Kia Sorento review
The Kia Sorento is a seven-seater SUV that serves up impressive practicality in a great-value package
The Sorento is Kia’s large, seven-seater SUV. It’s tough and spacious, while every model comes with four-wheel drive as standard, so it’s also capable off-road, great for towing and generally stands up well to utilitarian tasks.
That simplicity continues under the bonnet, as the only engine option in the Sorento range is a 2.2-litre diesel – although buyers have a choice of manual and automatic gearboxes.
Despite the car’s rugged abilities, the interior is very classy and a real step up for Kia. It also provides plenty of room and there’s no shortage of equipment as standard, plus for a big, diesel 4x4, the cabin is impressively quiet and refined. The Sorento isn’t as good to drive as more expensive SUVs, but it’s comfortable and decent value for money.
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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, comes loaded with standard kit and features a practical seven-seater interior.
Chief competition comes from the Hyundai Santa Fe – the Kia’s sister model – as well as the Nissan X-Trail. There aren’t that many seven-seat SUVs in the Sorento’s price range, though, and you have to settle for five-seaters such as the Honda CR-V or Mazda CX-5 for a similar cost or – if you need the extra passenger carrying ability – you may have to up your budget and go for a premium model like the BMW X5 or Volvo XC90, for example.
There’s only one engine to choose from in the Sorento – a 2.2-litre CRDi diesel, which delivers 197bhp – and all cars come with four-wheel drive as standard. You can choose between manual and automatic transmissions, though. This latest car is much more refined than its predecessor and the handling is sure-footed, but if you go for the 19-inch wheels on top-spec KX-4 models, the ride comfort suffers on poor surfaces.
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There’s a generous amount of equipment as standard, even in the entry-level KX-1 model, although it’s worth paying more for a mid-level KX-2 or KX-3 spec if your budget stretches. And while the automatic gearbox hampers fuel economy and increases emissions a little, it complements the Kia’s relaxed driving style.
This latest Sorento has a bold and stylish design inside and out, so it looks and feels a lot sharper than its predecessors. It’s more than just the aesthetics that have been improved, though: the high-quality interior is the best we’ve seen on any Kia to date, and the finish even comes close to rivalling models from the likes of Volkswagen, BMW and Land Rover.
Plus, the substance backs up the style. Practicality has been improved over the previous car, with a bigger boot and greater head and legroom, thanks in part to the extended length and width of the latest model.
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The third row of seats folds flush into the floor, while the second row also folds flat when you pull a handle in the boot. Plus, it slides back and forth to increase legroom for passengers in the middle row, or space for passengers or luggage behind.
This third-generation Kia Sorento brings new levels of luxury to the line-up, although the price has risen slightly to match. The range starts from around £29,000 for the entry-level KX-1, which remains good value, but the top-spec KX-4 auto is starting to look expensive, at over £40,000.
Engines, performance and drive
Comfort and refinement are the Kia Sorento’s strong suits. Thanks to extra insulation in the engine bay and wheelarches – plus larger doors that now stretch over the sills – engine and road noise is much better insulated. That means the interior is pretty quiet and the car is a good motorway cruiser. The soft suspension absorbs most bumps, although big potholes can send shudders through the cabin.
The Sorento suffers from a bit of body roll through corners and the steering is also rather vague. Kia’s Flex Steer system is fitted as standard; this adjusts the weight of the steering wheel, but the differences are marginal and the set-up doesn’t really make the Sorento any more involving to drive. Wind noise becomes a little intrusive at higher speeds, although this is mainly down to the big wing mirrors.
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Go for a lower-spec model and you’ll get a six-speed manual gearbox, with a six-speed auto a £1,750 option. Higher up in the range, the auto is standard, and it makes the Sorento feel faster than its 0-62mph time of 9.6 seconds suggests. But the manual provides slick shifts – and also cuts the 0-62mph time to nine seconds flat – so we’d save the cash and opt for one of the cheaper versions.
In town, the standard parking sensors, reversing camera and light steering make the Kia easy to park for such a big car, but more advanced features including park assist and a 360-degree surround-view cameras are reserved for the top-spec KX-4 model.
