First Drive: 2010 Kia Sorento
All-New, And All The Better For It: We Drive the European Version of Kia's Newest Crossover
Given that the Kia Sorento did a lot to establish the company as a serious player outside the budget segments, you'd have thought the second version might build on the strengths of the original. But no, it tears up the sheet and starts from scratch instead.
It's a unibody crossover rather than a body-on-frame SUV. The engine is transverse, and the suspension is now all-independent. The change in body construction as well as the loss of a low-ratio transfer case means it weighs 475 pounds less than the old one model for model, to the obvious gain in performance and economy. Yet it's four inches longer and gains available third-row seats.
Ah well, rapid change is the corporate trademark of Kia, which helps explain why for the first six months of the year Hyundai-Kia sold more vehicles globally than Ford Motor Co did.
The new model shares a platform with the Hyundai Santa Fe, and U.S. cars will be sourced from a new factory in West Point, Georgia. The versions were tested were Korean-built Europe-spec cars, but we're assured that, apart from a softer suspension setup for U.S. models, they are identical. In the U.S., the V-6 will shrink from 3.8 to 3.5 liters without losing performance thanks to reduced weight and a six-speed auto. But it being Europe, there were no V-6 engines available, only the lead-in 2.4-liter four-cylinder.
With 173 horsepower pushing just 3550 pounds of FWD crossover, it gets along satisfactorily in the suburbs, at least if you don't have overweight passengers in all the seats. The engine is smooth and refined too, so when you do spin it up to 6000, as you must when a passing opportunity arrives, your ears won't bleed.
But out on the open road, it struggles, accelerating only imperceptibly beyond 80 mph if there's a headwind or an up grade even with with the six-speed manual shifted down to fifth, and despite the fact that the Cd has fallen from 0.425 to 0.38. The test car also had messy engine management, resulting in a few flat spots in the lower rev range. You'll probably be shopping for the V-6.
For Europe, the engine of choice is a new 2.2-liter 192-horsepower diesel, very quiet for the type and capable of excellent economy figures -- excellent even for a diesel that is -- with V-6-style torque. We sampled that with the AWD drivetrain.
AWD and FWD cars in Euro trim have taut handling and accurate if slightly overlight steering. With AWD and optional 18-inch tires, the grip is satisfactory and the electronic torque distribution means understeer is staved off perfectly well. For the front-drive version, the ESP system has to do the same job, and naturally it's more obtrusive.
Both front and rear suspensions are subframe mounted, and road noise is nicely quelled as a consequence. There is a strange mid-frequency bounce to the ride in certain conditions, but mostly it feels carlike.
Cabin finish is improved, and the blue-lit red-needled instruments inject a little love into the design. The driving position adjusts in all necessary directions. Nothing wrong with the finish, either, and the wood trims and chrome garnishes are well chosen for the market segment -- but a long way short of a VW Tiguan's.
Rear seat spec is okay if the driver jacks his seat up a little to allow the rear passenger to get his feet comfortable, but that will make a tall driver feel constrained. The individually folding third-row seats are sufficient for adults, but only on 10-minute journeys. They do have their own A/C though, so kids won't complain. Typically for the segment, trunk space is tiny when both those seats are erect. The external design is chiseled and definitely a little urban. Apart from when it does left-field models like the Soul, Kia now has a well-integrated family look going on across its range, as directed by ex-Audi design chief Peter Schreyer.
And expansion of Kia's range gives a clue to the Mk2 Sorento's positioning. Yes it can't tow as much as the ladder-frame predecessor did, and it's absolutely not fit for the same kind of hardcore off-road action, despite the fitment of a locking center differential and hill-descent control. But for those things, Kia will now point you in the direction of a V-6 Borrego. We don't have prices yet for the Sorento, but the new one is unlikely to be much higher than the old.
If you want seven seats, carlike handling, refinement, and economy in your compact crossover, the new Sorento is an agreeable contender as well as a likely bargain, for Kia is unlikely to increase prices over the first-generation model.
|2010 Kia Sorento|
|Base price||$20,500 (est)|
|Vehicle layout||Front-engine, FWD/AWD, 5/7-pass, 4-door SUV|
|Engines||2.4L/172-hp/166-lb-ft 16-valve I4, 3.5L/na-HP/na-lb ft 24-valve V6|
|Transmission||6-speed manual, 6-speed auto|
|Curb weight||3550-4050 lb (mfr)|
|Length x width x height||184.5 x 74.2 x 67.3 in|
|0-62 mph||10.5 sec (mfr est 4cyl FWD)|
|EPA City/Hwy||Not rated|
|On sale U.S.||Early 2010|