The Sorento has always been styled quite acceptably ever since its first incarnation onwards, but it has perhaps erred predominantly on the utilitarian side. The third generation model heralds an energised boldness from Kia, which not only bestows the car with significantly more presence but also with something that was once lacking – desirability. Having graduated from mainly being a monetarily attractive option for caravan and trailer owners, the new Sorento’s imposing mesh grille, wraparound headlights, enlarged fog lights, ever-present sweeping D-pillar and generally much more sculpted design suddenly makes it appealing to a much wider audience. In Graphite Grey with gorgeous 18” black and chrome alloys, my test car held its head high wherever it went.
Longer and wider than its predecessor, the third generation Kia Sorento is also noticeably lower, the 15mm height reduction translating to a hip point that makes access easier, allowing front occupants to slide as opposed to climb in. Although not ultimately tactile and polished enough to greatly trouble the German premium brands et al, the new Sorento’s interior is a huge improvement, having substantially improved in quality and sophistication. An ensemble of soft-touch, satin-finished and leather-trimmed components, more fastidious sound-proofing and a raft of new or ameliorated technology make the new Sorento’s comfortable cabin a very pleasant place in which to be. As ever, standard equipment is generously provided, the KX-2 version as tested coming complete with privacy glass, de-icing front wipers, self-levelling headlights, Bluetooth, leather upholstery, dual automatic air conditioning, a reversing camera and a 7” touchscreen navigation system. The conventional handbrake was most welcome, too, and space inside was abundant, the new Sorento remaining a true seven-seater 4×4, although boot space is inevitably more limited with the rear-most seats erect. The clever design of the doors stops mud entering the cabin and storage cubbies and device charging sockets are plentifully provided, making the Sorento an even more appealing proposition for families.
The revised 2.2-litre R-type diesel engine feels like an improvement but remains relatively vociferous when fired up, during urban driving and when given the beans. Compared to the old engine, power and torque are up, while emissions and fuel consumption are down, and the new unit is EU6-compliant, incorporating a novel exhaust after-treatment system, DPF and NOx trap. Developing 197bhp and peak torque of 441Nm, the new Sorento is never going to win any straight line records and doesn’t feel especially powerful, but it oozes dependability and performs very well on long motorway runs, proving relatively quiet and returning combined fuel consumption in the mid 40s, which is pretty good for such a large car.
All-wheel drive ability this time comes courtesy of the Sportage’s Dynamax system, which anticipates when additional traction will be required, by continuously monitoring driving conditions. Forty percent of the power can be seamlessly sent to the back wheels, whilst lock mode allows the driver to manually split torque 50:50 between the front and back. In practice, I took the Sorento on a moderate stretch of off-road terrain and it coped very well, giving me the impression that it could go on to cope in considerably more challenging conditions. Those contemplating a new Kia Sorento for towing duties will be interested in the Trailer Stability Assist system and the car’s credentials, namely upto 2,500kg braked, or 750kg unbraked. I was particularly impressed by the Sorento’s seemingly compact turning circle, despite it actually having slightly increased, and the motor-driven power steering proved light and pleasantly agreeable. Combined with nicely-judged gear ratios, the Sorento is an easy SUV to fall for. It’s not intended to be sporty by any stretch of the imagination, but acquits itself relatively well in corners and reassuringly has a 5-star Euro-NCAP safety rating, along with Electronic Stability Control and Vehicle Stability Management.
The KX-2 model I tested sits in band G with emissions of 161g/km and £180 annual road tax. Priced at £31,995, Sorento pricing has slightly increased but so has the kit fitted as standard. A top-of-the-range KX-4 version will set you back £41,757, which sounds like a heck of a lot for a Korean SUV, but once you realise that a similarly-specified German equivalent would amount to around £75,000 upwards, its appeal suddenly hits home. Besides, no other car maker offers a 7-year warranty.
With styling that ticks the desirability box, a whopping, comfortable and much more luxurious interior, impressive road manners and decent off-road ability, the new Kia Sorento is extremely likeable and may indeed scalp some sales from the big cheeses
Photographs © Isabel Carter