Road tests

New Kia Sorento HEV 2020 review

The new Kia Sorento HEV combines a 1.6-litre petrol engine with an electric motor for 227bhp, but is it the pick of the range?

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

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When it comes to image, technology and space, the Sorento has really upped its game. The new hybrid powertrain is punchy and efficient and will certainly appeal to those who don't want a diesel, while few customers will be left wanting for an SUV with a greater degree of practicality. Question marks remain over the Sorento’s ride quality, but on the whole Kia has delivered another impressive family SUV. 

If there’s a car that perfectly demonstrates Kia’s transformation from budget brand to premium player, it’s the Sorento. What started as a Mercedes ML-mimicking SUV in 2002 has evolved over the years to become a genuine alternative to the likes of the Volvo XC90 and Land Rover Discovery.

This fourth-generation model has now arrived in the UK, packed with cutting edge tech, a sharp new look and a range of hybrid powertrains. But in the process of shaking off its budget-conscious image, Kia has also left behind the associated pricing - the latest Sorento starts from £38,845. That’s a good chunk less than its upmarket rivals, but considerably more than the likes of a Skoda Kodiaq or SEAT Tarraco.

That entry-level Sorento gets you the car we’re driving here, in base spec ‘2’ trim and powered by an all-new 1.6-litre hybrid powertrain. It’s still pretty well kitted out, with an eight-inch infotainment system, heated seats and steering wheel, LED headlamps, 17-inch alloys and seven seats as standard. The biggest giveaway that you’re sitting in the entry-level model is the black cloth upholstery.

Most buyers are likely to step up to mid-spec ‘3’ trim, which adds £3,900 to the price. It comes with larger 19-inch alloy wheels, a more impressive 10.25-inch infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a full leather interior (with electric adjustment in the front and heating front and rear), ambient lighting, wireless phone charging plus an electric tailgate. It’s probably the one to go for.

The Sorento is the first recipient of Kia’s new 1.6-litre hybrid powertrain. It comprises a turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine, a small 1.49kWh battery and an electric motor, which combine to develop 227bhp and 350Nm of torque. It’s four-wheel drive as standard and drives through a six-speed automatic gearbox.

Performance is pretty strong on the move; the electric motor giving the two tonne Sorento plenty of zip from a standing start. Once up and running the engine takes over, kicking in smoothly enough and remaining hushed at low speeds; on part throttle it’ll even run in EV mode for short distances, too. But ask for a squirt of acceleration and the engine becomes rather coarse at the top end of the rev range. It’s certainly quick enough for a large family SUV of this size though, hitting 0-62mph in 8.7 seconds. 

One thing to be aware of is towing capacity - or lack of it; the Sorento hybrid can tow up to 1,650kg, while the more torque-rich 2.2-litre diesel can pull up to a maximum load of 2,500kg. 

Even on the smallest 17-inch wheels, the Sorento’s ride is too firm for a seven-seat family SUV. You wouldn’t call it uncomfortable, but over broken surfaces, the type of which the UK’s road network is littered with, the Sorento fidgets about and doesn’t absorb bumps as well as it should. Perhaps the firmer suspension setup is a way of helping contain the Sorento’s hefty kerbweight, but it lacks the suppleness and more laid back feel you get from a Skoda Kodiaq or Land Rover Discovery. 

One positive to come out of the Sorento’s firmer setup is that it does handle and corner with plenty of stability and surefootedness. The steering is quick and direct and it resists roll surprisingly well considering its size. However, we can’t help but think potential customers - and passengers on-board - would rather there be a greater degree of comfort than handling prowess. 

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The Sorento remains an enormously practical SUV, however. It’s a seven-seater as standard, each of those seats coming with its own USB charging port and cup holder. There’s enough space in the middle row for three adults to sit in total comfort thanks to the generous knee room, while the third row of seats aren’t just a token gesture - you can even get adults back there. The middle row slides forwards to create enough space in the back without comprising knee room for those in the second row too much. Not many rivals can do that. 

And when you’re not carrying seven passengers the 813-litre boot will swallow everything a family can throw at it. Drop the middle row and that figure rises to 1,996 litres.

Model: Kia Sorento 1.6 T-GDi HEV
Price: £38,845
Engine: 1.6-litre 4cyl petrol electric 
Transmission: Six-speed auto, four-wheel drive 
Power/torque: 227bhp/350Nm
0-62mph: 8.7 seconds
Top speed: 119mph
Economy/CO2: 40.9mpg/158g/km
On sale: Now

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