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Sturdy vehicle both on and off road

By Wells Journal  |  Posted: November 08, 2012

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I was recently looking back at a review I wrote on the first generation Kia Sorento, a car that did big, cheap and rugged very well. 'The Sorento was always a very smart buy but it's more than that now. Making it something you'll feel genuinely proud of owning is Kia's next assignment.' I'm not claiming some sort of insider knowledge or spooky prescience, but that's exactly what Kia did with the second generation Sorento, to an extent that few of us foretold.

Although some might bemoan the loss of a rough and ready bruiser that you wouldn't really think twice about beating across a ploughed field in, the MK2 model has a broader appeal and fits well with Kia's burgeoning reputation as a car manufacturer on the up.

Despite its slicker image, the Sorento is still a relatively competent off-road performer and although it probably hasn't been subjected to too much in the way of mud-plugging, it's well worth having a look under the car to see if it's been damaged by over-zealous green laning.

The engines have proven very reliable, as have this Kia's electricals, although some dashboard and interior finishes are prone to looking quite tired quite quickly. Kia's brilliant seven-year warranty arrangement means that these vehicles very rarely fall into premature neglect. The crossover status assigned to the Sorento by Kia suggests a greater emphasis on road-going ability and that's how things pan out. Engineers have worked to produce a more direct steering set-up with fewer turns lock to lock which should also help on the tarmac but Kia still claims that a decent level of off-road ability has been retained.

If you plan on putting the Sorento to the test in the rough, you'll be wanting a 4x4 version. There are both front-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive versions offered but for off-road driving, towing or coping with slippery on-road conditions, the 4x4 will be the way to go. There are two four-cylinder diesel engine options for the European market, an entry-level 2.0-litre unit developing 147bhp and 282lb ft of torque (2WD only) and, for the rest of the range, a 2.2 with 194bhp and 311lb ft.

The Sorento lacks the low range gearbox that would mark it out as a serious off road tool. In the 4x4 models, 100 per cent of torque is directed to the front wheels under normal driving conditions with drive directed rearwards as slippage is detected by the computer. There is, however, a Lock Mode which will split power equally between the front and rear axles to help in slippery conditions at speeds of up to 40km/h.

The vehicle also comes with DBC, Kia's version of hill descent control, which controls speed on steep descents and HAC hill start assist which prevents the Sorento rolling back when pulling away up hill.

When the second generation Kia Sorento arrived in 2010, it improved the line in so many ways. It was bigger, it drove far better on road, it was better looking, the quality seemed stacks better and it was a good deal more fuel efficient.

There were some qualms about the fact that it no longer seemed quite such a sturdy utility vehicle, but put the old and the new car through a tough off-road section and there wouldn't be a lot in it.

Andy Enright

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