Latest Kia Sorento Cuts it on Diesel Power

By Lee Pang Seng

THE Kia Sorento has always been petrol powered under Naza Kia’s stewardship until the latest model. This has to do with the progressive availability of higher refined diesel fuel that new diesel engines would perform best running on. To gauge the response to this change of power, Naza Kia brought in a low specification model as an alternative option to the higher-spec 2.4-litre petrol models.

Even so, the low spec Sorento SUV (sport utility vehicle) still packs quite a bit of standard equipment. It’s got the Push Button start system with smart entry; like the more premium system, it detects your arrival and the door mirrors would open back to its original position. Just press the door button and the system opens the doors for everyone to get in.

It comes with the Auto stop system for the engine as a fuel saving feature. This is activated each time you start the 2.2-litre turbodiesel engine. There is, however, a button on the central console that you could press to deactivate it if you find the system irritating during urban traffic crawls. You should restore the system by pressing the same button again if you want better fuel mileage when the road gets clearer.

The lack of a big multi-info display (such as the 7-inch item in the petrol models) on the central dashboard wasn’t missed until we had to reverse the Sorento in unfamiliar territory. As a fill-size SUV that is 4780mm long, 1890mm wide and 1685mm tall, it’s not a vehicle you might want to reverse in tight areas. This is where a reverse camera would come in useful. In familiar areas however, we had no problems at all as we could use the door mirrors to good effect.

The Sorento turbodiesel also came with fewer LED (light emitting diode) items but the daytime running lights remain standard across the board. It has halogen headlamps against the HID with adaptive light system for the top petrol model. Nevertheless, what it has is good enough for night driving.

It’s also a seven-seater and the third row 50:50 split seatrests are easy to fold via a release at the back of it. Pull it once and the headrest is collapsed. Pull it a second time and the seatrest would fold away neatly to form a flat floor. With both seatrests down when you have a light passenger load, there is sufficient luggage space available at 320 litres, enough for a weekend holiday somewhere.

Being a basic model, this Sorento turbodiesel comes with fabric upholstery that holds up well in looks and feel against the leather interior of the petrol models. For the driver, the seating adjustments are all manual, missing out on the luxury of the electric eight-way provision in the petrol siblings. Similarly, the one-touch up/down auto winding window function is only enjoyed by the driver and not featured all round.

The thing that the Sorento turbodiesel goes one better over the 2.4-litre petrol models is in the engine output. The 2199cc CRDi (common rail direct injection) double overhead camshafts engine comes with a variable geometry turbo (VGT) system and a reasonably low compression ratio of 16.0:1. It delivers 147kW (200PS) at 3800rpm and 441Nm from 1750rpm to 2750. By comparison, the 2.4-litre (2359cc) Theta MPI petrol D-CVVT engine produces 126kW (171PS) at 6000rpm and more than 224Nm at 4000rpm.

They share a similar six-speed automatic transmission and an Active on Demand AWD (all-wheel drive) platform. That means engine output is apportioned according to the traction demands between front and rear wheels. You can select AWD Lock Mode to maintain a 50:50 power split between front and rear for better traction on challenging terrain.

Again as a basic model, the Sorento turbodiesel comes with 17-inch alloy wheels and 235/65 R17 and no full size spare tyre while the petrol models have 19-inch alloys 235/55 R19 tyres with full size spare tyre. A tyre pressure monitoring system is standard fare. The Sorento is independently sprung all round with a MacPherson strut system in front and a multi-link design at the rear.

On the go, the 2.2-litre turbodiesel’s early torque delivery makes light work of moving the two-tonne-plus Sorento SUV easily in urban traffic. And when you put your foot down on the accelerator pedal, it would pick up speed quickly as the VGT system works efficiently to power up the vehicle’s momentum. The 71-litre fuel tank could bring you more than 600km if driven prudently but that mileage could drop quite dramatically with frequent full-bore driving.

The automatic transmission appeared to come with suitable ratios to help fuel mileage as well. On the highway at legal speeds of 110km/h, the engine is turning at a reasonable easy pace of 1800rpm. If the engine is turning above that point, you are clearly aiming to be caught on camera as hitting 140-160km/h is done easily enough.

The Sorento is not overly tall for an SUV but we did feel a fair bit of body roll through the tight corners. It wasn’t too bad through the fast sweepers and could still hold its own quick enough when driven through winding stretches. The electric power steering also gave fairly good directional feel for quick driving through the esses.

It is also aerodynamically streamlined to reduce air turbulence as it takes to the highway, providing a quiet and pleasant drive, even at higher than legal speeds. Another positive note is the much reduced intrusion of road roar or tyre rumble over the different road surfaces. It is obvious the suspension linkages are well damped with sound bushing to absorb noise from coming through.

At RM155,888 on the road with insurance, the Sorento 2.2 turbodiesel is quite attractively priced to those who would enjoy diesel power again with the availability of cleaner diesel fuel. Perhaps, if demand is good, Naza Kia may be inclined to bring in a better specification model that would cost more but which should be worth the deal.

Photo Gallery