Australia gets 'smart'
The 'smart' city-coupé
It's just like Lego
Rear engine mounted smart roadster
600cc turbo engine with revised suspension
Front engine mounted sports coupe
A prototype, but likely to emerge from smartville
Named after the Italian coastal city of Sorento, Kia's all-new
model is set to duke it out in the highly competitive mid-to-upper
4WD (SUV) market segment.
It's competitors will be the likes of Ford's Escape and Honda's
CRV, yet it falls in between genres somewhat, and is slightly
bigger and tougher than these soft-roaders. While it's no
Land Rover, many are comparing it to Mitsubishi's acclaimed
Some will say that Kia can't do that. But, when you look
at what the new 4x4 offers - you realise that, yes, they can
compete with the likes of Honda and Mitsubishi.
People may still be writing Kia off as "just another
Korean car maker," but things they are a changin'. Back
in 1944, Kia made bicycle wheels. Now it makes cars.
Kia PR types often like to draw comparisons with what Japanese
car makers faced in the mid-70s. People thought their cars
sucked, to be honest. They were cheap, so this equated to
poor build quality.
Now the likes of Honda, Nissan and Mazda get the young-uns
foaming at the mouth with their respective new offerings -
no questions asked.
For Kia then, this is an important model - a stepping stone
to bigger and better things. It hopes that the new vehicle
will change people's attitude towards Kia vehicles. Does this
mean it's a make or brake vehicle?
No. But despite this fact, there is a good chance, with some
clever marketing, that Kia will sell thousands of its all-new
Early reports from over the pond in Yankee land are giving
the new Sorento two big thumbs up, with the interior treatment
and smooth-revving engine in particular getting big praise.
While speculation was rife matching the medium-sized Kia
SUV with a choice of 2.0-litre and 2.5-litre inline four and
V6 engines respectively, we now know this is not the case.
Instead, the new Sorento will be packing a rather fiesty
3.5-litre V6, with dual overhead camshafts, four valves per
cylinder and aluminum cylinder heads. Shame it's not all-alloy,
but we'll let it slide. This time...
Peak power is an easy-to-live with 142kW @ 5500, with a peak
torque of roughly 295Nm occuring @ just 3000rpm, which will
translate to a fairly athletic go-getter, both on and off
Speaking of which, it is as yet unclear whether Kia Automotive
Australia will be offering the two or four-wheel drive models.
America gets both models, while their favourite neighbours,
the Canadians, get only the 4WD. We would expect to get only
the 4WD models here in Australia.
Powering both the LX and the EX is a 3.5-liter dual overhead
cam V6 cranking out 192 horsepower at 5,500 rpm and 217 pound-feet
of torque at 3,000 rpm. A four-speed automatic transmission
routs power to the rear or all four wheels, depending on which
model is selected. Fuel economy is not good, rating 15 mpg
in the city and 20 mpg on the highway (four-wheel-drive versions
get just 18 mpg on the highway). At least the 21.1-gallon
fuel tank provides decent range between fill-ups of 87 octane
gasoline. Likewise, towing capacity is unimpressive given
the Sorento's body-on-frame construction; it's rated to tow
just 3,500 pounds.
Given the displacement of the Sorento's V6, the power and
torque figures are unimpressive. Acceleration is strong off
the line, but as speed and revs build, the engine feels taxed.
Power delivery is smooth, however, and the Sorento has no
trouble keeping up in traffic or cruising on the highway at
80 mph. But we suspect that many owners who use the throttle
judiciously will find their in-town fuel economy dipping below
the EPA-rated 15 mpg. That's disappointing, considering that
many SUVs with V8 engines achieve the same mileage. With a
curb weight of 4,255 pounds in 4WD guise, the Sorento could
stand to go on a diet.
The transmission works well with the V6, delivering quick
downshifts when prodded and upshifting smoothly no matter
how the accelerator is depressed. On grades, the transmission
will either hold a gear or downshift to maintain speed. There's
also a handy overdrive-off switch on the gear selector, for
manual disengagement of fourth gear.
Base versions of the LX and EX are rear-wheel drive. Either
can be equipped with a shift-on-the-fly part-time four-wheel-drive
system that is easily engaged using a knob mounted to the
dashboard. When the EX Luxury Package is chosen, a special
Torque-on-Demand full-time 4WD system measures wheel slippage
up to 200 times per second and adjusts the distribution of
power front and rear accordingly. All Sorentos equipped with
4WD have low-range gearing and get a limited-slip differential.
During a brief off-roading jaunt on a narrow, steep trail
that most buyers wouldn't think of trying, the Sorento acquitted
itself well. Four-wheel-drive models will be priced approximately
$1,500 more than equivalent 2WD models.
Underpinning the Sorento is an independent double wishbone
front suspension and a rear five-link solid rear axle with
coil springs. Stabilizer bars come standard fore and aft.
Softened considerably for the U.S. market, this suspension
provides a controlled ride and surprisingly adept handling,
but doesn't filter out road anomalies the way a true four-wheel
independent setup can. The Sorento rides like a truck over
the rough stuff; not as smoothly as the refined Honda CR-V
but certainly better than the jouncy Jeep Liberty. The Sorento's
ground clearance measures 8.2 inches, while approach and departure
angles are 28.4 and 26.7 degrees, respectively.
Knobby 16-inch tires are standard. LX models ride on steel
wheels, while EX versions have machine-finished five-spoke
alloys. LX models have 245/70 Hankook RA07 tires, which impressed
us both in the dirt and on the highway. EX versions get Michelin
Cross-Trainers of the same size, which squealed with little
provocation in turns and slipped on loose surfaces. The alloys
that come standard on the EX can be ordered for the LX.
Stopping the Sorento with surety are four-wheel vented disc
brakes. Antilock brakes are optional on both LX and EX. We
applaud this move; buyers on a budget and four-wheeling enthusiasts
can get a Sorento equipped to meet their needs. Our test truck's
pedal exhibited fine feel, and during a spirited downhill
run on a curvy mountain road, we experienced no brake fade
or shudder. In fact, we found the Sorento easy to threshold-brake
when driven aggressively and a simulated panic stop from speed
was accomplished uneventfully.
The Kia Pregio one-tonne van means business - commercial
driving, deliveries, trade, any hard work really. The Pregio
sets itself apart by being an affordable, well-built, well-propor
tioned diesel van that is loaded with standard features. Quite
simply, Pregio is the best value, fullyspecified one-tonne
van in Australia.
4WD Pajero competitor arrives in October with 3.5-litre V6,
5-seats and a pricetag around $30,000.