Long-term test review: Kia Sorento
Final report: Our Kia Sorento SUV pays a visit to the biggest Kia dealership in Europe
The Kia Sorento is a comfortable, classy SUV that offers lots of equipment for a reasonable price and drives well, too. It’s been one of the stars of our fleet over the past year. Ally that to excellent aftersales facilities like this London dealer, and you can see why the rise of Kia continues unabated.
Mileage: 9,442Economy: 26.9mpg
Over the past year we’ve reported on how the Kia Sorento has impressed us on road and off it, as well as in the city. But one thing we haven’t touched on is Kia’s aftersales service – so when the brand announced it was opening its biggest dealer in Europe in Brentford, west London, we jumped at the chance to pay it a visit.
The 41,000-square-foot facility fills four floors over 1.3 acres in a prime site near the M4 populated by flagship showrooms from Volkswagen, Mercedes and Audi – indicating the type of buyers Kia is confident of attracting.
And ‘state-of-the-art’ doesn’t really do GWR Kia justice, because every last detail has been thought of to ensure it provides the last word in customer satisfaction.
The workshop area includes 11 service bays and can cope with 80 services a day; it even incorporates a turntable photo studio to allow approved used cars to be snapped on site and put up for sale in double-quick time. The showroom area, meanwhile, showcases Kia’s entire range and includes two dedicated customer handover bays, an upmarket cafe and all manner of data points and touchscreens to pass on info to buyers.
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Used car tests
Floor one caters for used cars, but the real highlight is the marketing floor above. It features a 17.5-metre-long, 3.7-metre-high display that includes 202,500 LEDs that beam Kia’s latest promotional campaigns to the 27 million drivers who pass by on the adjacent elevated section of the M4 each year.
David Grainger, who heads up Norton Way, which operates the dealership, describes it as “a big statement for Kia”. He told me the priority of the staff there was to “deal with the customer how they want to be dealt with”. To be fair, that’s something the brand’s dealers have demonstrated pretty well anyway, as a ninth place finish in our Driver Power dealer survey earlier this year testifies.
Even so, it’s hard not to be impressed by GWR Kia. As someone who has lived with the Sorento day in day out for 12 months, I’ve gained a real appreciation of its genuine quality and ability as an all-round family car. But Kia realises there is more to attracting and keeping customers than great vehicles, and this new dealer is a big statement of intent that the upward trajectory of the product range will be matched by ongoing improvements in customer service.
Sadly, though, our time with the Sorento is coming to an end. Over nearly 10,000 miles it’s coped admirably with everything family life has thrown at it, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone looking for a great-value seven-seat SUV. I can give it no higher praise than that.
Kia Sorento: fourth report
Our Kia Sorento SUV has been consigned to life in town – and it’s excelled as a comfortable city car
Mileage: 8,348Economy: 27.2mpg
In our last report on the Kia Sorento, we ventured out to the Heart of England Forest in Warwickshire to demonstrate its prowess off-road. But in the past couple of months it’s stayed very much in the urban jungle as I’ve embarked on a house-hunting mission in London. And despite being such a big car, it’s proved its worth on regular 54-mile round trips from my current residence in the south-east tip of the capital to the uppermost reaches of north London.
Most specifically, it’s remarkably easy to drive. The six-speed auto box ensures that stop-start journeys across the river are dispatched with ease – there’s little more tiresome than constantly wrestling with a manual box when London traffic is at its worst. And when the roads do open up, there’s sufficient acceleration from the 2.2-litre diesel to take advantage.
You might imagine that parking would be an issue, given the car’s 4,780mm length and with space in the capital at a premium. But that’s not the case as the Sorento is that most impressive of beasts; a big car that feels its size yet is easy to manoeuvre. The rear parking camera is simple to follow on the eight-inch touchscreen, with clearly marked guidelines showing exactly where the car needs to be.
And having complained previously about the parking sensors, I’m now a convert. They come on automatically when you start the car, but are disabled when you go above 12mph, meaning you have to remember to activate them when it’s time to park up at the journey’s end. Initially I wasn’t a fan of this, but now it makes perfect sense as it ensures you avoid the trigger-happy beeping of some cars when pedestrians or cyclists come close in heavy traffic.
