When BAuto took over the Kia franchise in April 2021 and established subsidiary Dinamikjaya Motors to handle the Korean brand, local assembly was already being planned. Unlike some other new brands where the carmaker may want to wait a while and see how fast their volume grows, Kia Motors had already decided to use Malaysia as a regional production hub and wanted local assembly to commence as soon as possible.
They revealed a 5-year plan which showed the models that would be assembled for the Malaysian market, and the chart showed that the first two models would be the Carnival and Sorento. The Carnival started rolling out of the Inokom plant in Kedah in July last year and now comes the Sorento.
Three 3-row versions of the SUV are available, of which two have petrol engines and a choice of 6 seats or 7 seats, and one is a turbodiesel with a 6-seat layout. Both engines are from the Smartstream family and the petrol unit has a displacement of 2.5 litres (177 bhp/232 Nm), while the turbodiesel is 2.2 litres with 199 bhp/440 Nm output.
The petrol engines are paired with 6-speed automatic transmissions but the turbodiesel gets an 8-speed dual-clutch transmission. The 7-seater petrol version has only front-wheel drive with both the 6-seaters having all-wheel drive.
This generation of the Sorento is a major departure from the past generations in many respects, including having a brand new platform. It is the result of a global collaborative effort of the entire Kia design network which has studios in Korea, Europe and North America.
For this new generation, the designers adopted the concept of ‘refined boldness’, maintaining the robust, tough-looking aesthetic of earlier generations. It has sharper lines and uninterrupted surfaces, making it noticeably more sculpted than its more round-edged predecessor.
Besides more contemporary geometric details and swept-back, elongated proportions, the assertive ‘face’ of the Sorento has evolved too. There’s a new interpretation of Kia’s hallmark ‘tiger nose’ grille. It’s wider and more expansive, wrapping organically around the integrated headlamps on each side. The headlamps themselves feature a new ‘tiger eye’ LED daytime running light, adding extra focus to the design by depicting the intense impression of the lines around a tiger’s eyes.
In profile, the proportions of the SUV are subtly adapted to make it appear longer, with shorter front and rear overhangs and a longer wheelbase. Its new proportions also extend the length of the bonnet, drawing the A-pillar 30 mm further back from the front axle for a more ‘cab-rearward’ design. The trailing edge of the bonnet wraps around the front wings and turns into a single, strong character line which extends along the side of the Sorento and flows into the new vertical taillights.
The new platform has allowed for a longer wheelbase (+35 mm) and another 50 mm in overall length. With almost similar width, the new Sorento occupies pretty much the same roadspace as the previous one.
Just as the exterior design is a major departure from previous design language, the interior also shows a totally new layout. Like the Carnival, there is a premium look and feel with high quality materials used throughout. The wood effect panels add a sense of luxury too and, of course, there’s no need to talk about fit and finish these days.
Like the Carnival, the 10.25-inch wide centre display merges with the 12.3-inch instrument panel to give a wide display panel that extends across about two-thirds of the dashboard width. The ‘Supervision’ digital instrument cluster is designed to deliver information to the driver as clearly as possible. With a high-definition 1920 x 720-pixel display, the digital cluster replaces conventional speedometer and tachometer dials with a single, seamless display. A head-up display is also available and for the turbodiesel, shifter paddles are included.
As we’ve come to expect from BAuto (which also handles Mazda and Peugeot through other subsidiaries), the equipment and features list is typically generous. For example, all versions have dual-zone air-conditioning with additional vents to send cool air further back. The upper versions have 8-way powered seats, ambient cabin lighting and a wireless charging pad. As with other premium models these days, the rear door is powered and can also be raised remotely.
With this generation of the Sorento, Kia has aimed to pack high-tech in to differentiate it further from other midsize SUVs. Besides Advanced Driver Assist Systems (ADAS) that includes various integrated active systems to scan, alert the driver and take autonomous action to prevent a collision, the Sorento also has Kia’s first Multi-collision Brake system which can mitigate the severity of secondary collisions. This system automatically applies vehicle brakes when the airbags (up to 8 available) have been deployed after an initial collision, further protecting occupants from secondary frontal or side impacts.