Regular CarShowroom readers will know we rate the Kia Sorento very highly. And we can vouch for its toughness – a previous diesel-powered model met the challenge of a two-week family holiday.
But don’t just take our word for it – look to ‘SUV-mad’ North America where the Sorento is Kia’s biggest-selling vehicle. Period.
In 2012, for the second consecutive year, Kia sold more than 130,000 Sorentos in North America and actually manufactures the competent SUV there (our Sorentos come from Korea). Competition for SUV sales in North America is even more intense than Australia so Kia’s success underscores the Sorento’s credentials big-time.
Kia Soento SLi V6 Overview
Kia Sorento with the 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine is exclusively front-wheel-drive. Entry model is the Si ($38,990) but Car Showroom tested the upscale SLi version ($43,990). Both are generously equipped so get the ‘green tick’ on the value-for-money front.
Over the Si version, some of the extras included in our Kia Sorrento V6 SLi were: a rear-view camera (displayed on the seven-inch audio screen), automatic headlights, leather seats, roof rails, a rear spoiler, LED combination lights, a Supervision instrument cluster, illuminated alloy scuff plates, panoramic glass roof and separate air-conditioning vents/controls for the third row seats. The SLi model rides on 18-inch alloy wheels (17-inch on the Si).
Kia also offers the Sorento in all-wheel-drive 2.2-litre turbo-diesel form where the range extends to an even better ‘Platinum’ model.
Recent updates were significant even though exterior changes were minimal. Underneath, the latest Sorento rides on a new platform and the bodyshell is stronger. That means better refinement and driving dynamics.
Kia Sorento SLi V6 Engine
Our Kia Sorento SLi V6 tipped the scales at 1831 kgs – while far from the heaviest vehicle in this segment, the ‘Lambda’ 3.5-litre V6 seemed ideally suited to the task with smooth power delivery and handy torque at all speeds. All Sorentos drive through a six-speed automatic transmission.
Maximum power is 204kW at 6300rpm and peak torque of 335Nm arrives at 5000rpm. That’s virtually identical to the rival Toyota Kluger 3.5-litre V6 (201kW/337Nm).
Combined cycle fuel consumption for the Kia Sorento V6 SLi is rated at 9.8l/100kms (11.0l/100kms for the Kluger).
Kia Sorento SLi V6 The Interior
Inside, the updated Kia Sorento is highlighted by ramped-up the luxury and technology. Immediately obvious number one: you sit lower thanks to a lower cabin floor (this also means more legroom – an extra 30mm for those in the second seating row and 9mm for those in the third row). And of course in the SLi model you’re sitting on leather.
Immediately obvious number two: a new design centre stack which, in the case of our SLi model, featured the satellite navigation screen above the audio and climate control systems. Detailing of the centre stack and the rest of the interior is improved with satin chrome finishes.
Immediately obvious number three: our SLi model gained the new SuperVision cluster with a colour TFT LCD panel.
SLi models like ours score eight-way electronic adjustment for the drivers’ seat, a rear-view camera and air-conditioning (with separate controls) for the third row passengers.
Like all seven-seat SUVs, adults wouldn’t be thrilled at the prospect of Sydney-Brisbane in the third row seat but our nine and ten year olds preferred that location to the second row.
Luggage space isn’t massive at 258-litres with all seats occupied but fold the third row and you get 1,047-litres (more than enough to pass our ‘golf club test’) or fold both passenger seat rows and the figure is an impressive 2,052-litres.
Kia Sorento SLi V6 Exterior & Styling
As Kia’s top-selling vehicle in North America, when it came to the latest Sorento update, the company’s German head of styling Peter Schreyer lent on Tom Kearns, his colleague at Kia Design Centre America. While significant changes were delivered to the chassis, exterior enhancements over the previous Sorento were surprisingly few.
Nevertheless, achievements in key areas were significant – for example the latest Sorento is more aerodynamic (Cd down to 0.34).