The Sorento is comfortable, too. My wife’s not the tallest but eight-way power adjustment on the driver’s seat gives her a commanding view of the road, while my daughters Isla (above) and Erin have no complaints about the room they get in the middle seats. Fire up a movie on their NextBase Click 9 Lite Duo Deluxe twin DVD players and the 90 minutes it’s been taking to journey from SE20 to N14 passes in silence. Of course, as impressive as the Kia has proven as a city car, spending all its time in town does take its toll. Fuel economy, in particular, is still not great at 27.2mpg; the fact the stop/start system doesn’t operate as often as it might can’t help here.
And of course, there are always drivers who get too close in town, as I encountered when I returned to the car outside Erin’s nursery to find an unappealing long black scrape along the front passenger side door.
It was clearly some residue from the black plastic housing of an older car’s wing mirror, and I had fears it might have done some permanent damage. But a bit of elbow grease and an application of Autoglym Intensive Tar Remover soon saw the blemish disappear and restore the Sorento to its pristine best.
So have the Kia’s weekly trips to north London paid off? Sadly not, as we’ve yet to find a suitable property. Even worse, the buyers of my house pulled out amid all the Brexit uncertainty. So there are a lot more cross-capital trips to look forward to – but at least I know that in the Sorento we have the ideal car for the job.
Kia Sorento: third report
Big SUV swaps city life for countryside with ease
Mileage: 6,920Economy: 25.2mpg
Our Kia Sorento has excelled on the suburban streets of south-east London during its eight-month stay with us. But with standard four-wheel drive, it’s capable of much more than the nursery run – so we decided to venture further afield to thoroughly put it through its paces.
And where better to test its mettle than at the beautiful Heart of England Forest at Dorsington, near Stratford-upon-Avon?
This exquisite piece of Warwickshire countryside is run by the charity which owns Dennis Publishing, the company which publishes Auto Express.
We took the Kia to one of the charity’s tree-planting days to see how it fared negotiating the area that ultimately will become home to an extensive piece of woodland. And after corporate volunteer coordinator Gary Fitzpatrick marshalled myself and some colleagues from Dennis through an enjoyable day of tree-planting, the Sorento went on a brief tour of the area.
As expected, it coped admirably. Whether traversing fields or negotiating muddy paths it was never knocked out of its stride, thanks to a 50:50 front-rear torque split at up to 25mph. Ground clearance of 185mm means it’ll never worry a Land Rover Defender, but for light off-roading it’s fine.
Back on more familiar territory, it’s the ease with which the Sorento copes with the daily demands of family life that impresses most. First and foremost, it’s an absolute doddle to drive and park, despite its 4,780mm length and 1,890mm width.
The six-speed auto box means stop-start capital commutes aren’t nearly as frustrating as they might be, while the reversing camera, which relays its pictures on to the eight-inch touchscreen, and audible sensor alerts ensure you never worry when reversing into tight slots. Light steering ensures it’s simple to manoeuvre, too. And inside the high-quality cabin looks great and is arguably the finest we have seen from Kia.
Importantly, it’s wearing well, too. The leather upholstery of our KX-3 version has proven easy to keep clean despite a host of spillages from my two young daughters, while the black interior trim is staying free of grubby finger marks. All in all, then, you’ll do well to find as classy and spacious an SUV at this price that’s as comfortable on and off road.
Kia Sorento: second report
Our man gets a lift to test SUV's seven-seat capability
Mileage: 5,522Economy: 31.4mpg
Our Kia Sorento has sparked a lot of interest among family and friends since I started running it late last year. And one of the questions I'm asked most frequently regards just how spacious the rear seats are.
It's understandable, really; if you're in the market for a seven-seat SUV, it's important to know that the two at the back are suitable for more than occasional use.
Of course, because I spend virtually all my time at the wheel, I've never been best placed to answer these queries. So it was with this in mind that I engaged senior road tester Sean Carson as my chauffeur for the day as I took my place in one of the back seats - and I was pleasantly surprised.
Firstly, getting in proved straightforward, even for a gangly type like myself. Just raise a lever to drop the middle seatback, slide it as far forward as it will go, and it's a simple task to step in and take your place.
