Kia Sorento

Big Korean irons out the bugs ... and bumps

DAVID BONNICI

FIRST AUSSIE DRIVE

LIKE a farmerís grandkids who grow up as prissy townies, many SUVs have lost touch with their rural roots. The third-generation Kia Sorento was one such city-slicker, which excelled in its urban comfort zone, but flinched at the prospect of negotiating corrugations or spoon drains.

But Sorento has been to boot camp, bringing upgrades that usher in new capabilities on unsealed surfaces, as evidenced on the rugged roads hugging the foothills of the NSW Blue Mountains.

Kiaís Australian engineers have taken advantage of the Sorentoís new suspension set-up, which features numerous changes to the rear subframe and bushings, resulting in markedly upgraded handling and stability, including reduced bodyroll. Ride comfort is noticeably improved on rougher surfaces. Sorento now absorbs bumps well, which is great news, especially for anyone sitting in the third row.

Not surprisingly it rides better on the entry-level Siís 17-inch wheels than on the 19s on the range-topping GT-Line, whose 235/55 rubber produces more road noise on coarse surfaces.

The electric power steering has been revised by attaching the motor directly to the rack instead of the column. The result is a little more precision and weight, particularly when switched to the Sport driving mode.

The powertrain has also been significantly enhanced. An eightspeed auto replaces the six-speed unit across the range, coupling with the Sorentoís existing 2.2-litre turbo-diesel four and a revised 3.5-litre petrol V6. The extra gears bring swifter stepoff and quicker, smoother shifts, which are noticed most in the muscular diesel.

Kia claims the new transmission slightly aids fuel economy. The dieselís combined consumption is now 7.2L/100km, down from 7.8, though driving from Katoomba to Sydney saw the trip computer claim a wholly virtuous 5.4L/100km.

The oil burner carries over from the previous model, while the 3.5-litre petrol V6 is a modified version of the 3.3-litre Lambda II donk in the previous version with a longer stroke, resulting in an extra 7kW and 18Nm to 206kW/336Nm. The diesel is still the better choice and worth the extra $2500 given it adds the benefit of all-wheel drive.

Standard kit includes auto emergency braking, lane-keep assist and active cruise control on all models, plus Kiaís latest infotainment package with DAB radio, sat-nav and Apple Car Play/ Android Auto. All this, combined with improved road manners and efficiency, make Sorento an even more attractive family hauler. my. mption from7 8

Soft touches

A greater use of soft-touch materials has resulted in a more premium feel inside, even in the base-spec Si.

The dashboard layout is essentially the same as the previous model but now includes a larger 8.0-inch touchscreen.

Main differences as you go up the range are more brightwork, more electric adjustments and significantly more cowhide.

PLUS & MINUS

Improved ride, handling and performance; standard kit; plush interior No AWD petrol option; road no noise on GT-Lineís 19-inch wheels Model Engine Max power Max torque Transmission Weight 0-100km/h Economy Price On sale Kia Sorento Si 3470cc V6 (60į), dohc, 24v 206kW @ 6300rpm 336Nm @ 5000rpm 8-speed automatic 1932kg 10.0sec (estimated) 10L/100km $42,990 Now