| Azrol Azmi |
IT WAS said to be the next step in the SUV segment especially for a carmaker that is coming from the eastern part of the world. A refined and energised design was promised with the new successor of an SUV flagship that has finally arrived in Brunei, opening its doors and welcoming all to have a look.
The all-new KIA Sorento, the third generation in its line, has a sleeker and smoother look. While retaining the long bonnet and wide D-pillar from a side look, the front part of the new KIA Sorento emanates from the ‘Tiger Nose’ design, a success from the outgoing model, and continues to be a wrap-around design concept of the headlamps with a more prominent fog-lamps and flows effortlessly towards the rear in a swept-back profile with a lower roofline and higher beltline for a modern look, a feature design that usually comes from its European counterparts. At the rear, the design tops off with distinctively bright LED stop lamps that are integrated into the tail-lamps for a much positive visibility for the rear traffic.
Side stepping and opening its door, a noticeable feature is the wrap-around door; the door sill is a bit lower and it is a welcoming feature of the new SUV to avoid dirty trousers from wiping the side door sill, a bane with SUV or higher ride vehicles. And access into the new KIA Sorento is easy with the lowered height. The other feature is how solid the door felt and sound when you close it. Suddenly I was in a peaceful and quiet surrounding, perhaps due to a better noise cancellation material.
I felt calm and somehow subdued sitting in the Sorento, there was plenty of space even with a huge standard three-spoke steering wheel in front of me. I tried to busy myself, getting familiar with the buttons and the cockpit layout design and re-arranging the seat position via the electronic settings. It was almost I was being mated to the car. The spacious and uncluttered layout was pleasing to the eye. Soft high quality leathery materials were used around the cabin dashboard and satin-chrome was used around the interior of the new KIA Sorento revealing the ‘Premium’ features.
This is the next best thing to European-made SUV vehicles when it comes to premium looks and design and technology.
Specifications of the new KIA Sorento says that it is a bit wider and longer than its predecessor and this is echoed towards the interior for some extra cabin room for a much more comfortable seven-seater SUV. But the added size somehow does not transpire in how it handles.
The increased popularity of SUV nowadays is the vantage point it provides the driver with a higher driving level, giving the driver a clearer sense of its surrounding as well as the go everywhere capabilities attitude. But with SUV comes a hidden problem which is the size. A different set of skills is needed to drive a bigger car and the awareness level is stupendous.
Cornering and turning the SUV was precise and despite the gravel road, traction was enough to provide a smooth off-road driving experience.
The suspension rides smoothly although a few jittering bumps here and there can be felt as we manoeuvre around rocky crevices and potholes. All in all, it was only about 150km of driving experience with half of the day spent driving off road and on loose gravel roads to give it an added adventure.
Coupled with an optional panoramic sunroof, this creature comfort is an added value. It is worth mentioning the all-around front to rear dual zone air-conditioning system – in Brunei this is a must have comfort amenity especially in the hot and humid weather – that not only offers to the front and mid-section passengers but to the very rear section of the SUV as well.
Another added modern practicality includes a USB and Aux port and the ability of connecting your Smartphone via Bluetooth along with two 12v charging ports. Seat comfort was top notch as expected with SUV cars and plenty of cargo space once the rear seats are floored. For added cargo space, the middle seats can be folded to provide a much flatter and spacious cargo space.
It was in Brunei that I actually had the pleasure of trying the All-Wheel Drive (AWD) diesel engine of the KIA Sorento and I was surprised to the low level of engine noise especially coming from a diesel engine. Its 2200-litre CRDi (Turbo-Diesel) engine system provides a higher power output among the three variants that Grand Motors Sdn Bhd are bringing in. And the diesel version comes with a semi-auto transmission that goes up to sixth gear making highway driving a breeze. The gasoline version with its 2400-litre engine has an option of fully manual 6-speed or auto transmission but does not come with an AWD drive-train.
Barely noticing the faint diesel engine noise as I bring the car to life with a push of a button – thanks to a key-less entry system – cool looking key fob that can also operate the automatic rear gate via its Smart Power Tailgate feature that detects the key in close proximity to the trunk and automatically open up the rear gate without even touching a button.
A feature button that should be given attention is the Drive Mode button located just behind the gear shift of the centre-column.
This changes the driving character of the KIA Sorento either to Normalcy (off) to Economy or Sport. Selecting to sport mode will engage the Sorento to a firmer and precise steering and road handling along with the innovative, continuously active AWD coupling system.
The new KIA Sorento maintain traction on any surfaces and good lateral stability especially cornering in a round-about.
The new KIA Sorento ride comfort is as good as it gets for an SUV. It was announced that a few improvements were made retaining the fully-independent suspension format from its predecessor.
A notable change was made with larger bushings supporting the rear sub frame and rear shock absorbers that are now mounted vertically to help better isolate the passengers from harsh bumps as well as improving body control motion.
All in-all, the new KIA Sorento has made a significant change from the typical high-roof SUV design pattern to a sleeker and smoother design that highlights the word “Premium”. It is much more aerodynamically accepted to the eyes with a sporty look rather than a much more typical boxy design
With hidden safety features of using better high strength steel and arrays of airbags along with the latest sensing technology advancement, the confidence of driving an SUV for daily use keeps on rising day by day. The only question that’s left is, are there any new boundaries to be broken.