Once in, there's adequate headroom, even for six-footers - unless your hair goes a bit bouffant, as mine did on the windy day of our photoshoot. Legroom is a little tighter, admittedly, but I was able to get acceptably comfortable with a six-footer in front of me. A nine-hour trip back to my home in Scotland might have tested my resolve, but for a couple of hours or so, it's fine.
And of course, with those middle seats sliding forward, there's always the potential to create more space. The small windows don't exactly create an airy ambience, but an individual air-con control and a pair of vents ensure rear occupants will remain chilled even if it gets slightly claustrophobic.
Don't need the rearmost seats? Folding them is a doddle. Simply pull a strap on the back and they topple down instantly, freeing up a generous 605-litre boot. Tugging on the same strap lifts the seats back into place again.
And it's this ease of use that marks out the whole Sorento experience, particularly from the seat I'm most used to, the driver's. The six-speed auto takes the straight out of long-haul journeys and short commutes alike, while the 2.2-litre diesel has more than enough power for swift progress on motorways.
Our KX-3's eight-inch touchscreen sat-nav couldn't be simpler to programme or use and provides clear, detailed mapping, while the infotainment functions are logically labelled and swapping between DAB and tunes from my iPhone requires just the press of a button.
In short, I've been hugely impressed with the Sorento so far. And when you take into account the fact it's backed up by a seven-year warranty, it's well worth a look if you're considering a big SUV - no matter which seats you intend on spending time in.
Kia Sorento: first report
Mileage: 1,963 milesEconomy: 35.6mpg
Seen the weather forecast for this winter? It’s apocalyptic. “Worst in 50 years,” screamed the headlines in mid-October… so I’ve been getting some preparation in. As well as looking out the family’s winter woollies, I’ve taken delivery of a Kia Sorento, which will hopefully provide some all-wheel-drive reassurance should conditions get tricky.
But for the time being, I’ve been familiarising myself with the Sorento. Having run – and loved – sister brand Hyundai’s Santa Fe seven-seater a couple of years ago, I am keen to see if the latest Sorento moves the game on significantly.
First impressions are positive. I picked the Sorento out as my show star when it was unveiled at Paris in 2014, and I still think the styling looks great. It’s handsome enough without embracing the fussy excess of other recently launched SUVs, and looks smart and understated in Pearl White paint – although I do fear keeping it clean will be a challenge when winter starts to bite.
It’s clearly a big car, but carries its size well, while our KX-3’s 18-inch wheels look classier than the entry-level KX-1’s 17s.
Inside, our model – which is one level down from flagship KX-4 – provides an array of equipment in a plush, spacious environment. Among the highlights are a panoramic sunroof – which really helps to create an airy feel despite the sombre black colour scheme – a smart tailgate, which lifts and closes at the touch of a button on the key fob, and an eight-inch touchscreen sat-nav, which has European mapping.
I was particularly impressed with the nav on a recent trip from London to a part of rural Cheshire I’m not familiar with. It was simple to use, with really clear mapping, and especially helpful on motorways, where it showed which lane to be in and which junction to take well in advance of any necessary manoeuvres.
The car performed competently on the road, too. The 197bhp 2.2-litre diesel isn’t the quietest engine we’ve encountered – at low speeds in particular there’s a constant soundtrack that stops short of being irritating, but you’d rather not hear.
Yet it provides plenty of torque and the Sorento easily feels capable of its claimed 0-60mph time of 9.6 seconds. Once off the motorway, there’s predictable roll in corners – a reminder that this is a big SUV with eyes on the US market rather than here.
And there’s no denying the Sorento’s size. It’s longer and wider than its predecessor, but that has real benefits inside. The middle row has plenty of space for the child seats of my daughters Erin (3) and Isla (6), while bootspace of 605 litres with the rearmost seats down will be more than adequate for most families. We haven’t used the Sorento in full seven-seat mode yet, but I’ll let you know how it fares here in a future report.
One early issue we’ve encountered is a possible security flaw that means the spare wheel, mounted under the car, is at risk of theft. Our car went back for a fix, and owners will be offered this additional security measure at a cost that’s still to be determined. However, it’s failed to take the shine off a car that’s made a positive start to life on our fleet.
*Insurance quote from AA (0800 107 0680) for a 42-year-old living in Banbury, Oxon, with three penalty points.