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Kia Sorento 2.2 CRDi KX-2

Kia's Sorento offers space, practicality and great value for money - but does it have enough to beat the latest incarnation of Nissan's X-Trail?

The original Sorento was the car that announced Kia as a genuine rival to the mainstream brands. It was affordable, attractive and capable both on and off road – and since its launch in 2002, the brand has gone from strength to strength. 

The all-new second-generation model debuted earlier this year, and builds on the success of its predecessor. It features Kia’s signature bow-tie grille at the front, while LED lights flank the tailgate at the rear. Add some flashes of chrome on the door handles and roof rails, and the latest Sorento makes a decent first impression.

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Video: watch CarBuyer's video review of the Kia Sorento

Climb inside and you notice how much higher you sit than in the Nissan. Then you’ll be aware of the extra cabin space compared to the X-Trail, especially in terms of width. The Kia is only 55mm longer than its rival, but it accommodates a useful pair of seats in the boot, providing practicality to match a compact MPV. Raising or lowering the extra chairs is easy, but getting into the back isn’t quite so straightforward.

Tall drivers will need to slide their seat forwards in order to create enough space for the middle row to pivot for access. The third row also has a predictable impact on boot space – it drops from 531 litres to 111 litres when you have the seats in place. But if you view them as for occasional use only, it’s worth the compromise for the added flexibility they provide.

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There’s little to complain about inside, with heated leather chairs, climate control, an iPod connection and cruise control all fitted as standard. Material and build quality are both on a par with the Nissan’s, too. But integrated sat-nav isn’t even an option, so owners will need to resort to a portable device, or a map, in unfamiliar areas.

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The Kia drives like an old-school 4x4, as its larger dimensions combine with a long-throw gearshift, soft ride and pronounced body roll. If you expect this model to handle like a hot hatch, you will be disappointed – but there’s nothing wrong with its straight-line performance. 

Thanks to a more powerful 2.2-litre diesel engine, it put in a strong showing against the clock and completed the benchmark sprint from 0-60mph in less than nine seconds. It also recorded some impressive figures during our in-gear assessments, so the lively Sorento is a better bet if you’re planning to carry heavy loads or do any towing. There’s a little low-speed vibration from the engine, but it soon smooths out as the revs increase.

Its 17-inch small alloys also come into their own on the road. They look tiny in their massive arches, yet help the suspension to deliver impressive comfort.The cabin is better insulated from wind noise, too, so the Kia is the more relaxing high-speed choice. The only significant trade-off for its added girth comes at the tailpipe, as it puts out 9g/km more CO2 than the Nissan. 

It also trailed at the pumps, although its 2.3mpg deficit is a small price to pay for the added space and practicality it provides.

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Chart position: 1
WHY: Great-value Kia offers more space than its rival, and the KX-2 model gets seven seats as standard. Generous kit and seven-year warranty add to its appeal.

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