Kia Sorento - finding the balance of luxury and space
There is an increasing interest among drivers for vehicle that can transport multiple passengers without compromising comfort. For this reason, the full-size SUV was developed, but for many the dimensions were too big, so now manufacturers are expanding the mid-size SUV by adding a third row of seats.
The Sorento sits between the two classes where size is concerned, which gives it a visually appealing look. It's not boxed up like a minivan, nor is it elongated like many of the full-size SUVs.
To avoid the evening traffic, I picked it up late in the night at the dealership in a dark parking lot, which gave me the first opportunity to notice something cool. When I opened the door the daylight* roof light brightened the interior in a way that is pleasing to the eyes, and the door handles had their own lights discreetly placed in the crevices to aid in visibility when entering in the vehicle.
Setting an impression
Once I was inside, the first thing that stood out was the cream accents throughout the interior which had a nice contrasting effect against the black interior. All this gave the interior an elegant look which elevated it to European levels.
On the door panel, below the belt line are two customisable seat options which can easily be programmed with the aid of the information screen in the dial cluster. This comes in very handy with a big family where two drivers may use the vehicle and have their preferential seating positions.
Whenever the engine is turned off, the driver's seat electronically goes back to a neutral position to allow the driver to easily exit or enter. Admittedly, this does take some getting used to as the two seconds it takes to do this seems like forever to me; most likely it's because I'm being impatient.
Once I was settled in my ideal seating position, I had to start figuring out all the different features. This is the joy of testing a fully loader version of a vehicle, especially Japan or Korean brands, that aim to compete with their European counterparts. They usually pack it with so many tech options, it is hard to figure them out in couple hours.
The 5" touch screen infotainment system is quite straightforward, with two columns filled with options on either side to give easy access to features like radio, media and phone.
Below this is the A/C unit which comes with dual-climate control, which allows both driver and front-seat passenger to select their preferred temperature. The rear a/c can also be activated as both the second and third-row passengers have vents in their respective sections.
The most amazing thing, though, was the option for cooling the front seats with three temperature levels. This is extremely useful for our hot days when the vehicle is parked in the sun for hours and the seats get very hot.
The next welcoming surprise was the panoramic moonroof, which gives the vehicle an airy feeling even when it is packed with seven occupants.
Driving for pleasure
Driving it does feel like a big vehicle, and there were times when I was reversing and the parking sensors had to alert me that I was too close to an object. It is evident that navigating it around town will require the use of these sensors along with the back up camera which comes with projected reverse lines.
The 2.2-litre diesel engine feels more than adequate to carry seven persons even up the sinuous path to Newcastle, where I journeyed. To help the driver get the perfect feel there are four driving modes: comfort, Eco, sport and smart. Smart mode was my preferred option as the vehicle's computer would study my driving pattern and the vehicle then chose what mode was ideal to drive in. There is even an image in the dashboard screen that shows which wheels are getting the most power.
When it is in sports mode, the engine behaves more aggressively as the acceleration comes on much faster. However, given its size and weight it should not be expected to perform as a sports car.
To many, this is what you buy if you can't afford luxury vehicles like the Audi Q7. After all, you are getting all the thrills at half the cost. In the end, the Sorento doesn't have to play second fiddle to any vehicle. It is a vehicle every buyer must test-drive if he is in the market for a seven-seater suv.
Model: Kia Sorento GLS, all-wheel drive
Cost of tested model: $8.25 million
Test drive provided courtesy of Kia Jamaica. Telephone: 754-0013-5, 979-0020.