The new Kia Sorento is the sister car to the talented Hyundai Sante Fe, so immediately gets off to a good start. The exterior styling is bold but unfussy and designed to add an air of sophistication to the Kia range, while the attractive, high-quality interior moves it to within touching distance of more premium brands, such as VW.
In the UK it’s available with seven usable seats as standard and only one engine – a 197bhp 2.2-litre diesel engine fitted with a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic gearbox. Refinement is improved noticeably over its predecessor and the handling is sure-footed, but go for the 19-inch wheels on top-spec KX-4 models and the ride comfort suffers on poor surfaces.
The third row of seats fold flush into the boot floor, while the second row also folds flat by pulling a handle in the boot and can slide back and forth to accommodate larger passengers in the third row.
Our choice: Kia Sorento 2.2 CRDi auto
Penned at Kia’s new studio in Namyang, Korea, the Sorento is designed to appeal to customers in Europe, Asia and America so the play-it-safe styling is understandable.
However, with its smooth, uncluttered surfaces and simple shapes for the grille, front intakes, headlights and taillights, the Sorento has an aura of sophistication that’s new for the Kia brand. We particularly like the 3D honeycomb effect on the grille, first seen on the 2013 Kia Cross GT concept.
It’s on the inside, though, where Kia has taken the greatest strides; The large central screen, surrounded by brushed aluminium-effect plastic, looks suitably upmarket, while the buttons are arranged in two neat rows and make the Hyundai Santa Fe seem cluttered by comparison.
The Sorento is the first Kia to be passed for production by Kia’s new dedicated quality control centre in Korea, and it shows. The soft-touch dash, matt black and gloss plastic finishes are a marked improvement over its predecessor.
Choosing a Sorento couldn’t be easier, only one engine is available to UK customers – a development of the previous model’s 2.2-litre CRDi diesel, but now with 197bhp and 441Nm of torque, that’s 6bhp and 19Nm more than before.
Go for a lower trim and a six-speed manual is standard, with a six-speed auto as a £1,500 option, but on the higher trim levels the auto is standard. It’s worth shelling out for the self-shifter though, it slides seamlessly through the gears and makes the whole driving experience more relaxed and grown up.
Thanks to extra insulation in the engine bay and wheel arches, plus door larger doors that now stretch over the sills, engine and road noise is much better insulated. Unless you rev the engine to the redline, at which point it starts to sound coarse, it buzzes away in the background and deliver a good slug of torque in the mid-range. As a result, the Sorento feels faster than its 0-62mph time of 9.6 seconds suggests.
The electromechanical steering is overly light and offers little feedback, but there’s nothing wrong with the way the Sorento grips in the corners and body control is good for such a large car. The slight trade-off is that on the larger wheels fitted to top-spec cars the ride is too firm over broken road surfaces.
Three driving modes are available –Eco, Normal and Sport – with the only major difference being sharper throttle response as you dial through the three settings.
Kia has a growing reputation for reliability and with no major recalls affecting the previous-generation Sorento, it’s safe to assume the new model will offer a hassle-free ownership experience.
The engine and gearbox, although modified for the new car, is proven technology, too. When it comes to safety, the Sorento gets off to a great start thanks to a bodyshell that’s 14 per cent more rigid than its predecessor. That’s thanks to the use of twice as much ultra high tensile steel in the construction, which has been used to reinforce the wheel arches, tailgate surround and rear wheel surround.
A host of new safety systems are available, too, including a road sign detection camera – that displays the speed limit and other important signs in the instrument cluster. There’s also a lane departure warning system, a self-parking function, and adaptive cruise control.
Offering all the functionality of a seven-seater MPV but in a more attractive SUV body shape, family cars don’t get much more practical than the Sorento. The seven seats, arranged in a 2+3+2 configuration, can be configured in a variety of ways. With the third row in place there’s 142 litres of boot space, but when not needed they fold flush into the boot floor at the tug of a cord.
That frees up a more useful 605 litres of space behind the second row, which can slide back and forth with a 60:40 split. Fold the second row down via two levers in the side of the boot, and that opens up a massive 1,662 litres of space – 18 litres less than the Hyundai Santa Fe, but easily big enough for carrying most large objects.
The cabin is dotted with useful features, such as two deep storage bins and two cupholders in the front, plus a USB charging point for passengers in the second row. The Sorento measures 95mm longer, 5mm wider and 15mm lower (with a 80mm longer wheelbase) than its predecessor – but lower mounted seats means there’s more headroom as well as more legroom than before.
An optional panoramic roof is well worth considering as it floods the cabin with light and adds to the sense of spaciousness.
Kia’s ethos is all about keeping running costs as low as possible, so the Sorento should be friendly on the wallet once you drive away from the showroom. Fuel economy and CO2 emissions are yet to be confirmed, but Kia claims they won’t be any higher than its predecessor.
That means 42.2mpg and 175g/km of CO2 for the automatic version, while the manual version should be slightly more efficient at around 47.9mpg and 155g/km. Kia’s industry-leading seven-year, 100,000–mile warranty offers peace of mind, while a range of ‘Kia Care’ packages offer fixed-price servicing for three or five years, and you can even spread the cost of servicing with a monthly payment plan.
As the flagship of the Kia range however, the Sorento is the most expensive model in the line-up with top-spec KX-4 models coming in at close to £40,000 before adding any options.
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