Review: Kia Sorento

The Sorento is a spacious off-road vehicle

07 Sep 15 Tim Barnes-Clay


  • Comfortable driving position

  • Great for off-road driving

  • Massive load area


  • Very firm ride

  • Relatively high on CO2 emissions

  • Light steering

Our expert rating

Kia Motors came up with their own sport utility vehicle (SUV) in 2003 - the Kia Sorento. The car is in its third incarnation, the latest model having been launched this year.


There are only two engines on used first generation Sorento models. Available from 2003-2010 in Europe with one petrol and one diesel engine, you have an easy choice to make. Both are good value for money.

The 3.5-litre petrol comes with a liquid-smooth automatic gearbox. It’s a budget buy and nippy, but compared with the oil-burners, it drinks like a fish. That’s why it’s a steal on the secondhand market.

Consequently, and more sensibly in the long-run, the 2.5 turbo diesel is the one to go for. It has lots of low down pull which makes it a decent, potent performer for daily use. It’s also loads more efficient when it comes to swigging fuel.

Kia Sorento engine

Ride and handling

The Sorento’s driving position is commanding and comfortable and offers a good view of the road. However, this is a conventional off-roader, which means it has an independent chassis and tough, pretty unsophisticated, suspension that creates a hard, ill at ease ride.

The Kia Sorento also tilts too much into the bends, even by 4x4 norms, and has nebulous steering. Nevertheless, the pay-off is that it’s a very accomplished off-road, as well as a talented tow car and a pretty hushed cruising machine.

Kia Sorento side

Interior space

The Kia Sorento is a lot of 4x4 for the money. You get a spacious cabin that will fit five adults, and it’s packed with features and safety kit. There’s plenty of storage and a 486-litre boot, which swells to 1849 litres if you fold all the rear seats out of the way.

Basically, that means you’ll have enough space to fit in a couple of pushchairs, baby equipment, and your weekly shopping. All that will be a doddle to transport around, too.

Kia Sorento boot

What to know before you buy

The pure stature of the Sorento makes climbing into the rear seats or packing the boot a bit of an issue. But generally, problems with the Sorento are not that common. It’s a very hardy and dependable 4x4.

Occasionally, minor clatters from the dashboard can crop up and the stereo isn’t particularly loud, but that isn’t exactly a deal breaker.

Do check your intended buy for damage underneath, though. As the Kia is so efficient off-road, the car can sustain knocks and scrapes on any jaunts it has had away from the asphalt.

Similarly, examine the bumpers, alloy wheels and door mirrors for clues of wear and tear.

Also, look along the sides for car park knocks and scrapes. Make certain any recalls have been sorted by checking the car’s service history.

There was one for the potential seizing of the alternator pulley. It will, in all likelihood, have had this sorted, but do check anyway online.

Kia sorento back

Alternative cars

The Kia Sorento is on a par with versions of the Hyundai Santa Fe, Honda's CR-V, Mitsubishi’s Outlander, Nissan's X-Trail, and Toyota's RAV4. The Sorento is much bigger than the Honda CR-V and it also trounces more expensive motors, such as Volvo’s first generation XC90 on its bounteous kit list alone.

Kia sorento alternative cars

Overall verdict

The Sorento is a spacious, very good off-road vehicle, so the Korean-made car is perfect if you live in rural areas. It also happens to be safe for the family, as well as decent value for money.

A used diesel powered Sorento is generally pleasing, capable and thrifty. However, its firm, twitchy ride and woolly steering might put you off. Especially if you are looking for a handsome speed demon, rather than an out and out workhorse.

Expert rating



Space & comfort

Running costs

Value for money