Looks – 9/10
Kia has put a lot of effort into styling, and this has not gone unnoticed. The Sorento is a seriously premium-looking SUV. Up at the front there’s a large, textured grille. The headlights are sleek, and the bumper is angular. This is a tall car, and the bonnet is at head-height for most motorists! At the side there are some delightful two-tone 18-inch alloy wheels, dark privacy glass, lashings of chrome on the door handles and window surround and a sweeping line at the bottom edge. At the back there’s a subtle roof spoiler, a shark-fin aerial and some simplistic lights. The whole car has a well-rounded appearance and looks great wherever you park it.
The biggest improvement of the new Kia range is in the interior quality. I can wholeheartedly say that the interior of the Sorento is fantastic. The dials, finished in red and white, are crisp and a focal point for the driver. In the centre of the dashboard lies a 7-inch touchscreen media system, By having a silver surround incorporating the air vents, this looks bigger and more impressive. The top of the dashboard has a stitched effect, which is a lovely touch. The materials are nice to the touch, and with a mix of the gloss black and silver trim there’s a balance of colour. Throw in the enormous panoramic roof and the whole cabin feels airy and light.
Handling/Performance – 9/10
There’s one choice of engine in the Sorento. It’s a 2.2-litre diesel engine that produces 197PS and 441Nm of torque. This can be sent to all four a variable all-wheel-drive (AWD) system in your choice of a manual or automatic gearbox; both 6-speeds. Bear in mind that this is a 2-tonne piece of machinery, and the 0-62mph time of 9 seconds and top speed of 124mph isn’t too bad. What’s more, the torque figure allows you to make quiet surges. My test car had the manual gearbox, and I found it a great drive. There’s plenty on offer in the golden 2,000-3,000rpm range, and by keeping the car in this range the engine was blissfully smooth and quiet. On the motorway the engine noise is minimal, and in 6th gear you can easily achieve an overtaking burst with a stab of your right toe.
From the high driving position of the Sorento you feel like you’re looking down on your empire. The AWD capability gives a sure-footedness and even in severe rain it’s all just a shrug of the shoulders from the driving seat. You could drive for miles upon miles in complete relaxation, come rain, snow or shine, and that’s the sign of a great SUV. The Sorento gets a variable steering system that lets you choose from normal, comfort of sport. On the new Sorento the electric motor is mounted directly to the steering rack, as opposed to the steering column. This gives sharper steering response as well as being more precise. The suspension copes well with the sharper steering, coping well with the car’s want to lean into the corners. On the motorway the Sorento is soft and relaxing, aided by the plush leather seats.
Economy – 9/10
Despite weighing a mighty 2-tonnes, and having a big diesel engine, the Sorento is good at not using fuel. On my entire week on test the fuel gauge barely moved; I wasn’t sure it was working at one point! The engine has intelligent stop & go (ISG), and the engineers at Kia are working hard to make their cars cleaner. Combined fuel consumption on the manual models is a respectable 46.3mpg, and with CO2 emissions of 161g/km you will pay £180 road tax in the first and subsequent years. I wouldn’t have minded this to be a little bit lower but in the grand scheme, that’s not half bad for a large 7-seat SUV.
Practicality – 10/10
If you couldn’t guess by looking at it, the Sorento is a rather versatile and practical family car. For starters, you get 7-seats. And don’t be thinking that’s achieved by adding some small bench for a third row. Whilst I am only 5ft7in tall, I do qualify as a human adult. And I could sit quite comfortably in the rearmost seats. This is aided by the slide function of the middle row, which enables you to balance the legroom between the middle and rear seats. There’s a USB socket for the middle row, which in the generation of the iPhone is very useful. Even with all seats up there’s still some room for shopping bags. My test car was a KX-3 model, and that means it came very well equipped. Satellite navigation, keyless entry and go, dual-zone climate control, cruise control with limiter, power-adjustable drivers seat and heated front/outer-rear seats are just some of the goodies that come as standard on the KX-3.
Fun – 8/10
As far as all-rounders go, the Kia Sorento is up there for me. This is not a car I would have ever looked at to buy, but after spending a week with it I was very impressed. This is a seriously popular car in America, and I can see the market for its 7-seat practicality here in Britain. This isn’t just a big car for the family though, and there are enough nods to driver focus to make this a fun car. I had as much fun in the Sorento when I was driving on my own, trying to figure out what all the gadgets did, as when it was full of friends and family. One of the most fun things about current Kia’s however is how people react when they see the cars up close. They’re often taken aback with the quality and equipment, and it’s satisfying to see.
So that’s my week with the Kia Sorento. I started out unsure as to its credentials for the UK market, but after spending a fair amount of time with it I envisage that it will be a success. With 7-seat practicality, a refined diesel engine, versatile AWD, comprehensive equipment list and strong kerb appeal, the Sorento is a brilliant family car. Not forgetting the usual Kia 7-year, 100,000-mile warranty for extra peace of mind. Prices for the Sorento start at £28,795 and my KX-3 manual test model, the pick of the bunch in my opinion, comes in at £35,845. I don’t think that’s too bad when you consider the rivals, and the Kia will stand toe-to-toe with any of them. For more information see your local dealer or the Kia website. The new Sorento, epitomising Kia’s drive for quality and style.
Total Score – 45/50