Kia Sorento review
The Kia Sorento is a 7-seater SUV with bold styling and great practicality on its side
The Kia Sorento first appeared back in 2002 as the brand’s first full-size SUV. Now in its third generation, the 4x4 is bigger and better than ever before, and comes loaded with standard kit. There’s only one engine to choose from, and all cars come with standard four-wheel drive – though manual and automatic gearboxes are available.
Both the inside and outside have been given a bold and stylish makeover – but it’s more than just the aesthetics that have been improved on the latest model. The high quality interior is the best we’ve seen on any Kia to date, and even comes close to rivalling the likes of VW, BMW, and Land Rover.
Plus, the substance backs up the style. Practicality has been boosted over the previous car, with a bigger boot and greater head and legroom, thanks in part to the extended length and width of this latest model.
In foreign markets, Sorento buyers can opt for a five-seat version, but in the UK it’s only available with seven seats. The 197bhp 2.2-litre diesel engine comes fitted with a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic gearbox, as well as standard four-wheel drive. Refinement is improved noticeably over its predecessor and the handling is sure-footed, but go for the 19-inch wheels on top-spec KX-4 models and the ride comfort suffers on poor surfaces.
The third row of seats fold flush into the boot floor, while the second row also folds flat by pulling a handle in the boot and can slide back and forth to accommodate larger passengers in the third row.
Basic KX-1 and KX-2 models represent decent value, but top-spec cars are expensive – with the range-topping KX-4 costing more than £40,000.
Our choice: Kia Sorento 2.2 CRDi auto
Penned at Kia’s new studio in Namyang, Korea, the Sorento is designed to appeal to customers in Europe, Asia and America so the play-it-safe but attractive styling is understandable.
However, with its smooth, uncluttered surfaces and simple shapes for the grille, front intakes, headlights and taillights, the Sorento has an aura of sophistication that’s new for the Kia brand. We particularly like the 3D honeycomb effect on the grille, first seen on the 2013 Kia Cross GT concept. Top-spec cars come with stylish 19-inch wheels and flashes of chrome.
It’s on the inside, though, where Kia has taken the greatest strides; The large central screen, surrounded by brushed aluminium-effect plastic, looks suitably upmarket, while the buttons are arranged in two neat rows and make the Hyundai Santa Fe seem cluttered by comparison.
There are still a few questionable materials here and there, including around the gearknob, which looks particularly prone to showing up scratches.
The Sorento is the first Kia to be passed for production by Kia’s new dedicated quality control centre in Korea, and it shows. The soft-touch dash, matt black and gloss plastic finishes are a marked improvement over its predecessor.
Choosing a Sorento couldn’t be easier. Only one engine is available to UK customers – a development of the previous model’s 2.2-litre CRDi diesel, but now with 197bhp and 441Nm of torque, that’s 6bhp and 19Nm more than before.
Go for a lower trim and you’ll get a six-speed manual gearbox, with a six-speed auto as a £1,750 option. On higher spec levels the auto is standard, but in all honesty, the manual feels slick and well-sorted so we’d save the cash and opt for the cheaper models.
Thanks to extra insulation in the engine bay and wheel arches – plus larger doors that now stretch over the sills – engine and road noise is much better insulated.
Wind noise does become a little intrusive at higher speeds, but this is down to the sizeable wing mirrors. Unless you rev the engine to the redline, at which point it starts to sound coarse, it buzzes away in the background and deliver a good slug of torque in the mid-range. As a result, the automatic Sorento feels faster than its 0-62mph time of 9.6 seconds suggests. The manual manages to cut this to nine seconds flat, though.
The electromechanical steering is quite light and offers little feedback, while using the Drive Mode Select button does little to increase feel. There’s nothing wrong with the way the Sorento grips in the corners and body control is good for such a large car. The slight trade-off is that on the larger wheels fitted to top-spec cars the ride is too firm over broken road surfaces.
Kia has a growing reputation for reliability and with no major recalls affecting the previous-generation Sorento, it’s safe to assume the new model will offer a hassle-free ownership experience.
The engine and gearbox, although modified for the new car, is proven technology, too. When it comes to safety, the Sorento scored the full five stars when tested by Euro NCAP, scoring highly in all four areas (90 per cent for Adult Occupant Protection, 83 per cent in Child Occupant Protection, 67 per cent Pedestrian Protection and a 71 per cent Safety Assist). This is partly down to a bodyshell that’s 14 per cent more rigid than its predecessor. That’s thanks to the use of twice as much ultra high tensile steel in the construction, which has been used to reinforce the wheel arches, tailgate surround and rear wheel surround.
A host of new safety systems are available, too, including a road sign detection camera – that displays the speed limit and other important signs in the instrument cluster. There’s also a lane departure warning system, a self-parking function, and adaptive cruise control.
A new 360-degree Around View function is also available on higher spec cars. This uses four cameras to show the driver the view around the car, something that is imperative considering the size of the Sorento.
Offering all the functionality of a seven-seater MPV but in a more attractive SUV body shape, family cars don’t get much more practical than the Sorento. The seven seats, arranged in a 2+3+2 configuration, can be configured in a variety of ways. With the third row in place there’s 142 litres of boot space, but when not needed they fold flush into the boot floor at the tug of a cord.
That frees up a more useful 605 litres of space behind the second row, which can slide back and forth with a 60:40 split. Fold the second row down via two levers in the side of the boot, and that opens up a massive 1,662 litres of space – 18 litres less than the Hyundai Santa Fe, but easily big enough for carrying most large objects.
The cabin is dotted with useful features, such as two deep storage bins and two cupholders in the front, plus a USB charging point for passengers in the second row. The Sorento measures 95mm longer, 5mm wider and 15mm lower (with a 80mm longer wheelbase) than its predecessor – but lower mounted seats means there’s more headroom as well as more legroom than before.
An optional panoramic roof is well worth considering as it floods the cabin with light and adds to the sense of spaciousness. It doesn’t particularly affect headroom either, with plenty of room in the back for taller passnegers.
The Sorento is sure to be a tempting choice for people with caravans and horseboxes. The manual model is able to tow 2,500kg load, while the automatic is a little less at 2,000kg.
Kia’s ethos is all about keeping running costs as low as possible, so the Sorento should be friendly on the wallet once you drive away from the showroom.
Full fuel economy and CO2 emissions are decent for such a large car. Entry-level manual cars on 17-inch wheels will be capable of 49.6mpg and 149g/km of CO2, while those with bigger wheels return a still-respectable 46.3mpg. The automatic models are slightly thirstier, and cost around £1,750 more. As a result, unless you really need a self-shifter, we’d stick with the manual and change gears ourselves.
Kia’s industry-leading seven-year, 100,000–mile warranty offers peace of mind, while a range of ‘Kia Care’ packages offer fixed-price servicing for three or five years, and you can even spread the cost of servicing with a monthly payment plan.
As the flagship of the Kia range however, the Sorento is the most expensive model in the line-up with top-spec KX-4 models coming in at close to £41,000 before adding any options.