REVIEW | The 2022 Kia Sorento is big, well-built, comfy and priced right
I'll never forget when my uncle Morgan Naidu traded in his 2001 denim blue Audi A4 1.9 TDI for a then newly-launched 2004 Kia Picanto in high-grade EX trim.
It seemed like a strange decision from my youthful perspective. But the German sedan did, after all, spend most of its life gathering dust, unused.
A simpler, less finnicky and more affordable compact would do the trick. That plucky Kia would go on to faithfully serve for well over a decade, accumulating in excess of 200,000km on its odometer, before it was retired about three years ago.
My late uncle was quite fond of the Kia brand, proven when he bought his wife a third-generation Sportage soon after the vehicle was released in 2010. It was the flagship 2.0 CRDi, AWD, automatic model. And it was the last new vehicle he purchased before he succumbed to terminal illness in May 2012.
I thought of him a great deal while behind the wheel of the newest Sorento this past week. I'm pretty sure he would have been impressed by the strides the automaker has taken over the past decade, going from fringe player with potential, to a contender that's seized a chair at the table of automotive heavy-hitters.
You don't even have to be a fan of the South Korean carmaker to concede: these days, their products are desirable even beyond the mere aspect of value-for-money. From an aesthetic point of view, the Sorento, for example, is the kind of vehicle you'll be happy leaving parked on the driveway of your estate-bound home.
We first sampled the model in Gqeberha earlier this year, alongside the Carnival luxury multipurpose vehicle. The Carnival came under our scrutiny for a weeklong test not long after. You may have recalled that my road test of that coincided with attendance at the Funerex exhibition, which left me fixated on hearse-related thoughts, more so since Kia had actually displayed units of the Carnival at the event.
Luckily, on this occasion, the Sorento had me focussed on thoughts of what a full life a large sport-utility vehicle of this kind could enable. You'll be tempted to pack up its 821l boot on frequent occasions, for impromptu coastal jaunts. Or you might need to use that third row of seats for little family members, of course, in which case a Thule roof-box would be useful.
All members of the range are powered by the familiar 2.2-litre, four-cylinder, turbocharged-diesel engine which delivers a solid 148kW and 440Nm.
Transmission duty is handled by an eight-speed, dual-clutch automatic and all but the least expensive representative of the line-up features four-wheel drive. We drove the EX+ grade (AWD); which is a tier below the SX and high-level SXL.
Sitting on 18-inch alloys, the 60-profile tyres are plump enough to safeguard against more severe road imperfections and a 176mm ground clearance is sufficient for light off-road expeditions. In urban settings and on the freeway, the Sorento offers a wonderfully relaxed drive and encourages you to take it easy. Relax, enjoy the easy-going, torque-rich motor and don't let the antics of fellow road users interfere with your mellow.
From a specifications point of view, the biggest omission we noted compared to the flagship car, was that of semi-autonomous driving features. Whereas the SXL is replete with steering assistance, among other aids, you won't find such interventions while commandeering the EX+ and nor will you find a sunroof. But for most consumers such items aren't going to be deal-breakers.
Elsewhere, it boasts all the expected amenities, from leather upholstery, to electric seat adjustment for driver and passenger, dual-zone climate control, Apple Car Play and Android Auto, automatic lights, an eight-inch infotainment system, reverse camera, keyless-entry and starting, plus cruise control. On the safety front, dual front, side and curtain airbags, ISOFIX mounting points, electronic stability control, hill-start assist and anti-lock brakes tick the essential boxes.
With a starting price of R809,995 for the EX+ in two-wheel drive format, there's no denying that it's a lot of vehicle for the money. The four-wheel drive version of this model comes in at R849,995 while the SX is listed at R914,995 and the SXL costs R994,995.