The Sorento is built mainly for North America. Its size is a bit of a giveaway, really. But Europe is also an important market for the Korean brand and the previous Sorento was long overdue its retirement.
The new model gives a fresh face to the once-dowdy seven-seater, but the look is a little tame for Europe. Its rounded edges and simple lines are obviously tailored more to American tastes than some of Kia’s smaller cars.
It’s certainly not a car with a history of wild sales figures in the UK. It has plodded along in the background on the turf of British favourites like the Land Rover Discovery. Not so much anymore, though - the new Sorento means business.
A car of this size is never going to be a rocket ship, and it isn’t. A 0-62mph sprint in almost 10 seconds is ample rather than exciting, but there’s good mid-range torque from the 2.2-litre diesel. It’s the same basic engine as before, but with updates to various components to reduce weight and improve efficiency.
Kia has engineered as many of the active parts of the driving experience to be as vanilla as possible. Neither the steering, gear shift or engine feedback are likely to stay in your memory, but nor do they demand any effort. The engine gets a little rowdy under acceleration and at low speed, but it’s hardly a deal-breaker.
The Sorento is a laid-back drive and the automatic better suits its character. At £1,700 it does take away a few miles per gallon, though. It also adds £25 in annual road tax, so it’s not the budget-friendly choice.
The four-wheel drive system has little impact on performance. This is because it’s a part-time system that only engages the rear wheels when it absolutely has to. And the traction control system tends to cut in before there’s any meaningful drive from the rear wheels. Lower tyre wear should bear this out.
Ride and handling
Comfort was clearly a priority for the Sorento’s design and engineering team. It rides well, the impression of which is helped by big, comfortable seats. Everything works in harmony to dissuade you from any sort of high-speed antics. Instead, you’re encouraged you to take a more relaxed approach.
The suspension can thud over sharper bumps, but the same could be said for most of the car’s rivals. Where it’s best to avoid bumps is mid-corner. Here, the normally well-hidden weight makes itself felt with what feel like sideways ‘hops’ at the front wheels.
It makes a superb cruiser, though, with road and wind noise well suppressed. That lazy style is what it’s best at, but be aware that motorway fuel economy suffers if you’ve a heavy foot.
Space and practicality are real strong points for the car. It really fills its space on the road with a broad body and a shape that’s boxier than it looks. As such, there’s loads of headroom and legroom.
The middle row splits into three separate seats that fold and recline independently. Five adults should be comfortable, with seven adults genuinely possible. A raised floor at the very back means the people with the shortest legs should go in the third row.
With all seats in place there’s not much boot space - enough for a medium-sized suitcase plus a few small bags. Although the middle row of seats doesn’t fold quite flat there are van-like dimensions available for the occasional house move. The third seat row has its own cup holders and storage compartments, which is a nice bonus.
Most owners are likely to use it as a five-seater for most of the time. There's a huge amount of space to play with when the rear seats are put away. On top of that, there’s a hidden compartment beneath the boot floor.
What to know before you buy
Customers so far have been over the moon with their Sorentos. Independent reviews site Revoo lists an overall 9/10 for the car. The standard warranty is three years and unlimited miles, or seven years at up to 100,000 miles. No one in the industry offers a longer warranty.
It placed higher than average in the most recent Driver Power survey, at 32nd out of 150 cars. The survey put the Sorento a lowly 100th for reliability - it’s a good job there’s that long warranty.
The engine and running gear are tried and tested. They’ve changed little from their old lives in the previous model, so at least they should offer little complaint.
Depreciation is expected to hit the car hard, as it does with all big mainstream SUVs. At three years old with 30,000 miles covered, the auto-only KX-4 is expected to lose almost £25,000 of its initial value. That figure drops to just under £16,000 for the base model, though.
What are the alternatives?
The Sorento’s sister car is the Hyundai Santa Fe. It’s an older model but the two brands’ parent company sees Hyundai as the more premium option. It’s certainly very refined and comfortable, but in its feel and behaviour on the road shares a lot with the Kia.
The notable difference is that despite both cars running four-wheel drive, the Santa Fe is more of an MPV in style. On the other hand,, the Sorento’s SUV angle is perhaps more… ‘on trend.’
Land Rover’s Discovery Sport is a cracking alternative, too. It has a clever rear-suspension system that allows for more compact exterior dimensions while still cramming-in seven seats and four-wheel drive. It’s more capable off-road than the Kia or the Hyundai and is full of technology. Next to the Kia, however, it looks very expensive.
This Sorento represents a huge step forward from the last one. It’s a shame that real-world fuel economy isn’t better, but, as the saying goes, you can’t have everything.
Quality is much-improved in most places. There’s a tempting list of equipment even on the cheapest version and it makes an undeniably brilliant long-distance car.
The inoffensive looks, comfortable seats and long warranty are probably persuasive enough for most parents.