Is the new Kia Sorento a rebadged Merc?
We review the impressive new Kia Sorento in NZ
With everything that’s going on right now, a little bit of certainty or normality goes a long way. So when Kia New Zealand invited me to review their latest edition of the 7-seater Sorento, I thought, 'a chance to drive a key staple in the Kia SUV range' hell yes, boy was I in for a surprise, well lots actually.
The Sorento is now in its fourth generation and is touted as a flagship SUV for the brand, and quite rightly too. It sits at the top of their tree in both size and refinement but as I said before, you generally know what you’re going to get with Kia, (well-appointed, progressive and great value vehicles) and this latest iteration of the Sorento is all that - but then some.
I could go on about its size increase (+35mm wheelbase +10mm length), its signature new Kia good looks (including their new design language, Tiger nose and Telluride inspired lights) and its leather clad, modern interior, but the things I really want to highlight are its amazing box of state of the art tricks that catapult this SUV into the 'high-end Euro' category (regardless of where it hails), beginning with the keyfob.
Admittedly, remote start/stop isn’t that new but it's still a cool function and during the hot sunny week that I had the Sorento, cool is the operative word. Remotely starting the Sorento from the comfort of my home and letting the SUV's multi-zone A/C do its thing within, removes the inevitable 'slap in face' heat that would normally greet me - genius. But the Sorento further surprises by having a remote move function too. Yes, you can move the big SUV forward and back (in and out of tight spaces) while standing outside, so tight garage spaces and navigating over muddy puddles near the driver’s door are a thing of the past.
The rear tailgate opens just by standing next to it for a few seconds, no need to kick at it or fiddle with buttons or handles, bizarrely, Kia seems to realise that if you’re standing there, you generally want to get in, so has decided to make it easy.
Once inside, you're greeted with a pleasant little welcome ditty that plays through the impressive Bose stereo system and, if you hit the media button, you can change the cabin's ambiance to that of a bustling cafe, waves lapping up on a beach or caught in a rain downpour that will have you navigating to the nearest WC. These audio themes are as realistic as they are mood changing, seriously, who doesn’t want to be in a tropical forest while stuck in traffic on a commute home?
When you're actually on the move and indicating to change lanes or direction, the dials on the digital instrument cluster change to rear camera views of the relevant side of the large SUV thus removing any blind spots. And lastly but by no means ‘leastly’ should you be one of those multitaskers that likes to keep up with current affairs while pausing at the lights, well the new Sorento alerts you when vehicles in front of you pull away - a job normally done by those behind you.
Oh yes my friends, the Kia Sorento is jam packed full of goodies to help keep you both entertained and safe, however, its passengers don’t feel like sardines at all. Every row is roomy (even the ‘cheap seats’ at the rear), steeped in leather and very well connected, you’d expect in the front seats but Kia seem to understand that if you’ve opted for a 7-seater then you’re probably going to use all of them, what’s more, access to the very back is a one touch, spring loaded affair that moves the middle row forward quickly.
Being just a small family of three, the Sorento is a bit of overkill in terms of space and seats but somehow we managed to get along with it just fine. It’s big yet not bulky and the luxurious feeling you get when behind the wheel does not go unnoticed. The 2.2L engine lacks a bit of power (148kW) but is certainly torquey enough (440Nm) and the 8-Speed DCT gearbox doesn’t really need the paddles - it’s more of a lover than a fighter. On the subject of gearboxes, the dial selector was a nice surprise too, it’s going to be polarising but I’m on the like side.
The Sorento comes with four drive modes (Smart is all you need, it’s quite intuitive) and Snow/Mud/Sand modes should you find yourself on road surfaces that differ from tarmac but being AWD, unsealed roads go by barely unnoticed - in fact, there’s barely any road noise at all.
The latest iteration of Kia New Zealand’s flagship SUV was not what I was expecting but in a really good way. The 2020 Sorento offers up the feeling of high-end European luxury while maintaining its own sense of Kia charm and character. It oozes driver’s aid and safety, from rear occupant alert (so you don’t leave the kids in the car) and multi collision braking, to safe exit assist (that stops you opening doors in oncoming traffic) to an 8.5-inch head up display and its box of technical/helpful wizardry is seemingly endless.
The new Kia Sorento is literally full of surprises.