Come do some 4×4 driving with the Kia Sorento, they said. It will be fun, they said. So the Kia team did just that.
TOUGH GUY (GIRL) – line through GUY in layout please.
Claim to fame: The lovely Milla was born in Kiev, Ukraine, but her family emmigrated to the USA when she was five. A former model, she famously starred in the Resident Evil franchise, in which she plays Alice, a pretty but tough vampire slayer in an apocalyptic world.
Great quote: “Only the two of you?”
The first generation Kia Sorento was launched in South Africa in 2003. It came with a ladder-frame chassis and a transfer case and was, by all accounts, a pukka 4×4 that could go some distance off the beaten track.
Since then, the Sorento has evolved into a more upmarket and less hardcore 4×4. While the original Sorento was a bit of a ruffian, the latest version is refined, good-looking, luxurious and, from a quality perspective, on par with most of the high-end German brands. But there is no longer a transfer case or workhorse-type chassis. Instead, it’s essentially the same platform used by the Kia Sedona MPV, so comfort, space and refinement have received precedence over 4×4 ability.
So, when our convoy arrived at the first of the rocky obstacles on the Riemvasmaak trail, and we saw the rocks the 4x4s had to traverse, we frankly thought that we’d soon be leaving one snazzy Sorento (and a Hyundai Santa Fe) quite broken and in many small pieces on that track.
Surely the Sorento would find a final resting place next to the rocks, serving as a popular photo opportunity for drivers of real 4x4s? There it would serve as proof why only a real 4×4 with a transfer case and more clearance can venture to places like this.
Over the rocks, the Kia’s hill descent control system was virtually no use. Its all-wheel-drive set-up can be locked up in a 50/50 split between the front and rear axles, so that box was ticked. For the rest it was all patience, an experienced spotter, road building and going as slow as possible to avoid pieces of Kia being left on the rocks.
The Kia got through the worst part, but there was also a short but slippery climb to deal with. However, with some planning, following the line of least resistance, and the traction control coming to the party most proficiently, the Kia made it through that tester too.
The next day, the Kia tackled the sand. In the tricky bits, the limited clearance and long overhangs hampered it, but with a bit of extra right foot it got through that, too. Talking about right foot: the 2.2-litre turbodiesel engine delivers 147kW and 440Nm of torque, which is sent to all four wheels via a six-speed automatic gearbox. So it certainly has plenty of grunt, which is just the ticket in sand.
On the inside, it’s all luxury and surprisingly plush, too. Internationally, the Sorento has won a host of safety and quality awards… the brand certainly has come a long, long way since that first, horrible Kia Rios landed here about 20 years ago.
In this company, the Sorento may seem like a catwalk model who is attempting to freestyle climb a cliff in high heels. But there is another side to this Kia. One that can go places where you think it can’t – and will afterwards take you back to the urban jungle, too.
Like Jovovich’s Resident Evil character: Pretty, but also an action hero who takes on an army of vampires – and sort them all out. The Kia turned out to be our (Resident) hero on this adventure.
Kia Sorento 2.2CRDi AWD SXL
4WD System:Permanent AWD (50/50 lockable)
Traction Aids:Traction control
Illustrations: Tauriq Loofer
Photos: Jannie Herbst and Deon van der Walt