, or 41.5 mpg and 178g/km for the range-topper with 18-inch wheels. Automatic models get the Active ECO feature which adjusts the operation of the engine and transmission to promote economical driving.


The 'facelifted' second generation Kia Sorento remains a surprisingly serious 4x4 vehicle that aims to compete in a sector where off-road ability counts for next to nothing.

Is it overbuilt and over-specified? Maybe. But as long as its remains underpriced, we'll keep giving it a solid recommendation.



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