"The Kia Sorento is a well-made, feature-packed seven-seater SUV that's practical and comfortable to drive."
The Kia Sorento SUV is very sensible. An excellent all-round choice for large families, you get all-wheel drive, roomy dimensions, seven seats, a practical boot and a powerful 2.2-litre diesel engine that has strong fuel economy, plus a long list of standard equipment – all for a reasonably affordable price. It's also reliable, covered by Kia's market-leading seven-year/100,000-mile manufacturer warranty, which can be transferred to a new buyer if you sell the car on – which really boosts its resale value in the used car market. When out on the road, the Sorento is very stable and feels solid through corners, and is very comfortable for long motorway journeys. It's as good looking as its Kia Sportage stablemate, and while it shares many mechanical parts and running gear with its sister car, the Hyundai Santa Fe, it looks the same as the car it supercedes. As with other Kias, it's also losing its value-for-money edge as improving quality across Kia's entire output means an inevitable rise in prices across the board. This doesn’t mean they disappoint, but Kia is no longer the budget brand of old. You have to turn to Dacia for that.
MPG, running costs & CO2 emissions
You can now only get the Sorento in four-wheel drive, but you do get a choice between a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic gearbox. We’d go for the former, because the latter dramatically increases fuel consumption – the manual returns a claimed average of 47.9mpg, while the automatic returns 42.2mpg, a number you can expect to drop even further when actually on the road. It's also the same for the Sorento's emissions ratings, with the manual emitting 155g/km of CO2, but the automatic pumping out 178g/km. However, that's still not a horrible figure for an SUV, and road tax bills will still be low for this class.
Interior & comfort
With its softly spring suspension and finely tuned set up, the Sorento gives a very comfortable ride, with even the UK's roughest roads not troubling it too much. Inevitably, the price of that comfort is a compromise in handling, and unlike its sister car the Hyundai Santa Fe, the suspension hasn’t been adjusted specifically for the UK's bumpy, winding roads. Even though wind and road noise is well insulated inside the Sorento, the engine gets very loud in the upper limits of its rev range. Luckily, the SUV responds best in the low and middle rev range so you probably won’t have to hear it labouring that often. It's a very quiet engine when you’re cruising along at a constant speed, but hard acceleration gets a bit hard on the ears.
Practicality & boot space
The Sorento is very practical – and now all models come with seven seats. The last row may only be useful for children, but adults can squeeze themselves in there for short journeys. However, it comes as some surprise that a car of these dimensions has limited legroom in the back seats, with adult knees often banging into the cheap-feeling plastic on the back of the front seats. When all seven seats are in place, the boot only offers a tiny 116 litres of luggage space, but fortunately the back seats fold flat really easily, increasing the capacity to 515 litres. Stow away all five rear seats (the second row are split 60:40, while back row is split 50:50) and this figure climbs to a massive 1,530 litres of space. This all adds up to about 15 per cent more space than in the previous model. There are also plenty of storage cubbies dotted around the interior. It's also worth noting that the Sorento is very capable off-road, handling most terrain with ease.
Reliability & safety
Kia certainly has confidence in its cars. Like sister manufacturer Hyundai, Kia shows its belief in its product by offering market-leading warranties. In Kia's case, it's a comprehensive seven-year/100,000-mile warranty that can be transferred to subsequent buyers within the seven-year period. Covering nearly everything that could possibly go wrong, it gives real peace of mind that Kia clearly thinks nothing actually will. Kia ranked 7th in the 2013 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, rising two places, so its reputation is only improving. Also like most other Kias, the Sorento is very safe, securing the maximum five-star rating in the Euro NCAP crash safety tests. All models are equipped with six airbags, electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes, ISOXFIX child seat anchor points, hill-start assist, traction control and brakeforce distribution for better braking control as standard.
Engines, drive & performance
The Sorento only comes with one engine in the UK – a 194bhp 2.2-litre diesel. It's a bit noisy, but all models come with four-wheel drive as standard – with good grip and a comfortable ride. Luckily for Kia, that diesel makes the Sorento feel surprisingly sprightly on the road and can go from 0-62mph in only 9.4 seconds (9.5 seconds with the automatic gearbox, if you’re counting), accelerating up to a top speed of 118mph, which should be plenty of power for most drivers. The ride hasn’t been specifically adjusted for bumpy UK roads and you can tell. There is some body roll when driving round corners, but no worse than other high-riding SUV like the Chevrolet Captiva. Also, the steering is very light and doesn’t give much feedback to the driver, but again, this is a common issue for this kind of car and most of the Sorento's main rivals have similar faults.
Price, value for money & options
The list price of the Sorento, like all Kias, has crept steadily upwards as it systematically improves its cars and reputation. However, the equipment available across the whole range has also increased and very few manufacturers can rival Kia's standard seven-year/100,000-mile warranty. Even the cheapest entry-level KX-1 spec Sorento comes equipped with air-conditioning, 17-inch alloy wheels, Bluetooth connectivity, cruise control and an iPod connection as standard. KX-2 models add self-levelling suspension to improve handling, regardless of whatever load you’re carrying, and leather upholstery. Top-of-the-range KX-3 models are stocked with everything you’ll ever need, including sat-nav, cruise control, heated and ventilated front and rear leather seats, larger alloys and keyless entry. The interior is nicely laid out and easy to use, but it lacks the excitement of rivals like the Hyundai Santa Fe.