Iñigo S. Roces / Iñigo S. Roces | February 23, 2011 11:15
Sensibly SimpleThere seems to be some sort of role reversal going on in the automotive world. It used to be the Korean brands that had busy angular designs on their vehicles. European and American brands opted for cleaner lines and more distinct profiles. These days, it's the other way around, with American and European cars sporting complicated light and grille facades and detailed side garnishes. Same goes for how they operate with all the gravel, snow and tarmac traction switches, sport or comfort settings and multiple engine on-the-fly mapping.
There's certainly some truth to the phrase "less is more". It may take a while for the American and European brands to get back their panache for it. In the mean time, there is the latest Kia Sorento.
Designed by Peter Schreyer, this 2nd generation Sorento is a whole new vehicle. As opposed to its predecessor's body on frame, this new vehicle employs unibody construction, making better use of space and giving it more space, better handling and a more comfortable ride.
No complicated character lines here, the Sorento disguises its angular shape with subtly curved corners and flush panels in the hood and sides. The high belt line and low roofline give it an almost station wagon like shape. Yet the proportion of the body to the cabin is unmistakably SUV.
A concave hood crowns the four HID projectors peeking from the light housing. They stretch out like wings from the chrome bordered "tiger-nose" grille. Foglamps seemingly float in the arrowhead shaped intake slats.
Towards the side, scratch proof molding runs along the bottom. An indentation at the bottom and recessed window lines are the only things that break up the flush sides.
Behind, the massive tail lamps features a checkered pattern up close with signal and reverse lamps built-in. The scratch proof lining creeps up just a bit higher here for worry-free loading while also hiding tail pipes from view.
Inside is an interior that is just as simple yet modern as the outside. Matte brushed aluminum inserts contrast against the dark plastic dashboard. Vertical air con grills also mark a progressive change. At night, gentle red mood lighting illuminates the door handles and the center divider.
On the driver's side is a sleek new steering wheel. Behind it, the bevels of the tach, speedo and temp gauges tangle into each other. The speedo dial dominates the view with displays of trip info, fuel range and fuel economy showed in a small LCD screen below. Each dial is lined with chrome, white lettering and red needles, and when the vehicle is off, appear just as black as the rest of the dashboard.
Towards the center is the entertainment stack. The massive screen in the center is the built in navigation and entertainment system. Buttons on the side of this system toggle between stereo and navi views. To set a destination, or change station, simply touch the screen. There's a built in iPod adapter in the glove compartment to play your own tunes. The climate control features a dual zone mode that is just as easy to use and set.
The rear cargo area features flat folding seats that can rise up for two extra adult passengers. Fold and tumble the second row to grant these passengers ingress and egress access or fold the second row entirely for some massive cargo space.
With everything loaded, just keep the key in your pocket and press the "engine start" to bring the car to life. Powering this top of the line 4x4 is a 2.2 liter VGT common rail turbo diesel engine that makes a whopping 190 hp and 426 newton-meters of torque.
There's no more 4-wheel lock to worry about as the six-speed automatic with sport shifting delivers power to all four wheels on demand. As for any bumps along the way, MacPherson struts in front and a fully independent multilink arrangement in the rear keep it nice and cozy.
Yet specs and technical terms aside, it's in the drive where the beauty of the Sorento's simplicity truly starts to shine. There's no fancy four wheel drive system to worry about. Just be ginger with the throttle as just a little input gets this car going, and going quickly. You'll likely chirp the wheels accidentally because of the amount of power on hand at the get-go. Thankfully, the diesel powerplant is frugal on fuel. The ride is comfortable, quiet, and enjoyable whether stuck in traffic or on a highway. Controlling the stereo and navigation is a breeze as the touch screen interface works like an internet browser - just press the house on the upper left every time you get lost. Large and visible handles on the rear seats make erecting or folding them a breeze. Parking this beast is easy with a back-up camera (though the dark display makes it difficult at night) and beeping sensors that help you through the tightest spots. And finally, the Sorento scored 5-stars in the Euro NCAP crash safety test, making this among the safest cars in the world.
With all its convenience options, it's not hard to look forward to driving, even through the thickest of traffic, if you have a Sorento. It's easy on the eyes and easy to operate. The price is a bit steep but it comes chockfull of features that raise the bar in its class.