In the wet, the Kia’s sure-footed feel disappears, although with selectable driving modes, you can add extra weight to the steering in the Sport setting. Turn off the tarmac, and the Sorento’s solidity returns. It features four-wheel drive and a locking differential, meaning it’s capable when the going gets rough, and there’s plenty of traction on loose, muddy surfaces.
Choosing a Sorento couldn’t be easier because there is only one engine: a 197bhp 2.2-litre CRDi diesel. It’s quite smooth unless you rev it really hard, at which point it starts to sound coarse. But drive it normally and it just buzzes away in the background. There’s a good amount of mid-range pull, too.
It isn’t hard to find big SUVs with more powerful or smoother engines. Yet you’ll pay a lot more for the privilege, and for the price, the Kia does very well indeed.
MPG, CO2 and running costs
The Sorento’s fuel economy and CO2 emissions are decent for such a large car, and all models come with Kia’s fuel-saving ISG stop/start system as standard. Kia claims entry-level manual cars on 17-inch wheels are capable of 49.6mpg and 149g/km of CO2, which means road tax costs £145 a year, while those with bigger wheels return a still-respectable 46.3mpg and 161g/km (for £180 road tax).
The automatic models are slightly less efficient, claiming 42.2mpg and 177g/km (so road tax is £225 a year) – and they cost around £1,750 more to buy. Unless you really need an auto, we’d stick with the manual and cash in on the lower running costs.
As the flagship of the company’s range, the Sorento is the most expensive Kia to buy in the first place, with top-spec KX-4 models weighing in at over £40,000, which looks rather pricey.
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The Sorento is about mid way up the table for insurance groups, and the beauty of having only one engine with one power output is that’s about where it stays. The entry-level KX-1 model sits in insurance group 24, and the KX-2 and KX-3 models rise consecutively through groups 25 and 26. Due to its higher price and long list of standard equipment, the top-spec KX-4 model is in group 28. Annual premiums are likely to be cheaper for the Sorento’s Nissan X-Trail rival, as it sits in groups 19 and 20.
Large SUVs aren’t known for retaining their price well, and neither are models from budget brands, so you wouldn’t expect market-leading resale values from the Sorento. However, things are looking up: Kia has put a lot of work into improving the proportionate residual values of its cars and the Sportage crossover, which sits just beneath the Sorento in the range, has enjoyed very strong used prices. The classy interior and all-round updates mean the latest Sorento is more likely to fetch stronger prices on the second-hand market than previous versions.
Interior, design and technology
The exterior is relatively anonymous, but the Kia Sorento has just enough visual appeal to stand out from the SUV crowd. The overall shape is an evolution of the previous generation, although it’s longer and wider than before.
At the front, the big grille features Kia’s signature tiger nose chrome surround – a design trademark that the company has been rolling out across each updated model in its range – and it’s flanked by neat headlamps with LED daytime running lights. KX-3 models get more powerful and brighter xenon headlights with cornering foglamps (you have to upgrade to KX-4 spec for fully adaptive xenon headlamps), while the front bumper is finished off with a thin, silver skid plate.
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There are silver roof rails, as well as chrome trim on the sills, while at the rear is a roof spoiler and LED tail-lights. The Sorento doesn’t really hide its larger dimensions, and it looks quite imposing on the road
Inside, it’s very upmarket – much more so than you’d expect from a Kia. The infotainment screen is housed in a silver-trimmed binnacle, while a large central speedometer dominates the instrument dials. Next to this is another full colour display showing information such as the trip computer.
The Sorento is the first Kia to be passed for production by the brand’s new quality control centre in Korea, and it shows. The soft-touch dashboard, as well as the matt and gloss black plastic finishes, represent a marked improvement over the previous generation. There are still a few questionable bits of trim here and there, though, including some slightly cheap-looking materials around the gearstick, which appear prone to showing up scratches.
