Kia has become a big player in the Australian market and with very good reason. From humble beginnings manufacturing Festivas for Ford Australia back in the early ‘90s, Kia now sports a very impressive and justifiably popular Australian lineup including this, the latest generation Sorento.
The rise of Kia in Australia has been in no small part due to some very clever and passionate Koreans and one very clever and passionate German – Peter Schreyer. Schreyer was the designer of Audi’s TT and Volkswagen’s New Beetle, not to mention Volkswagen’s Eos (the only folding hardtop convertible fitted with a sunroof), before moving across to help Kia with not just vehicle design, but to also give the Koreans the confidence to chart their own course.
In an earlier review of the third generation Sorento, I had mentioned noticing this growing confidence in Kia to do things their way. This has been doubled down in this latest generation. Kia’s Seo JeWon was the senior designer on the fourth generation Sorento and while it shows elements of Schreyer, especially in the treatment of the tail lights, it also shows a confidence that comes across as uniquely Kia and ‘bloody fantastic’.
Available later with what will no doubt be a fun, but thirsty 3.5 litre petrol six or available now with a less fun, but less thirsty 2.2 litre diesel, both with 8 speed DCT automatic transmissions, the Sorento range jumps from the $48850 ‘S’ to the $63070 ‘GT-Line’. All come with Kia’s famous 7 year warranty and 7 seats.
Regardless of the chosen specifications, all Sorentos look great. There are definitely touches of Europe in the design, but so too are there elements of Kluger and CX-8. Ultimately, it is a little ‘edgier’ than Hyundai’s Santa Fe, although I think the Santa Fe’s headlight treatment is nicer. Anyway, you be the judge.
What is beyond dispute though, is the generous equipment fitted by Kia to the Sorento. Even the base model includes a rear view camera with dynamic guidelines, one touch folding rear seats, lane keep assist, lane following assist, autonomous emergency braking and radar cruise control.
Spend a bit more for the ‘Sport’ and you gain bigger rims (18”, up from 17”), more seat adjustment, a bigger touch screen display and third row vents and fan control. Spend even more for the ‘Sport +’, perhaps the sweet spot in the range, and your rims will jump another inch, your tailgate will become hands free, your cloth seats become heated leather, so too does your steering wheel and USB chargers pop up in the second and third row seats.
Frustratingly, it is only the top level ‘GT Line’ that features the rather excellent 360 degree rear view camera and the strangely addictive Blind Spot View system. Adding these two features to the ‘Sport +’ would be a wonderful addition, however, it would make the remaining tricks and baubles of the ‘GT Line’ largely superfluous.
Regardless of trim level, all Sorentos will come with some safety features that are truly unique in this price range. In addition to the normal plethora of airbags, Kia has fitted a centre airbag to the Sorento. Centre airbags prevent passenger head clashes in the event of a crash and have previously only been found in high end kit (although, Toyota’s Yaris does now have this feature too).
Further, while autonomous braking is now widespread, Kia has added AEB with ‘junction’ function, braking the car automatically if it detects the driver turning in front of an oncoming vehicle. Want more? OK, how about this? Kia has fitted all Sorentos with Safe Exit Assist, sounding a warning if doors are being opened into the path of passing pedestrians, cyclists or vehicles. Honestly, these are terrific features, normally reserved for very, very expensive cars and here it is, fitted to a Kia! Good on you, Kia!
Kia’s approach to blind spot monitoring is also unique and certainly worth closer inspection. Available only on the ‘GT Line’ and utilising that specification’s 12.3” colour TFT LCD dashboard display, the system flips from either speedometer or tachometer display (depending on whether the left or right indicator is in operation) to a rear view live video display, showing not only your blind spot, but also what is immediately behind you.
Is it any better than a little red warning being illuminated in the mirror when there is a car detected in your blindspot? Well, every other manufacturer seems happy with this solution. Kia still keeps this ‘traditional’ system; it’s just that you now have the additional ability to use the video feed for extra assurance. I certainly began to use it more and more during the Sorento’s time in the EFTM Garage.
Want even more cutting edge technology in your reasonably priced family truckster? How about autonomous parking! In a Kia! Restricted to the GT Line, the Remote Smart Parking Assist sees you controlling the forward and backwards movement of your pride and joy from your key fob, saving you from having to bump your doors if the park is tight or if someone has parked too close to you.
Overall, if you’re in the market for a solid, safe, reliable and great looking seven seat SUV, you would absolutely have rocks in your head if you didn’t take a very, very close look at Kia’s Sorento. In fact, it’s a bloody hard argument to spend anymore than Kia’s asking price on the sort of car that is likely to be trashed by the kids, slobbered in by the dogs and dinged and scratched in the Woolies carpark.
Just ordered a new Audi Q7 or BMW X5? Cancel your order, buy this for carting the kids and tuck a tidy little MX5 in the garage for blasting about in when they’re at school – the best of both worlds!