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First Drive

First Drive: Kia Sorento 2.2 CRDi KX-1 5dr

£26,760 when new
Published: 20 Jan 2015


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What's that?

Kia's new flagship seven-seat SUV. But, more importantly, the car the Korean firm wants to propel them from being known as purveyors of reasonably priced cars into something a bit more premium.

Premium? Kia? Aren't those two words mutually exclusive?

True, the old Sorento was cheap, bland and noisy that - thanks to its monstrous towing capacity - was only really good for country folk who needed a cheap way to pull Seabiscuit's horsebox around.

But this new third-gen Sorento has had the largest overhaul to date which brings it in line - if not above - its now agreeably good family members like the Sportage and the C-Apostrophe-D.

What have they done to it?

Firstly, made it bigger. Bucking the trend for downsizing, Kia has taken the old Sorento's underpinnings and stretched them. The wheelbase has been lengthened by 80mm, extending the car's overall length by 95mm to 4780mm. Its also got more girth and sits a little lower to the ground. Which, when combined with Peter Schreyer's latest, more striking design, gives the car added road presence.

The growth spurt has also allowed more area inside to be chiseled out for people/things. Compared to the old model, there's more head and legroom across all three rows. And as the second row of seats now dive into the floor when folded, there's a wardrobe-swallowing 1,732-litre, 2.0 x 1.4 metre loading space in the back. With the second row of seats up, that space decreases to 605 litres - still an 80 litre gain over the old model.

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It looks a bit more grown up on the outside, what's it like on the inside?

This is where the engineers and designers have been putting their hard work in. The new wraparound dash and centre console design is a lot more ergonomic and aesthetically pleasing than its predecessor's. However, we found it could do with a few more useful cubbyholes.

There'll be four spec levels available in the UK when it's launched this spring. Lower variants get a smaller seven-inch sat nav and a different dial cluster that looks more at home in a city car than a big SUV. Meanwhile higher spec models are better finished and more on point with where Kia wants to position the car.

Overall the cabin is a marked improvement on Kias of old and now won't be something for your snobbish mates to instantly turn their noses up at. But with rubbery faux-leather soft-touch plastics and poor placement of other scratchy plastics around the gearlever and other touch points, it's by no means something that'll have BMW and Audi engineers prescribing themselves Xanex.

How does it drive?

We'll only be getting a four-cylinder 2.2-litre diesel engine in the UK. The 197bhp and 325lb ft of torque it develops is fed mainly to the front wheels, but in times of need the rear ones come in to play. There's the option to lock the centre diff to give a permanent 50/50 power split, but don't get your hopes up about this being a confidence-inspiring off-roader.

The diesel engine is refined at low speeds but the secret is to ride the torque that hides away at low revs. Winding the engine out results in things getting clattery, but other vibrations and noises are well-muted thanks to the welcome addition of extra bodywork insulation.

Weighing in at nearly two tonnes, the Sorento rides surprisingly well thanks to renovation work on the independent suspension. The MacPherson struts at the front and multi-link system at the back have been modified to house larger bushings and shock absorbers to smooth out the ride - something the longer wheelbase helps with, too.

Kia's electric power steering has been moved from the steering column, directly onto the rack, but it's still too light and numb. However, the chassis itself is better, and turn-in is much improved.

Not that it really matters in a land tanker like this, but if you do have to get from 0-62mph quickly, it'll take nine seconds dead when equipped with a manual ‘box, or 9.6 seconds if fitted with the auto.

How much does it cost?

Unfortunately, we don't know yet as UK pricing and specs haven't been finalised. But one thing we do know is that it'll be more than the old one. We're told to expect some change out of £30 grand for a base spec model but we wouldn't be surprised if top spec ones head over the forty-grand mark.

Over £40,000 for a Kia?

Yes, it's steep. But on top spec models Kia will throw in more tech and acronym-happy safety kit than we've ever seen on anything previously. There's adaptive cruise control, lane departure warnings, blind spot detectors, traffic sign recognition, a massive one-piece panoramic sunroof, 360-degree cameras and self-parking to name a few.

But with its more accomplished looks, all that new tech, plus the better driving dynamics and improved interior, if there's ever a Kia to justify that cost, it's this one.

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