Kia Sorento

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Indy Lifestyle Online

On sale from: February 2010

Prices: Similar to old model (which start at under £21,000)

Engines: 2.4 litre four-cylinder petrol (174 horsepower), 2.2 litre turbodiesel (197 horsepower)

Transmission: six-speed manual with optional six-speed automatic, front-wheel drive or four wheel drive

Top speed: 115mph

Acceleration: 0-62 mph in 11.1 seconds (petrol manual four-wheel drive), 9.4 seconds (diesel manual two-wheel drive)

Fuel consumption: 32.5 mpg (combined cycle, petrol manual four-wheel drive), 43.5 mpg (combined cycle, diesel manual two-wheel drive)

CO2 emissions: 208g/km (petrol manual four-wheel drive), 171g/km (diesel manual two-wheel drive)

Rivals: Chevrolet Captiva, Honda CR-V, Hyundai Santa Fe

Kia describes its first-generation Sorento, introduced in 2002, as a “landmark” car - that's an appropriate description. The Sorento was bigger than previous Kias and its handsome styling, which slightly resembled that of the then-current Mercedes M-Class, made European customers who had previously been ignorant or even dismissive of Kia, then an obscure Korean budget brand, sit up and take notice.

But under its smart bodywork, the original Sorento was a comparatively basic affair. In particular it had a separate ladder chassis and a live rear axle; that's a strong and simple set-up that has its advantages for the rougher types of off-road work, but one that also makes it difficult to provide polished on-road performance. A separate chassis also involves a significant weight penalty.

Now there is a completely new Sorento. The most obvious difference between the second-generation car and the old one is the smart new bodywork. Kia's design director Peter Schreyer (who previously worked at Audi) has been hard at work over the last few years, not only improving the appearance of the Korean manufacturer's cars but also giving them a more coherent Kia corporate “look” that is reflected most obviously in a new pinched-in-at-the-middle grille shape.

The biggest changes, though, have taken place under the skin. Most fundamentally, the new car has an “all-in-one” monocoque body rather than a separate chassis, making it up to 215kg lighter than its predecessor and, at the rear, multi-link independent suspension that replaces the old live axle.

A heavily revised 2.4 litre petrol engine and a new 2.2 litre turbodiesel are the most likely engine options for the UK, and these are paired with newly-developed six-speed manual and automatic transmissions.

Perhaps the most interesting decision taken by Kia with respect to the new car is to make it available with two-wheel drive (actually front-wheel drive, or FWD) as well as in full 4x4 form. Some other SUVs are also available as two-wheel drives but usually this option is restricted to the cheaper entry-level models. Kia, however, will offer the Sorento in FWD-only form widely across the range and these non-4x4 cars are expected to account for a remarkable 60% or more of all sales of the new model in Europe, although that will vary widely between national markets. Hard-core off-road brands such as Land Rover and Jeep probably wouldn't consider offering a non-4x4 set-up at all for fear of diluting their brands but for Kia this is probably the right approach. Large numbers of customers like the space and high driving position of SUVs but never venture off road at all, and for them there is a saving to be had in terms of weight, complexity, cost and fuel consumption by avoiding 4WD.

On the road, the new Sorento offers a pretty polished, car-like performance. The 2.4 litre petrol engine is smooth but the torque of the refined and eager 2.2 litre diesel is better suited to the job of propelling what is still a fairly big and heavy vehicle, even allowing for the weight savings over the old model. The six-speed manual and automatic transmissions work well. Ride comfort is good and the Sorento is also pretty wieldy for such a high-sided vehicle.

The interior of the new car is generally comparable in appeal to those of its European competitors – this is an area in which the Korean manufacturers have traditionally lagged behind a bit – with tasteful colours and surface textures. One aspect of the car which Kia is emphasising heavily is the seven-seat option; here, the company has used the opportunity provided by the re-design to free up more legroom for occupants of the third row of seats.

The new Sorento will go on sale in the UK early next year at prices that are expected to be broadly similar to those charged for the present model, although the range will probably extend a little further up the scale at the top end compared with the old car.

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