Image, technology and quality were not selling points motorists immediately associated with the Kia brand when it reached our shores back in 1991 – but the transformation since then has been nothing short of remarkable. And this new fourth-generation Sorento is all the proof you’ll need.
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THIS LOOKS INTERESTING – AND DIFFERENT
The Sorento melds Kia’s familiar design language with some less well-known cues that are sure to get people talking. At the front is a heavily upscaled version of the trademark ‘tiger nose’ grille, while at the back you find vertical wraparound LED taillamps inspired by the Telluride – a flagship SUV that is sold exclusively in the USA. This is a chunky, muscular family car whose bodywork is a mix of bold, sharp creases and smoothed edges. Prices for entry-level ‘2’ spec start at £38,845, but most buyers are tipped to move up to ‘3’ as it adds 19-inch alloys, privacy glass and LED headlights. Push the boat out and buy a ‘4’ – like the one on test here – and a panoramic sunroof is the major difference. In terms of grandeur, Kia feels this 7-seater can be viewed as a serious alternative to Land Rover’s Discovery Sport and a clear winner against the Skoda Kodiaq and the Peugeot 5008.
IT ALSO LOOKS PRETTY BIG
There is no arguing with that. Sitting on an all-new platform, the Sorento is 10mm longer than its predecessor. Granted, that doesn’t sound a lot, but the important gains have been made with the wheelbase – the space between the front and rear wheels which, incidentally, all help send power to the road. Engineers have injected an extra 35mm between rows one and two to make the middle row incredibly accommodating. This also allows the chairs behind the driver and front passenger seat to slide 45mm further forward to a) create a much wider point of entry to the two collapsible seats in the boot and b) free up more leg space when these are occupied. Access to the final row is easy thanks to a flat ledge for your foot, and a grab handle on each of the c-pillars.
THE CABIN IS ACCOMMODATING, THEN?
From a practicality point of view there are few areas the Sorento can be marked down. A wider body (+10mm) and marginally higher roofline (+5mm) makes for head and shoulder room that is as generous as any large family car on the market right now. Convenience also matters hence USB ports for every passenger and eight cup holders, while those needing to make use of the ginormous load area can topple the middle row of seats via a button on the two outermost chairs, or via controls in the boot wall. Tap either of these and the 813-litre boot in hybrid models shoots up to around 2,000-litres. The panoramic sunroof is a big bonus, too, especially if you plan to utilise the Sorento’s cruising ability as this allows the cabin to be bathed in natural light for an even greater sense of airiness.
WHAT ABOUT TECHNOLOGY?
This is an area where Kia is leading the way. You only need to look at the Ceed, Soul and Niro to have high expectations when it comes to the Sorento and it doesn’t disappoint, particularly in ‘3’ and ‘4’ as both feature a slick 12.3-inch instrument binnacle and a 10.25-inch multimedia display for the stepped dashboard. Their integration impresses as well, with their proximity to each other creating the illusion of one single, expansive screen. Wireless smartphone charging is standard on ‘3’ and ‘4’, with a head-up display, 12-speaker Bose stereo and a raft of safety gizmos justifying the latter’s higher list price. In pitching the Sorento as a rival to the likes of Audi, Mercedes and BMW, Kia has taken big strides with quality; soft surfaces, silver and gloss black trim finishers, and mood lighting certainly lift this to levels that come close to equalling the Germans brands at their own game. Heated and cooled, the quilted Nappa leather upholstery looks and feels great, too.
TALK ME THROUGH THE ENGINES
A Plug-In Hybrid has now joined the range. A standard hybrid is also available on all Sorento SUVs and takes the form of a 1.6-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine mated to a 59bhp electric motor that is energised by a 1.49kW lithium battery hidden beneath the front seats. A 2.2-litre turbo diesel developing close to 200bhp is also an option but only on the ‘3’. The hybrid set-up has a combined output of 226bhp and 258lb ft of torque and gets a smooth-shifting 6-speed auto. Pootling around town can be achieved on electric power alone and when the engine comes alive for the purpose of progressive acceleration, the transition is barely audible. The Sorento mops up nasty lumps and bumps and despite the extra mass introduced by the battery, handling and body control are good.
PROS & CONS
+ Smart styling inside and out
+ Spacious, user-friendly interior
+ 7-year warranty is unbeatable
– CO2 emissions are high
– Weight impacts economy
– Top trims are expensive
DIGITAL COCKPIT: At 12.3-inches, the driver’s instrument cluster centres around two dials that change depending on the drive mode selected. In ‘4’ trim, the Sorento has a party trick in the form of Blind Spot View Monitor – a safety aid that relies on cameras mounted on the door mirrors to capture real-time images and help prevent potential lane change accidents – or kerbed wheels.
STYLING: The new Sorento is available in entry-level ‘2’, mid-spec ‘3’ and flagship ‘4’ variants, with alloys and LED headlamps standard across the board. The two more expensive models are near identical in appearance as they both get a gloss black grille, rear privacy glass, satin chrome door handles and 19-inch wheels. Panoramic sunroof with open and tilt function is saved for ‘4’ SUVs.
INTERIOR: High list price of the Sorento in ‘4’ specification is offset by Nappa leather upholstery, 10- and 8-way electrically adjustable driver and front passenger seats, a 12-speaker Bose surround sound system, customisable head-up display and a 360-degree ‘Around View Monitor’. 10.25-inch infotainment system comes with sat-nav; ‘Terrain Mode’ is controlled via panel on lower console and offers mud, snow and sand in addition to eco, comfort and sport options.
PRACTICALITY: The second row in the Sorento can slide forwards and backwards and has oceans of space for three adults. When the fold-down chairs in row three are in place they can carry taller passengers, albeit for shorter commutes. When you’re not carrying six people, the 813-litre boot will swallow everything a family can throw at it once the powered tailgate has been raised.
Price: £46,945 (as tested)
Engine: 1.6-litre, 4cyl turbo petrol, one e-motor
Power/torque: 226bhp/258lb ft
Transmission: 6-speed automatic, four-wheel-drive
0-60mph: 8.7 seconds
Top speed: 119mph