Lovely cabin, loads of kit, huge warranty, hybrid economy
No more than okay to drive, diesel-powered rivals are better value
What is it?
This is an SUV for people who make full use of one. It's got loads of room for seven, four-wheel drive and strong towing ability. On every model.
News, though. This one is a car people might actually want, not just need. They've chucked the kitchen sink at the interior's design and finish and technology. As for the outside, a big grille, twinkly lights and the occasional chrome flash will all help you recognise it in the car park.
It uses an all-new platform, which cleverly jiggles the people and mechanical bits to fit more in. Extra legroom, specifically, plus space for batteries. Among the launch powertrains is a hybrid version. A plug-in, with a bigger battery, will follow in a few months.
The new hybrid powertrain consists of a 1.6-litre turbo petrol engine, a six-speed automatic transmission and an electric motor sandwiched between. A conventional propshaft drives the rear wheels. That's very different from the Toyota/Lexus hybrid crossovers, which have a naturally aspirated engine, dual-motor epicyclic drive and an electric rear axle.
There's also a diesel, for people who need to do a lot of towing: it'll pull a 2,500kg braked trailer. For comparison, the hybrid will do 1,650kg, which is still enough for your racing Caterham and trailer if your driving licence covers it.
For off-roady stuff, as with any other crossover the tyres will likely limit you. That said, the Sorento does have modes: snow, mud, sand. They make sure the torque is evenly distributed and differently amend the throttle aggression, gearshift points and ESP thresholds.
Our choice from the range
What's the verdict?
The Sorento sure is useful. It'll haul lots of people and stuff all about the place, but it's not clumsily big. The cabin's not just super-practical. It's also designed and made with great craft, and feels expensive.
It's a sign of Kia's confidence that the sticker prices nudge up against a VW Tiguan Allspace and Land Rover Disco Sport. Those cars are equally as useful and luxurious and better to drive. As diesels, they're probably a more traditional, desirable place to go than here.
Even so, the Sorento is unique among seven-seaters in offering a hybrid powertrain that's as economical as a diesel with no need to plug in. And the warranty shows its reliability.