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Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
The entry-level KX-1 model is the only Sorento that doesn’t come with satellite navigation; you have to go for the KX-2 and upwards if you want one. The KX-2 has a seven-inch touchscreen system, while the higher-spec KX-3 and KX-4 models feature an eight-inch version. They also benefit from an upgraded sound system. All models have a DAB digital radio, Bluetooth for phone connectivity and music streaming, as well as USB and auxiliary inputs.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
The Sorento is a big SUV with seven seats, and its large cabin is dotted with useful features: it boasts levers to fold the rear seats remotely, a pair of deep storage bins and two cup-holders in the front, some useful under-floor storage, plus a USB charging point for passengers in the second row and ventilation controls for third-row passengers.
As with most models in this class, you sit high and have a good view of the road, while the optional panoramic roof is well worth considering as it floods the cabin with light and adds to the sense of space.
The current Sorento is considerably bigger than the model it replaced: at 4,780mm long and 1,890mm wide, it’s 95mm longer and 5mm wider, plus it has an 80mm longer wheelbase. However, it’s 15mm lower than before, at 1,685mm tall. The latest car is also longer than its Nissan X-Trail and Hyundai Santa Fe rivals.
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Leg room, head room & passenger space
There’s no shortage of space inside the Sorento, and as the seats are mounted lower than in the previous model, there’s more headroom than before, as well as more legroom. Taller passengers sitting in the back will have plenty of space to stretch out in, while unlike in many rivals, the optional panoramic glass roof doesn’t particularly affect headroom. However, one drawback is that only the kerb-side seat folds to give access to the third row.
The Sorento’s seven seats can be configured in a variety of ways, and with the third row in place there’s 142 litres of boot space. That doesn’t sound like much on the face of it, but they fold flat into the boot floor at the tug of a cord.
With the rearmost seats out of the way, the Sorento has a more useful 660 litres of space behind the second row – which itself can slide back and forth and has a 60:40 split. Fold this middle row of seats down via two levers in the side of the boot, and you can free up a massive 1,732 litres of space – 52 litres more than in the Hyundai Santa Fe, and easily enough for carrying most large objects.
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Large SUVs are prime towing vehicles, and the Kia can pull a hefty 2,500kg behind it, which is a respectable capacity even for a big, diesel 4x4.
Reliability and Safety
The latest Sorento was too new to feature in the Auto Express Driver Power 2015 satisfaction survey, but Kia finished 19th in the manufacturers’ chart. That represented a disappointing fall of 12 places on its 2014 ranking.
Still, the company has built up a good reputation for reliability, and as the previous Sorento wasn’t affected by any major recalls, it’s safe to assume this latest model will be hassle-free to own – not least because the cabin and build quality have really stepped up a notch.
Euro NCAP awarded the car the full five stars in its crash tests, and the Sorento achieved high scores in all four areas of the assessment: 90 per cent for adult occupant protection, 83 per cent for child occupant protection, 67 per cent for pedestrian protection and 71 per cent in the safety assist section.
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This perhaps isn’t surprising when you consider that all models come with six airbags, as well as hill-start assist control to make it easier to pull away on inclines. There’s also trailer stability control to make towing safer.
Other safety systems include a road sign detection camera that displays the speed limit and other important signs in the instrument cluster. In addition, there’s a lane departure warning system, a self-parking function and adaptive cruise control, while all versions except the entry-level KX-1 model feature self-levelling suspension to help stabilise the car.
A new 360-degree Around View function is available on higher-spec models. This uses four cameras to show the driver the view around the car, which really helps with low-speed manoeuvres – either on or off-road.
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Kia’s seven-year/100,000-mile warranty is arguably the best on the market. However, if your annual mileage is particularly high and you think you might exceed that figure over the course of ownership, then it may be worth considering the Sorento’s sister car, the Hyundai Santa Fe. Although this is supplied with only five years of cover, the mileage is unlimited.
Even though Kia doesn’t publish specific maintenance prices, it does offer two service packages – Care-3 and Care-3 Plus – which cover the cost of the first three or five services at what the company describes as “extremely competitive prices”. The former also reduces the price of the car’s first MoT to £30. Costs vary depending on the exact model, but a monthly payment plan is available for the service packages.