Tow Vehicle: Kia Sorento R

By: David Linklater


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The Kia Sorento R boasts power, refinement and ride comfort several generations ahead of the vehicle it replaces

Tow Vehicle: Kia Sorento R
Tow Vehicle: Kia Sorento R
  • Smooth, very powerful R-series diesel engine
  • Lots of safety equipment, including curtain airbags and stability control
  • Good cabin visibility

If you read our review of the Hyundai Santa Fe, you're half-way there with the new Kia Sorento R. Hyundai is Kia's parent company in Korea, and the two wagons are all-but-identical under the skin: same powertrain, platform and suspension.

And on certain models like the flagship Limited we tested, the same (generous) level of specification. How to choose between them? Well, while Kia may be owned by Hyundai in Korea, here in New Zealand they are distributed by different companies, so there are some major differences in the marketing.

You get more engine choice with Santa Fe – the Sorento is available solely with the 2.2-litre R-series diesel, but the Hyundai adds 2.4-litre and 3.5-litre V6 petrol engines into the mix.

However, the Kia opens at a lower price point ($46,990 versus $52,990) and is generally cheaper model-for-model: our Sorento R Limited has everything the Santa Fe CRDi Elite offers, but is $2000 cheaper.

Design

You might suffer a bit of culture shock if you're upgrading from the previous Sorento. That was the last model designed solely by Kia before Hyundai took over the brand, and it was a very different vehicle. While the new one is a "crossover", based on a passenger-car chassis, the old one was a heavy-duty off-roader with ladder-chassis construction. The ideal tow vehicle, in other words.

It could lug 2.8 tonnes braked, whereas the maximum manageable by the new one is 2000kg (or 2500kg if you want to opt for the single Sorento model available with a manual gearbox). It's true: separate-chassis four-wheel-drive wagons are becoming a very rare thing in the new-vehicle market, thanks to ever-increasing consumer demand for more comfort and refinement. That's the bad news; the good news is Sorento is still competitive with its two-tonne capability – and that new R-series diesel is well up to the task.

On the road

Mighty is the word for the Kia's 2.2-litre powerplant. It might only be a four-cylinder, but with a staggering 445Nm of torque it rivals some much bigger engines for sheer grunt. It's equally adept at everyday driving and towing, with so much power available low-down and a pretty slick six-speed automatic transmission that keeps the engine spinning at optimum speed and adapts quickly to changing driving styles.

Road-warriors might prefer a Santa Fe – it's a bit sportier in the suspension than Sorento. But the Kia's softer setup has benefits in passenger comfort, a simple case of opportunity cost.

Interior

Here's one area where new Sorento scores big over the old: it has a full seven-seat cabin, with the third row actually quite practical even for adult passengers (the old model was strictly a five-seater). The seats are generously proportioned, although they do fall flat (quite literally) on backrest support, particularly up front.

Visibility is excellent for all occupants and the driver can keep tabs on the kids in back with a convex "conversation mirror" mounted under the regular mirror. Our Limited model also has a reversing camera image that materialises magically out of the corner of the rear vision mirror whenever reverse is selected.

The Sorento has a good-quality stereo system and a simply brilliant iPod integration system. Plug in the supplied cable and you can view and control everything on your music player through the car's own information screen and audio-menu buttons.

Verdict

Kia has come of age. You might miss the ultimate towing capacity of the old Sorento, but the new one boasts power, refinement and ride comfort several generations ahead of the vehicle it replaces. True, $64k (for the Limited as tested) is a lot of money for a Kia crossover. But while some of the cabin architecture is a bit low-rent, the Sorento is packed with engineering integrity and dynamic ability.

Read in-depth RV and vehicle reviews in the latest issue of Motorhomes, Caravans & Destinations magazine, on sale now.

See the Kia Sorento for sale here.

Specifications

Tow bar price (Approx) $900
Towing capacity 750kg unbraked/2000kg braked (2500kg for LX manual)
Power 145kW @ 3800rpm
Torque 445Nm @ 1800-2500rpm
Transmission Six-speed automatic
Fuel economy 7.4 litres per 100km
Length 4685mm
Width 1885mm
Height 1710mm
Seating capacity Seven
Luggage capacity 2058 litres maximum

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