To me, it’s a perfect Sunday if I can sleep till noon. This one is far from it, but it is an ideal one because I would love to utilise my Sundays like this rather than waste them in bed. In spite of waking up at 6:30 am, I’m happy, yawning occasionally in the backseat of the new Kia Sorento. Yes, we’re ON THE ROAD, pun intended, and quite loving it. There are more ideal things on the platter- breezy weather, chartbuster music, good company and fun conversations. But the star of the day is the car. Yes, we are loving the Kia Sorento, which has just found its natural habitat – the nicely paved highways of Malaysia.
You see, if somebody recommended me a RM150K+ Kia a couple of years ago, I would have politely given it a pass. But it’s passe now. The Koreans are slowly becoming a serious threat to the Japanese and are getting acclaimed around the world at that. While I would have settled for a Honda CR-V, even a Hyundai Santa Fe a couple of years ago, the new Sorento makes a good case for itself today.
To start with, it is a handsome looking SUV. It sheds the previous model’s uninspired styling and adorns contemporary, edgy lines. Kia’s design chief Peter Schreyer, who is most recognised for the designing the Audi TT, has been injecting aggression to the Kia line-up and the Sorento too gets the trademark trapezoidal front grille. Sleek wraparound headlamps with HID units merge seamlessly with the grille to give it a very modern face. Being an SUV, it needs to have muscle and aggression and the large bumper takes care of that. The large honeycomb pattern enclosures for fog lamps, blacked out lower lip and skidpan render loads of attitude.
The Sorento is big by all standards and has tremendous presence. The side profile isn’t bland either and a slash cut line down the doors as well as pronounced wheel arches give it plenty of character. The rear is a bit simple with large LED effect tail lamps gaining prominence over other things. Then there are the chunky 18-inch alloys with massive 235-section tyres that fill the wheel wells nicely.
As I said, the Sorento is pretty huge and we were loving the interiors. Of course, you have to climb inside as opposed to sliding into a car but once inside, there is no dearth of space. Be it legroom, shoulder space or headroom, the car gives you no chance to complain. There is even a third row of seats to shove kids back there and this makes it an ideal car to travel with your complete family. The dash layout is pretty contemporary too and the quality of materials is up there with the best. There are signs of parts bin sharing with Hyundai in the centre console especially the audio system interface and the AUX/USB ports but it’s all very simple and easy to use.
The feature list is quite comprehensive too. You get dual zone climate control, panoramic sunroof, rearview camera, Bluetooth connectivity and the works. The audio system is iPod compatible though it just wouldn’t sync to my iPhone. Thankfully, there is an AUX port for such occasions.
Having spent about two hours in the back seat, I was quite in love with the car. Thanks to some enthusiastic driving by OTR’s editor, Nick, we had reached Ipoh by now and rather than heading back to KL as planned, decided to head to Penang for some Assam Laksa and Char Kuey Teow. I decided to take over the wheel and see what it’s got under the hood. The Sorento is powered by a 2.4-litre petrol engine that develops 174bhp of power at 6000rpm and 226Nm of peak torque that comes in at 3750rpm.
It’s a heavy car, the Sorento, and although the engine outputs respectable power, it feels sluggish while starting from a standstill or picking up from low speeds. The car’s 6-speed automatic gearbox tries to mask this to a great extent. The engine need to be kept in the upper reaches of the rev range to extract the most out of it and the Sorento feels alright once it gets up to speed. The engine feels reasonable refined and quiet and never interfered with the Adele tracks playing in the nice sounding audio system. Internationally, the Sorento is also available with a 2.2-litre VGT diesel (the same as the Hyundai Santa Fe) that makes 197bhp and more importantly, 442Nm of torque between 1800-2500rpm. Now that should be a stonker.
On the way to Penang, all hell broke loose over us, and quite literally. The scattered downpour of the afternoon turned into a cloudburst but the Sorento remained unfazed. It felt poised in the wet and not even once we felt it aquaplaning on the waterlogged highways. The visibility was not even 10 meters but the Sorento was very confidence inspiring. The brakes work perfectly and the car changes directions with minimal effort. Once you get used to the size of the car, the Sorento is pretty easy in city traffic too. Thanks to the light steering of the car. The ride too is very composed and balanced to keep potholes and bad roads away from the passenger cabin.
The rain took some time to subside and we knew some mouth-watering delicacies awaited us beyond the Penang Bridge. After stuffing ourselves with food, we topped it off with some strong coffee. We had a long drive back home. This time, we took a ferry to the mainland and were on the road again. And yes, we did it all in just one tankful of fuel. The Sorento had proved a worthy cruiser today. And not only on the highway, it is a great car to handle the daily duties for an upwardly mobile family. At RM158,888, it may sound a bit expensive but the size, equipment levels and practicality justifies the price. I wish it came with a diesel engine and that would seal the deal in its favour without any questions.