In-depth reviews

Kia Sorento review - Engines, performance and drive

The Sorento serves up a tidy driving experience through a strong and varied engine range, but the ride is on the firm side.

It might be a big all-wheel-drive SUV, but the Kia Sorento offers polished road manners and a surprising turn of pace. It rides on fully independent suspension and has a 35mm-longer wheelbase than the old model, which is intended to improve comfort levels. The ride is on the firm side, especially for a car in this class. The dampers take the edge off, but you still get the odd jarring impact on poorly surfaced B-roads while the most severe speed bumps demand to be taken gently.

The flip side of this relatively unforgiving suspension is better body control than you expect through corners as well as a resistance to the floating feeling over undulations in the carriageway. For a seven-seat SUV, the Sorento feels composed and capable on twisty roads, and settled and smooth on well surfaced carriageways; the self-levelling rear suspension on the higher-spec cars helps maintain this where there’s a lot of weight on board. The steering does feel a little remote, with no feedback keeping you in touch with the front wheels, but the overall driving experience is well up to scratch for this sector.

The on-road aspect isn’t the full extent of the Sorento’s driving experience, either. All models have four-wheel drive, and for this generation Kia introduced its Terrain Mode function, which is essentially a set of driving modes that alter various parameters of the car’s set-up according to the terrain under the tyres. Land Rover’s Terrain Response system was clearly the inspiration. 

The driver can select Mud, Snow and Sand modes, as well as introduce bespoke settings for the gearbox, ESC stability control and 4x4 system that are optimised for the different conditions. There are no locking differentials or low-range gearboxes, so don’t think of the Sorento as an extreme off-roader, but it should have enough muscle and grip to get you out of a muddy car park or up a snowy mountain road to a ski resort, should the need arise. 

Engines, 0-60 acceleration and top speed

The Sorento engine line-up is a sign of the times, in that diesel takes a back seat to electrified options. There’s a single diesel engine, Kia’s 2.2-litre CRDi unit that comes with an eight-speed dual-clutch gearbox. It’s the least powerful option in the range, with 199bhp and 440Nm of torque. The engine has an aluminium block, making it 19.5kg lighter than the cast-iron block version that was the mainstay of the Mk3 Sorento range. The 0-60mph sprint takes 9.1 second, which is hardly slow for a large SUV, and it manages the Sorento’s highest top speed of 127mph.

The Sorento Hybrid has a 1.6-litre T-GDi turbocharged petrol engine, six-speed automatic gearbox and 1.49kWh battery pack feeding a 59bhp electric motor for a combined output of 226bhp and 350Nm of torque. Performance takes a step up here, with 0-60mph done in 8.7 seconds.

Finally, the plug-in hybrid Sorento PHEV has the same engine and gearbox combo as the Hybrid, but the battery is 13.8kWh and the electric motor offers a 90bhp boost. That makes for a 261bhp combined output that’s 15 per cent up on the Hybrid’s with the same 350Nm of torque. The 0-60mph dash takes a lively 8.4 seconds and the top speed is 119mph. 

The hybrid engine option seems like the one to choose for buyers who aren’t bothered about accessing the substantial company car tax breaks that come with the plug-in hybrid, and who also don’t need the diesel’s muscle. Its powertrain is smooth and refined unless you push it hard, yet is also punchy with the electrical assistance at low speeds. The PHEV is all but silent in EV mode, but can be slow to respond when you put your foot down as the system works out which power source to use. There’s also a tendency for the petrol engine to cut in and out when you’re at a standstill.

The diesel would have been the default choice for a big SUV a few years ago and its strength will still make it the preferred option for those who plan on making their Sorento work hard on towing or light off-roading duties. It’s a smooth unit that eases the power on in a gentle fashion, and it only gets loud at the top end of the rev range. The eight-speed gearbox works very well, its changes all but imperceptible most of the time, making the diesel Sorento a convincing package.

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