The Kia Sorento is a large, all-wheel-drive SUV that costs from just under £30,000 to a little over £40,000. Those are serious numbers for a Kia, but in the big car's favour are its seven seats, high standard specification and industry-leading seven-year warranty.
Its closets rivals are SUVs such as the Hyundai Santa Fe and Land Rover Discovery Sport, both available with seven seats. But if people-carrying is your primary consideration, the Sorento can also be compared to seven-seat MPVs such as the Ford Galaxy and Volkswagen Sharan. To help strengthen its case, the Sorento has a distinctive, chrome grille that reflects Kia's ‘corporate look’, while its interior looks and feels better made than before.
Just one engine is offered: an updated version of the 197bhp 2.2-litre diesel that powered the previous-generation Sorento. Additional sound deadening inside the cabin helps to keep the engine quiet and contributes to the Sorento's excellent refinement. The engine is easily powerful to haul a fully loaded car with seven people on board. Meanwhile, four-wheel drive means the Sorento is a good tow car, too. The downside to having a four-wheel-drive system is that fuel economy suffers.
The big Sorento is neither as agile nor as fun to drive as the Nissan X-Trail (which is also available with seven seats), but a choice of three driving modes – Eco, Sport and Normal – helps to sharpen things up. Body lean in corners is kept well in check, but the Sorento's forte is long-distance touring, thanks to its powerful engine and overall refinement.
Not surprisingly given its size, the Sorento is a spacious car inside, with lots of head and legroom. But the third-row seats are suitable only for children. Fold down the second and third rows and you have almost as much storage space as a van.
There are four trim levels, ranging from KX-1 to KX-4. Even the basic KX-1 has alloy wheels, air-conditioning, electric windows all round and roof rails. However, our pick of the range is the KX-2, which adds welcome extras such as dual-zone air-conditioning, satellite navigation and a reversing camera – especially useful for such a large car. The remaining trims are too expensive and likely to depreciate too much to be worthwhile.
The Sorento should be reliable enough, since it shares many of its major components, including the engine and gearbox, with its tried-and-trusted forebear. Any lingering doubts should be put to sleep by the car's long seven-year warranty. The model scored the full five stars when it was crash-tested by Euro NCAP and has an impressive list of safety equipment including Vehicle Stability Management, which keeps it stable in corners and when braking.