Kia has not been left on the bench as Australians continue to buy SUVs in record numbers. The Sorento mid-size and Sportage compact SUVs provide the Korean giant with two credentialed representatives in Australia’s fastest growing market segments.
We first drove the Kia Sorento at the national media launch on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast and followed that with the ultimate SUV test – the family holiday. Kia Sorento came up trumps in both, impressing with its interior space and refinement – even when fully loaded with beach paraphernalia, luggage and people.
Lots of good SUVs hover in the $35,000 - $48,000 mark and if you’re looking in that range, Kia Sorento’s all-round ability and value means it must be included on your shopping list.
2012 Kia Sorento SLi Diesel Overview
For this test Car Showroom got behind the wheel of the mid-grade Kia Sorento SLi (stickered at $45,990). At the most recent model upgrade, SLi Sorento gained significant safety and interior style improvements – including a leather wrap for the instrument cluster and a reversing camera with its image displayed in the internal rear-view mirror.
Nicely styled in the modern Kia way, the seven-seat Sorento (petrol or diesel) matches its rivals in this segment specification-for-specification.
Also in the modern Kia way is the list of standard safety features in the Kia Sorento – six airbags including front side and curtain airbags, anti-lock brakes, stability and traction control, hill-start assist, downhill brake control and a reversing camera in SLi and Platinum grade models.
Towing capacity is 2500kgs for the diesel manual or 2000 kgs for the diesel automatic we tested and the petrol-powered Kia Sorento Si.
2012 Kia Sorento SLi Diesel Engine
A mid-life update brought the excellent 2.2-litre CRDi turbo-diesel to Kia Sorento. A current-generation engine which replaced the older 2.5-litre version, the newcomer delivers impressive refinement, and in our SLi model test car, impressive combined cycle fuel consumption of 6.7l/100kms (8.2l/100kms for Ford’s V6 turbo-diesel Territory).
It’s powerful too – 145kW at 3800rpm and 436Nm from 1800rpm for the SLi model automatic we tested (422Nm for the diesel six-speed manual).
Our test car drove all four wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission.
2012 Kia Sorento SLi Diesel The Interior
If you haven’t checked-out a Kia vehicle for a few years, prepare to be surprised. Like its exterior styling, Kia interiors have been transformed and the Sorento is a prime example.
Sure our Kia Sorento SLi scores leather upholstery as part of its inclusions (with eight-way power adjustment for the driver) but the overall look and other trim materials are impressive regardless of the Sorento model you’re considering.
And that flows to the nicely-styled instruments with ‘Kia-style’ graphics in red. Kia Sorento SLi models also boast illuminated alloy door scuff plates and alloy pedals.
Audio is a six-speaker CD system with AUX/USB input and Bluetooth with audio streaming.
Kia Sorento scores big points in this segment for its abundant rear-seat space, but whenever we have a seven-seater in the garage the Car Showroom juniors rush to sit in the third row – an instant assessment of space/practicality. And, like all seven-seat SUVs those extra seats are best left to youngsters (that’s who they’re designed for) – but Kia Sorento does a reasonable job in the access department with clever folding of the second row.
With all seats folded Kia Sorento delivers an impressive 2052-litres of luggage space. Set-up as a five-seater you still have 1047-litres of cargo space, and with all seven seats occupied a still-reasonable 250-litres is available.
2012 Kia Sorento SLi Diesel Exterior & Styling
Since the arrival at Kia of German design guru Peter Schreyer, style is part of the Korean company’s DNA. The Sorento has it wherever you look.
Measuring 4685mm in length, 1885mm in width and 1710mm in height, with a wheelbase of 2700mm, the Kia Sorento is definitely one of the larger mid-size SUVs (although photos disguise its dimensions). That translates into a sturdy on-road presence as demanded by many buyers in this segment.
The front-end is all ‘modern Kia’ with the current ‘Schreyer grille’, nice wraparound headlights/indicators and an aerodynamic bumper housing stylish fog lights.
We liked the curved C-pillar and shaped third side windows which deliver an overall look for the Kia Sorento which avoids the boxy appearance common in many mid-size SUVs.
2012 Kia Sorento SLi Diesel On The Road
On-road Kia Sorento scores points for its terrific 2.2-litre turbo-diesel engine. Kia has done a great job in calibration and refinement as the Sorento delivers its impressive 145kW/436Nm in a quiet, un-fussed way.
Like most diesels, the Kia Sorento was a little noisy when first started in the morning but with a little temperature under the engine bay it quickly reverted to its usual hushed form and by the time we joining the peak-hour freeway rush, the Sorento delivered handy acceleration with appreciated refinement.
Over our high-speed mountain roads test loop, the Kia Sorento got our attention with clever matching of that torquey turbo-diesel with the six-speed automatic transmission – power when you need it.
Kia Sorento runs a McPherson strut front/multi-link rear suspension set-up and - as we experienced in the bush around the Sunshine Coast – provides plenty of travel for testing off-road action. Diesel models like the SLi we tested include a self-leveling system.
On-road we did notice a bit of body-roll and overall softness when pressing on hard in the hills.
2012 Kia Sorento SLi Diesel Challenges
Competent overall, the Kia Sorento isn’t quite a match for Ford’s Territory in the high-speed twisty stuff. Mind you, the same comment applies to others in this segment.
2012 Kia Sorento SLi Diesel Verdict
No doubt about it, the Kia Sorento is an all-rounder – and that’s precisely what buyers of seven-seat SUVs are looking for. The handsome mid-sizer gets votes for its interior space, that handy 2.2-litre diesel and value.
With a garage boasting Sorento and Sportage in the SUV department plus Rio, Cerato and Optima in the passenger car team as well as the Grand Carnival, Australia’s best-selling people-mover, the Kia nameplate is hugely impressive these days.
2012 Kia Sorento SLi Diesel The Competition
Curiously, our biggest-selling medium SUV is also the most expensive – Toyota Prado, priced from $55,990. If you’re considering a Kia Sorento, the Prado is probably too big for you.
Ford Territory, priced from $39,990 is a brilliant credit to our local automotive industry. Territory TX AWD is a competitor for Kia Sorento SLi and scores Ford’s superb 2.7-litre V6 turbo diesel…but at $48,240 you’ll have to pony-up some extra dollars over the Kia.
Holden Captiva 7 delivers seven seats, a 2.2-litre diesel and at $39,490 (CX model) is sharply priced. In tough off-road going, the Kia Sorento might have an edge over the Captiva.
Also from Korea, Hyundai Santa Fe Elite diesel ($43,990) should be considered alongside the Kia Sorento.