Kia Sorento SUV review
"The big Kia Sorento is a versatile SUV that's nipping at the heels of premium rivals"
- Excellent practicality
- New petrol hybrid
- Upmarket interior
- High CO2 emissions
- Expensive top trims
The Kia Sorento is a large SUV that's gained a solid reputation for practicality, reliability and towing ability. It has moved increasingly upmarket and has never felt more like a viable alternative to more expensive European rivals than it does now. Two hybrid options are new for the latest model and we awarded the Sorento our Carbuyer Car of The Year for 2021.
Models like the Nissan X-Trail and Skoda Kodiaq are close rivals, but the Sorento is priced above them, and in flagship '4' trim in particular, the Volvo XC90 and Land Rover Discovery Sport are also in its sights. That’s even more true now a plug-in hybrid Sorento has arrived, thanks to growing interest in big SUVs with a smaller carbon footprint. The Sorento is mechanically similar to the Hyundai Santa Fe.
Sitting on an all-new platform, the Sorento is 10mm longer than before and has more angular looks. The front grille now has a chrome border that extends beyond the narrow LED headlights, giving it a tough, aggressive look. At the rear, the lights have been swapped for vertical units inspired by the larger Kia Telluride SUV sold in America.
A longer wheelbase (the distance between the front and rear wheels) means the practical Sorento now offers even more space, and there's even just enough room for adults in the third row on short trips. Unlike some rivals, seven seats come as standard - even on the hybrids, which is rare - and every version of the Sorento gets more than 600 litres of boot space with the five seats in their upright positions.
It might look striking from the outside but the Sorento delivers an upmarket experience inside too. A large digital instrument panel comes as standard, and flows into the centre display in Mercedes-style. This has allowed for a narrow fascia with ambient mood lighting and stylish air vents for a modern look, although their silver surrounds are plastic and do look slightly cheap. Elsewhere, lashings of soft-touch materials and leather upholstery make the Sorento's hefty price tag look like good value.
Trim levels are '2', '3' and '4', although you’re limited to the mid-range option if you need a diesel engine. Every trim can come with either of the hybrid powertrains, and even the entry-level '2' grade gets LED lighting, 17-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control, a 12.3-inch driver's display, an eight-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The '3' trim brings upgrades the central screen to 10.25 inches and the wheels to 19 inches, as well as adding ambient interior lighting, a powered tailgate and leather upholstery - we think this is probably the one to go for.
The range-topping '4' trim includes Nappa leather ventilated seats, a black headlining, a head-up display and a 12-speaker Bose stereo system. It's also fitted with a panoramic sunroof with tilt and slide, along with an electric roller blind.
The Sorento is available with a hybrid setup based around a 1.6-litre turbo petrol engine, an electric motor and a small battery pack. In total it produces 226bhp and gets the Sorento from 0-60mph in just under nine seconds, with fuel economy of 40.9mpg on 17-inch wheels - an impressive figure for a petrol-powered seven-seat SUV. It can also tow up to a 1,650kg braked trailer, which is enough for most caravans, but far less than the diesel can manage. The 2.2-litre diesel is offered in '3' trim, with a new eight-speed automatic transmission and four-wheel drive. It can get to 60mph from rest in 9.1 seconds, return up to 42.2mpg and tow up to 2,500kg.
Adapted from the previous generation, the diesel is a good fit for the heavy Sorento. It's quiet, with no clatter even when idling, and plenty of punch to get the two-tonne SUV up to speed. The hybrid powertrain is plenty quick enough for a large SUV, and will run in EV mode for short distances if you are gentle with the throttle pedal.
Early 2021 saw the introduction of the Sorento plug-in hybrid, which is powered by the same 1.6-litre petrol engine as the hybrid but with a more potent electric motor and a larger battery. This results in an increased power output of 261bhp, decent pulling power off the line and 0-60mph in 8.4 seconds. Its powertrain is the most economical in the Sorento range too, officially managing 35 miles of electric range and fuel economy of over 170mpg.
While Kia has made the Sorento's suspension firmer than it was for the old model, the change has minimal impact on ride quality. Refinement is excellent on the move, with the suspension capable of smoothing out most road imperfections. Despite the car’s two-tonne weight, body control is excellent.