KIA SORENTO 2.2CRDi : Fuel-sipping slugger

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Price: $179,999 with COE

Engine: 2,199cc 16-valve inline-4 turbodiesel

Transmission: Six-speed automatic with manual select

Power: 200bhp at 3,800rpm

Torque: 441Nm at 1,750-2,750rpm

0-100kmh: 9.6 seconds

Top speed: 203kmh

Fuel consumption: 6.7 litres/100km

You may find this review somewhat similar to one published last month. The car featured here - the 2.2-litre turbodiesel Kia Sorento - is very similar to its 2.4-litre petrol twin featured six weeks ago.

There are, of course, some fundamental differences. The Sorento 2.2CRDi is powered by a 2,199cc four-cylinder turbodiesel engine, while the 2.4GDI is driven by a 2,359cc four-cylinder normally aspirated petrol power plant.

The diesel is an all-wheel drive, while the petrol is front-wheel driven.

The singular difference that makes most people sit up is the price. The dieselpowered Sorento is about $180,000 - up to $20,000 costlier than its petrol-fuelled sibling.

The diesel model also attracts about $690 more in road tax a year. While the car's superior fuel efficiency will offset its higher road tax, it is less likely to make up for the heftier sticker price.

So should you dismiss the diesel immediately, then? Of course not, and here is why.

Besides matching its petrol sibling in the smooth-and-suave department, the turbodiesel variant packs a lot more grunt.

We are talking about 200bhp and 441Nm of torque accessible from 1,750rpm, compared with 188bhp and 239Nm of torque from 4,000rpm.

Hence the diesel-burning Sorento is clearly beefier and breezier from the word go. Even with all-wheel drive, it feels pretty spontaneous at the wheel. It pulls away cleanly and fairly effortlessly in most situations.

The performance specs verify this. The car clocks a 9.6-second sprint to 100kmh, compared with 10.2 seconds for the petrol. Its top speed is also a bit more respectable at 203kmh, versus 195kmh for the petrol.

The Sorento stands tall among diesel sport utility vehicles, a segment dominated by the Germans with far bigger engines. For its engine size, the Kia is actually a brilliant performer.

Its other plus point lies in how quiet it is across its entire rev range. You hear its diesel chatter only when a window is wound down and the engine is idling.

At the wheel, there is no detectable difference in vibration level or harshness.

Like the petrol car, it has an electronic parking brake that self-releases in the most unobtrusive way. It is as if the brake was not engaged in the first place.

The system's automatic hold function - which engages the parking brake when the vehicle comes to a standstill - is cleverer than most. It activates only when you step on the brake pedal with some force, allowing you to execute parking manoeuvres without having to turn it off.

For an SUV, the Sorento impresses with a host of premium qualities. Its insulation, for instance, rivals what you experience in a premium German SUV. This helps the stop-start function fire up the engine with minimal disturbance.

It is also equipped with amenities you would not associate with Kia, such as a completely hands-free tailgate activated by the car's remote key.

There is automated parking (parallel and perpendicular), ventilated front seats with memory function for the driver side, a panoramic sunroof with a roller blind, roller blinds for the rear windows and self-levelling suspension.

As a seven-seater, the diesel Sorento is probably the better bet as its ample torque will come in handy when the car is fully occupied.

In terms of practicality, the new Sorento ticks several boxes. First of all, the car is 95mm longer than its predecessor at 4,780mm and 5mm wider at 1,890mm. Most of its increased length has gone to the wheelbase, which has been extended by 80mm to 2,780mm.

At the same time, the car is 15mm lower at 1,685mm, making it noticeably lower than most traditional SUVs.

The longer wheelbase gives the Kia SUV more interior space - more legroom for third-row passengers and more stowage. With the last row of seats folded flat, the car has 605 litres of cargo space, 17.5 per cent more than before.

The longer wheelbase has also improved the Kia's ride comfort, giving it a certain calmness that eludes most SUVs.

Together with the efficiency and effortlessness of its diesel heart, the multi-seat multi-terrain Kia is a peachy contender in the field. Even if some buyers will baulk at paying $180,000 for a Korean car.

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