Kia is punting out some very smart-looking cars these days, and the Sorento is no different. There’s plenty of visual chunkiness going on, with a big grille, LED-equipped headlamp units and large front foglamps to add to the rugged 4×4 look you get from the jacked-up ride height and beefy bumpers. All models come with alloy wheels, a rear spoiler and roof rails, but if you upgrade from the entry-level trim to KX-2 trim, you get some extra bits of chrome bodywork. KX-3 models also have sparkly xenon headlamps.
The quality on show inside the Sorento’s cabin is seriously impressive
If the Sorento is your first ever experience of a Kia, then you’ll probably wonder how the company ever got lumbered with the unenviable reputation of being a ‘budget brand’. The quality on show inside the Sorento’s cabin is seriously impressive by anyone’s standards, with lush materials, robust assembly and fastidious attention to detail. Granted, the Sorento isn’t a cheap car, but there’s no doubt that, from the inside, it feels worth the money. The simple dashboard layout also makes most of the controls and functions easy to find and use, while the driving position offers loads of adjustment and a good view out.
Even when compared with other large seven-seat SUVs, the Sorento does a cracking job. The middle row of seats has generous head- and legroom, allowing tall passengers to stretch out, and there’s even enough space in the third row to accommodate adults reasonably comfortably. What’s more, there’s still a half-decent amount of boot space with all seven seats in place, and a massive loadspace when you’re travelling five-up. To cap it all, the middle row folds down completely flush when you need to maximise your cargo-carrying capability, meaning there are no steps or slopes in the gargantuan loadbay. Criticisms? Well, the middle row is split 40/20/40, rather than having the three equally-sized individual chairs that the most practical seven-seaters have, but we’re splitting hairs there.
Ride and handling
The Sorento isn’t the most polished car of its type to drive, but it does everything you want it to do with impressive ease. Most importantly, it provides a smooth, comfortable ride at any speed and on any surface. Models with bigger wheels do feel more jittery over pitted urban surfaces than those on smaller wheels, but it’s nothing that ruins the experience. Chuck in the impressive level of refinement, and you have a car that’s very relaxing to drive long distances in. The Sorento doesn’t feel as sharp in the bends as some other big SUVs, but it always feels secure, and the steering is accurate and progressively weighted.
It’s not short of grunt, and this grunt is delivered from low revs and across a wide portion of the rev range
There’s just one engine available in the Sorento, a 2.2-litre four-cylinder diesel. With 197bhp and 325lb ft of torque, it’s not short of grunt, and this grunt is delivered from low revs and across a wide portion of the rev range, making it an impressively flexible companion. You rarely have to work it hard, or chop around unnecessarily on the six-speed manual gearbox, to make decent progress. The Sorento is also available with a six-speed automatic ‘box, but we haven’t had a chance to try it yet.
If you’re expecting the Sorento to be a cheap option, then don’t; it’s very similar in price to many other big seven-seat SUVs. That said, it comes with a lot more standard kit than most, so it’s still really good value for money. Resale values shouldn’t be too ruinous, either. The best fuel economy you can expect to get stands just shy of 50mpg, but if you go for a version with bigger wheels or an automatic gearbox, that can drop as low as 42mpg. The same trend occurs with CO2 emissions, with figures of 149g/km at best and 177g/km at worst. That puts it there-or-thereabouts with its rivals for efficiency.
Look at surveys like the Warranty Direct Reliability Index, and you’ll see that Kia’s products do a solid – if not mind-blowing – job of proving dependable. The brand currently ranks mid-table in the study’s manufacturer rankings. As an individual model, however, the Sorento (in previous generations) has been one of Kia’s weakest performers, with a very mediocre score. That said, there’s no arguing with the company’s generous seven-year/100,000-mile warranty.
These days, it’s getting rarer for cars to have a different amount of safety kit depending on which trim you go for, but that’s the case with the Sorento. All models come with the basics, including stability control, six airbags and active front headrests, but you have to upgrade to third-rung KX-3 trim if you want lane-departure warning and a speed-limit information function. KX-4 trim adds blind-spot detection and cross-traffic alert to the roster. No matter which grade you choose, the Sorento isn’t available with the autonomous braking function that’s becoming more and more commonplace. Nevertheless, the car has received the full five-star rating in Euro NCAP crash tests.
The Sorento comes in four flavours. The most basic KX-1 model still comes with plenty of kit, including cornering foglamps, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, four powered windows, cruise control, reversing sensors and air-conditioning. We reckon it’s worth the upgrade to KX-2 trim for its automatic lights and wipers, climate control, leather upholstery, sat-nav and reversing camera. Pricier KX-3 models add a panoramic sunroof, a powered driver’s seat, keyless entry, a powered tailgate and an upgraded sound system, while KX-4 models come fully tooled-up, with a powered passenger seat, ventilated front seats, adaptive cruise control, 360-degree cameras and a self-parking function.
Because you want as much space, practicality and equipment as you can get for your money, and you don’t want to compromise on style or quality in order to get it. If that’s you, then the Kia Sorento is one of your best options