Space, packaging, utility, warranty, AWD; a proper all-rounder
PHEV could do with more electric range, not the most dynamic, HEV not as efficient as it could be, it's £50k
What is it?
This is the fourth generation of the venerable Kia Sorento, though to spoil the ending somewhat, by far the best. The basics are that it’s a seven-seat, all-wheel drive SUV that comes with a choice of powertrains; so you can have a basic diesel, a hybrid or plug-in hybrid (both petrols), walking up the expense as you go.
Emissions can be as low as 38g/km for the PHEV, all engines meet Euro 6 emissions standards and they’re all powerful enough; this is Kia’s biggest UK vehicle before the EV9 arrives after all. Though obviously the PHEV is a bit pokier.
Proper seven-seater? Not five and two torsos?
Nope. This is a properly spacious SUV that can actually fit real people. The boot is huge and a useful shape in five-person mode - the rear two seats fold neatly into the floor, and pop up with a couple of pulls and pushes - and the middle seats slide about when you need to give second-row passengers some knee room.
There are cupholders, air-con and USBs for the third row as well, which means if you’ve got a dog in the back on a hot day, you can keep them comfortable as well. With the air-con, dogs don’t use USBs.
It actually looks pretty good. Confusion.
Yep. Long gone are the days when Kias looked like they were styled with modelling clay and a too-close heatlamp. The Sorento might have an old and slightly fusty name, but it looks keen, with properly linear design and some nice details. The ‘Edition’ versions get some lovely dark exterior detailing, and the only thing that you could really point out is that the hybrid and PHEV versions get slightly small 19-inch wheels to aid efficiency. The diesel gets 20s that look nicer.
The same goes for the inside: 10.25-inch touchscreen, modern, logical and well-built, the Sorento feels like it’ll stand up to some abuse, but doesn’t feel cheap. There’s even a lovely stereo, and it’s comfortable on long drives, for all passengers. A few too many ADAS bongs, but at least you can turn them off easily enough with a press of a button.
Does it drive like a school bus though?
Absolutely not. Though this is still a big SUV, so don’t expect miracles. It’s long-legged and deals with big bumps really nicely, though you trade that comfort for some cornering nous; it needs guiding round a corner rather than flinging. Probably a good thing, come to think of it.
The steering is plenty quick enough, the brakes decent and the general feeling one of calm getting-on-with-the-job. Which is exactly what you want. Even the various gearboxes work well (eight-speed DCT in the diesel, six-speed auto in the others), in that you don’t really notice them. One thing to note is that they all get Kia’s ‘Terrain Mode’ system to go with the all-wheel drive, so there are Mud, Snow and Sand settings.
Not sure how many people are really going to venture too far off-road in a Sorento, but it’s a nice little addition that adds some psychological comfort if the weather/surface has turned interesting.
If you can see your way past the (still) slightly less sexy badge, then this has to be on the shopping list for a family hauler: much more so than a Discovery Sport or Merc GLB. In that context it's a value (ish) proposition, without being cheap-feeling. Worth looking at the Skoda Kodiaq and VW Tiguan AllSpace, too. And the Hyundai Santa Fe.
Our choice from the range
What's the verdict?
The Kia Sorento is a bit of a dark horse in this segment, and it’s not until you spend some time with one that you realise the joy of pure functionality. The fact that it’s wrapped up in a quietly good-looking package is the icing on the cake.
There’s plenty of kit, a robust and well-designed interior (the middle bench has slide, recline and 60:40 split, the fold-flat rear seats can split 50:50), and there’s a very solid seven-year/100k mile warranty to back it up, as well as 12 months of roadside assistance tacked on.
No, it’s not exactly cheap when you start getting into the more efficient powertrain options, but there’s a hell of a lot to like if you want to get all the jobs done with just one family vehicle.