EXCITEMENT is building for Kia. Not that the uninspiring 'Shades of Grey' colour palette on the new Sorento would provide any indication.
Kia is spanking the automotive mainstream opposition in terms of growth, sales are up 30.8% year on year, and there is further proof the marque will maintain its upward trajectory.
The seven-seat Sorento SUV has been massaged for the 2018 model, headlined by new infotainment technology, better safety and an automatic transmission with two more cogs than the outgoing variants.
Prices are up across the range, starting from the entry level V6 petrol which has risen $2000 to $42,900 plus on-roads. Sorento's range-topping diesel, the most popular derivative, has lifted $500 to start from $58,990.
"They (customers) have been willing to part with $60,000 since the car was launched,” Kia Australia boss Damien Meredith said.
"There is a difference between an SUV and a sedan but people for quite a few years have been willing to pay good money for a great product which was Kia Sorento.”
For Meredith, who has been at the helm of Kia for three years after time with Hyundai and a long stint at Honda, nearly everything he's touched has turned to gold.
Sales have doubled since his tenure, and he cites three reasons: "Great product, good dealer network and good management staff,” he said.
"We are number eight in the marketplace. Stinger (sedan) has just been launched, our product offering is fantastic, so it's an exciting time.
"We'll do a five to 10 per cent increase on this new Sorento, we are very happy with the upgrade.”
Many will struggle to spot the differences between model years.
New alloy wheel designs and changes to the bumpers offer a slightly sharper appearance and buyers certainly won't be standing out from the crowd with any outlandish colour choices. On offer is white, and metallic silver, metal, graphite, black, a new and blue hue, as well as a white pearl.
Product planning manager Rowland Rivero says the bland choices stem from "traditionally conservative” demand - even red has been culled globally due to lack of interest.
Under the metal, Kia has gone back to the future.
While the 2.2-litre turbo diesel is the same, the 3.5-litre V6 is an updated version of the one launched in 2012 (outgoing models used a 3.3-litre). Kia Australia can't explain why head office went that direction, with average fuel consumption rising 0.1 litres per 100km, apart from the fact CO2 emissions have now dipped significantly.
Key gains have been made in the technological department across the four-tier range, with an upmarket 8-inch touch-screen armed with smartphone mirroing apps Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, digital radio, autonomous emergency braking with forward collision warning, driver attention alert, lane keeping assist and radar cruise control all standard.
The base model is still called an Si, but the second step is named Sport and gains leather trim and larger 18-inch alloys. Next rung is the SLi that comes with a 10-speaker Harman Kardon sound system.
The range-topping diesel-only GT-Line variant comes with all the safety kit, including blind spot assist, a 360-degree camera, lights which bend with the steering and rear cross traffic alert.
Those additional features aren't available as a pack, with the only option metallic paint across the range which is $595.
ON THE ROAD
Advances have been made in road manners, with the Sorento quiet and composed in varying environments.
Body roll in the bends has been reduced, and the new eight-speed transmission shifts seamlessly with both powertrains.
Most will opt for the diesel and it feels burly without being a rocket ship. Petrol derivatives offer greater pick up, with an easy ability to get the front wheels squealing, but the majority of buyers will find average fuel consumption of 10 litres per 100km too great in comparison to the circa eight litres from the diesel.
Increases from $500 to $2000, base petrol model from $42,990 plus on-roads. Sport variant replaces Si Limited, third rung is SLi and range-topper is GT-Line (Platinum name banished).
Apple CarPlay/Android Auto and digital radio are the key infotainment inclusions. Added lifesaving tech includes autonomous emergency braking and radar cruise control.
Eight-speed automatic is now standard. Diesel models are honest and reliable; the petrol V6 is thirsty but remains a rewarding performer.
Remarkably quiet and composed on varying surfaces, with less body roll in the bends. The ride is excellent and there are four drive modes - Smart switches between Sport and Comfort depending on your driving style.
Front and rear bumper updates and the company grille gets a dark metallic colour change. GT-Line models get LED headlights and, as with SLi, tail-lamps.
Always good, the Sorento just got a bit better. Improved technology maintains pace with the industry mechanically and with infotainment, bundled into a spacious and common sense package which families love.
AT A GLANCE
2018 KIA SORENTO
PRICE From $42,900-$58,990 (reasonable)
WARRANTY AND SERVICING Seven-year warranty, capped price servicing (excellent)
ENGINE 3.5-litre V6 petrol 206kW/336Nm; 2.2-litre 4cyl turbo diesel 147kW/441Nm (strong)
SAFETY 5 star, autonomous emergency brake, front and parking rear sensors, lane keeping assist, driver attention alert (good)
THIRST 10L/100km; 7.2L (heavy petrol)
BOOT 605 litres, 142 with all seats used (on par)
SPARE Full size alloy (perfect)
TOWING 2000kg, tow ball 100kg.
Si $42,990 (up $2000)
Sport $44,990 (previously Si Limited, up $1000)
SLi $46,990 (up $1000).
Si $45,490 (up $1000)
Sport $48,490 (previously Si Limited up $1000)
SLi $50,490 (up $1000)
GT-Line $58,990 (previously Platinum, up $500).
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