What do you do with a car that’s just three years old, that’s won a string of awards and that’s consistently been a top-six seller in its sector? Well, if your name’s Kia and the model in question is the Sorento, you give it a complete overhaul to keep it at the forefront of the SUV sector.
The Sorento, which has just clinched a second successive top spot in the 4x4 category of the J.D. Power and Associates Customer Satisfaction survey to add to its Towcar of the Year 2006 award from The Caravan Club and Best 4x4 in 2005 award from 4x4 magazine, now offers more of everything.
The revised 2.5-litre turbodiesel and new 3.3-litre V6 petrol engines deliver improved performance; suspension modifications provide a better balance of ride and handling; safety is enhanced with state-of-the-art accident-avoidance features; there is a contemporary new look; more luxury car options become available; and there are smarter trim materials in a higher-quality cabin.
Yet prices have been held, which means the range again starts at just £19,995.
The Sorento was Kia’s first foray into the high-end SUV market. Designed with European input and with European buyers in mind, it has been a huge success. Sales in the UK were up by 10% in 2005 – more than double the average for the SUV sector.
The revised model uses the same body panels as the original car. But new front and rear bumpers, projection-style headlamps, tail lights and body mouldings give it a more elegant and modern appearance without representing such a total change that the excellent residual values of the original Sorento would be damaged. The overall length has increased by just 20mm as a result of the new bumpers.
With diesel models accounting for an ever-increasing percentage of sales, the revisions to Kia’s acclaimed 2.5-litre, four-cylinder, 16-valve common-rail engine create scope for improved market penetration, especially in the all-important fleet sector. Now fitted with an electrically-actuated variable geometry turbocharger for even more flexible performance, the engine gains 21% more power (now 168bhp) and 25% more torque (392Nm at just 2000rpm).
This helps reduce the 0-62mph time by 2.6 seconds, while combined fuel consumption is a highly respectable 35.8mpg, subject to official ratification. The engine now meets Euro IV emissions standards.
A new 3.3-litre V6 petrol engine will replace the former 3.5-litre unit at the start of 2007, and has an extra 48bhp, trimming its 0-62mph time to 8.9 seconds
The diesel is available with five-speed manual or automatic gearboxes, while the V6 will be sold only as an automatic. Higher top gear ratios in both gearboxes reduce cruising noise levels, and the automatic also features Kia’s Sports Mode, allowing manual override of gearchanges.
The ladder-frame chassis and dual-frame body construction of the Sorento have earned praise since launch, but for 2006 Kia has retuned the springs and dampers of the fully-independent suspension to give a smoother ride.
The Sorento continues to be available with selectable or full-time four-wheel drive systems. A low ratio gearbox assists in severe off-roading conditions.
There will be three trim levels - XE, XS and XT - all with improved occupant safety features. Active head restraints which protect against whiplash injury, front seat-belt pretensioners and a passenger airbag cut-off switch are fitted as standard and ESP stability control is added to the standard specification of range-topping XT models. ESP automatically corrects potential skids by braking one or more wheels and, if necessary, reducing engine power.
An audible reversing aid is also now offered to help reduce the risk of parking knocks.
Twin front and full-length curtain airbags are standard.
The quality of the interior is raised through a new centre stack and floor console, a neater control layout and higher-quality materials. The XE comes with grey cloth, the XS grey leather and the top specification XT black leather.
The centre stack now houses dual-zone air conditioning, an audio with CD player and MP3 compatibility and on the XT a CD autochanger facility.
Reshaped backrests on the front seats increase legroom and comfort for passengers travelling in the rear.
Six turbodiesel versions of the refreshed Kia Sorento in three trim grades (XE, XS and XT) go on sale in August 2006, with the sole petrol V6 in range-topping XT guise to following in early 2007.
Prices and insurance groups
|2.5 CRDi XE||£19,995||13|
|2.5 CRDi XE auto||£21,095||13|
|2.5 CRDi XS||£22,995||13|
|2.5 CRDi XS auto||£24,095||13|
|2.5 CRDi XT||£24,995||13|
|2.5 CRDi XT auto||£26,095||13|
|3.3 CRDi XT auto||to be confirmed||13|