Basically Schreyer and Kearns sought to deliver a stronger look for the Sorento and they delivered in areas like the new front (bumper, grille, head-lights, LED DRLs and fog-lights) and rear (bumper, tailgate and lights). Noticeable in the changes are more surface areas in body-colour.
Pleasingly, compared to the previous model, Kia Sorento’s length (4685mm), width (1885mm) and wheelbase (2700mm) are unchanged and the overall height has been cut by 10mm to 1745mm in the case of our SLi model with its standard roof rails and sunroof. We say pleasingly because the overall packaging of the Sorento remains one its strong points.
Our SLi model rode on good-looking new 10-spoke 19-inch alloy wheels and also benefits from a LED combination lights and a massive two-part glass panoramic roof with an electronically-controlled interior roller blind to keep out the sun when needed.
Kia Sorento SLi V6 On The Road
Compared to the previous generation Sorento, the latest version sports new-design, stronger subframes for the front MacPherson strut and multi-link rear suspension. Dual flow dampers are now standard, the geometry is different and there are new bushes.
Again final Australian calibration is unique after considerable local testing by the Kia Australia engineering team.
But the result is just like the outgoing Sorento – it drives very well on all surfaces. And that’s been a Sorento hallmark for a couple of generations.
The Kia Sorento SLi made short work of our mountain roads test loop thanks to that torquey V6, motor driven power steering with Kia’s FlexSteer (only on SLi and Platinum models) and locally-tuned suspension. The expected front-drive understeer was there when pushed beyond its limit and on-the-edge-refinement didn’t quite match the segments benchmark, the Ford Territory - but make no mistake, the Kia Sorento is ahead of most in this league for on-road dynamics.
Around town our Kia Sorento’s handy dimensions, good all-round visibility, reversing camera and compact 10.9-metre turning circle conquered the confines of our tight CBD car-park.
Towing capacity for our Kia Sorento SLi V6 is rated at 2,000kgs.
Kia Sorento SLi V6 Challenges
Like everyone else we’re baffled why the 2013 model-year updates were largely under the skin with very few exterior changes (unlike the similar Hyundai Santa Fe).
Kia Sorento SLi V6 Verdict
Another week in the Kia Sorento SLi V6 confirmed this is one of our favourite large SUVs. Like all Kia’s the Sorento benefits from some of the best stylists in the business so it arrives looking good inside and out.
We’re particularly keen on Kia Sorento’s packaging. Like the local Ford Territory, Sorento is not too big, not too small and clever design makes for a practical, family-friendly interior.
And our SLi model with leather seats and all the rest of the goodies makes a compelling value story.
All things considered, in this segment you’d struggle to think of a better way to spend $43,990.
Kia Sorento SLi V6 The Competition
Blimey there are some cars in the ‘Large SUV’ segment. Some great seven-seaters (like the Mazda CX-9) are more ‘passenger car’ than SUV – so that’s a choice you need to make at the get-go.
And then it gets even trickier. All-wheel-drive or two-wheel-drive?
Like the Kia Sorento, all-wheel-drive versions of the locally-made Ford Territory are exclusively powered by the 2.7-litre turbo-diesel. Two-wheel-drive models employ Ford’s 195kW/391Nm six-cylinder and the Territory reigns as the best ‘drivers’ car amongst comparable rivals.
Kia Sorento’s cousin, the Hyundai Santa Fe is exclusively all-wheel-drive but petrol versions are only sold in entry-level ‘Active’ grade. That’s good buying at $36,990 but misses out on some of the Sorento SLi’s ‘fruit’.
Toyota Kluger was the number three best-seller in the segment last year and 3.5-litre V6 petrol two-wheel-drive seven-seat versions start at $42,690 (KX-R) but you’ll need to $$50,990 KX-S model to match the inclusions of the Kia Sorento SLi V6. Remember Toyota has an all-new Kluger on the horizon.