Sorento facelift more than skin-deep

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The new Kia Sorento. Photo supplied

The plan? Start off in the pre-facelift Sorento then swap to the much-enhanced replacement after lunch, to provide a full insight in the level of change.

Yeah, you guessed it ... come the break, we learn it is the 2013 rig we have been in from the start.

Especially embarrassing for the Kia brand man who suggested this scheme, as he rode shotgun and never twigged.

You could say it reinforced a point about this update. It is almost an anti-facelift in that the greater count of new bits cannot be seen.

Yes, some design elements have changed (to the point where supposedly just the roof, bonnet, doors and glass are carried over), the specification has sharpened and Kia has even added a new trim level, but the key revision has been a re-engineered platform.

That is a significant rework, given the Sorento has been here for three years. Yet the car itself is older; its Hyundai Santa Fe sister goes back to 2007. A wholly new Santa Fe lands soon. But Kia will not have its equivalent until 2014, though it now has the same R-Series diesel engine as the Sante Fe.

A drive that included a jaunt down forest roads near Putaruru highlighted the merits of the revised suspension, steering and brakes. A more rigid structure better equipped to absorb impacts, and a rear suspension redesign, bode well for the dynamics, though it was never a sloppy handler in original form anyway.

The redesign also sharpens the Sorento's crash integrity and another safety enhancement is an active bonnet that raises the rear edge during a collision to reduce the severity of pedestrian injury.

Further changes?

The steering has been switched to an electrically assisted system (which enables the high-end models to take a self-park feature), the track widened and the overall height dropped by 10mm, which improves on-road stability but hurts off-roading potential, diminishing the wading depth and approach and departure angles.

Given that Kia has also dumped its hill descent control, maybe it has twigged that it is not being used for serious dirt work anyway.

Visual differences are less apparent at the front than the rear, where you will find reshaped tail-lights complete with LEDs. The tailgate has also been redesigned and the new bumper features a step.

Shifting inside, Kia has managed to provide an extra 30mm of knee room in the middle row and 9mm in the back row by deepening the floor areas in front of the seats.


Sorento facelift more than skin-deep
At a Glance


Price: $46,490 to $66,190.

Engine: 2199cc in-line four-cylinder turbodiesel, maximum power 145kW@3800rpm; maximum torque 436Nm@1800-2500rpm; 2.4 in-line four-cylinder petrol, maximum power 130kW@6000rpm; maximum torque 277Nm@3750rpm.

Transmission: Six-speed automatic, on demand four-wheel drive.

Brakes and stability systems: Disc brakes, ABS, BAS, EBD, ESP.

Wheels, tyres: 235/65 R17 to 235/55 R19.

Fuel and economy (diesel/petrol): 7.1/8.6 litres per 100km on ADR combined cycle, capacity 70 litres.

Dimensions: Length 4685mm, width 1885mm, height 1700mm.