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Do you remember Kias of old? They were the kinds of cars that struggling students spoke about in hushed tones behind their hands at loud parties. Even when brand new, they looked a little old.

Haven’t they done well since then? The range now looks positively sexy and the large SUV is no exception. It’s been given a gentle waving over of Schreyer’s pixie wand. The Sorento has shrugged off its frumpy old moth-eaten coat, and is now looking the bright new penny with a fresh face and fine frock, and looks every bit a top draw contender for favourite weekend-end fun machine. Remember, savvy Gen Y’ers would rather spend more on gorgeous things than on the utilitarian necessities, like a frugal car for instance. Most of them don’t drive much anyway, which is probably just as well since they all drive like women possessed.

The Sorento isn’t gorgeous like the young and sexy Sportage. Sportage is the athletic late teen who is into every sport known to man and has a body to die for. Sorento is the more studious older sibling. The brother who always says and does the right thing in an understated kind of way. Like most Kias, the Sorento has a a couple of engine choices and 3 trim levels. K I S S has always worked well for me and the no-nonsense approach appeals to me very much.

Let’s dispense with the boring bits first:

Price: $37,490 to $50,390

Engine type


E-VGT CRDi 16 Valve


Capacity (cc)




Max power(kW @ rpm)

204 @ 6,300

145 @ 3,800


Max torque(Nm @ rpm)

335 @ 5,000

421 @ 1,800~2,500 (MT) / 436 @ 1,800~2,500 (AT)


Bore x stroke (mm)

92 x 87

85.4 x 96


Compression ratio

10.6 : 1

16.0 : 1




3.5L 2WD A/T

2.2L 4WD


6 speed manual




6 speed automatic (Manu-matic)




2WD (Front wheel drive)




4WD (Part-time with lock mode)






3.5L 2WD A/T

2.2L 4WD







EURO IV compliant





Fuel type recommended**


Regular Unleaded



Fuel tank capacity (litres)





Fuel consumption(combined L/100km)






Fuel consumption – Urban L/100km






Fuel consumption – Extra urban L/100km






CO2 emission (g/km) – Combined






CO2 emission (g/km) – Urban






CO2 emission (g/km) – Extra urban






Hood insulator





Active ECO system








3.5L 2WD A/T

2.2L 4WD







Max. kerb weight (kg)






Gross weight (kg)





Annoyingly the 3.5 V6 only comes 2WD

The Sorento has been praised with awards being heaped upon it with gay abandon. The exterior has the now universal classy Kia touch brought to it by the head designer late of Audi, a certain Mr Schreyer. The front end has the new design language resplendent in its glittering LEDs finished off with a sparkling grille. From the side it’s chunky and imposing and feels every bit the SUV fit for a weekend of merry-making with a bunch of besties.

I’ve tried corralling a gaggle of screaming queens and it is something best left to those with experience and patience. Should you be such a person then you’ll find the 7 seats just the ticket. If I were you I’d shove the least besties in the back because the accommodations there are snug, but perfectly ok for short people or short trips.

As for the rest of the interior, it is impressive. This is an awful lot of car for the doh. Especially in the “Platinum”, the equipment level is fabulous. The ambient cabin lighting bathes the cossetted occupants in luxurious comforting glow at night. The instruments are thoughtfully laid out and very easy to use. Once you’ve driven one Kia you’ll recognise the layout and feel instantly at home. The satnav and ifotainment system is a snap to use though there is still no street name in the voice directions. That gives us something to aim for later.

You start with keyless stop/start/entry system and the top model will slide the driver’s seat to your pre-set location. It gives you plenty of room to get out by discretely sliding back when you’ve finished with it. The leather feels good and not bad quality for the money. I must take a few moments to mention the 2nd row of seats. These are the cleverest seats I’ve ever used. They fold over an flop forwards to give fast access to the 3rd row but the seat backs themselves are adjustable in several fixed positions. Just pull the handle up and move the back to the desired slot and release. If you’re on a long trip the drivers can cycle through the back seat for a snooze because the angle goes back far enough to accommodate a fluffy pillow and blankey. Those rest hours would slip by in a jiffy if you can get the boys up front to dial down the fun factor.

The top two models have a great sound system but the Platinum sounds utterly fabulous. As with all Platinum models my question is: How on earth does Kia do it for the money? If you give the volume knob a good spin, you feel like you’re in a concert hall. The sound is crisp and rich with the mellow lows that you can feel deep inside you, just as it should be. The very air you breathe vibrates with the excitement captured at the exact moment of recording. I’ve been in top Audis where the B and O option didn’t sound as good.

On the road my only real complaint is the steering. It feels a bit lifeless and heavy. You get used to it after a very short while. Strangely the 2WD feels nicer under foot. A lot of it is down to the 3.5 V6 with its 204KW not needing the turbo to spool up like the 2.2 diesel does. The Sorento feels quite big especially for those not used to such a great chunk of metal, but of course it actually is a big chunk of metal.

It’s at this point I like to remind you that we use the cars the way you do. That involves a bit of motorway, a bit of Coles car park, but most of all, a bit of the negotiation of city streets both narrow and wide. It was parking in one such street where something happened that’s not happened before, a dingle. It was a nasty week in Sydney and one of our wettest Junes on record. The climate change blokes warned us the extremes would be more extreme and the droughts would be longer and hotter, but back to our incident. Like many of you, I find it hard to get a park when and where I want it and such was the case in Surry Hills this fateful Tuesday. It had been raining hard all morning. Some good friends asked me to meet them at one of our favourite spots, Reuben Hills in Albion Street. It’s one of those trendy places when one can sip a latte without the banter and bustle of busier spots.

On my second spin round the “can’t find a park” circuit I saw just the right spot and pulled over to the side of the one way street to reverse back into the spot. It is about now that the bulk of such SUVs comes into focus because backing up requires more than the usual amount of concentration. It demands respect paying particular attention to the rear-view mirrors and rear-view camera. Despite the tech and the great care with which the Sorento was being used, a nong with the road sense of a Dalmatian came through a stop sign. Although he had been seen and the anchors applied, he was looking the other way and didn’t see a car the size of small a de-mountable office block reversing directly in front of him. Thankfully said nong was negotiating a right hand turn so had slowed to a snail’s pace and merely kissed the rear of the Kia. I mention this quite deliberately because although the Sorento suffered a bit of a rub to the back bumper, the mid-nineties falcon folded like a Liberal politician being asked about expense claims.

So to the conclusion: and it sounds as though I’d glossed over much of the essential detail but it can be summed up in only a few words which are:- Sorento can’t be beaten for the money. That’s the point isn’t it? Show me another SUV of this size, with 7 seats and an AWD/2WD option that’s under 50k. Now show me one that has the same inclusions especially when compared to the glass-roofed Platinum. Would I have one? That’s a pointed question because I wouldn’t be in the market for a large SUV with 7 seats but many of my chums are. One has a kid, some parents, and the odd interloper to account for and 7 seats would be very handy. For my money I’d buy the more handsome little brother, but the Sorento is well worth a drive even if just to see what the Koreans manage for the price.