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In-depth reviews

Kia Sorento SUV - Engines, drive & performance

The big Kia has a comfortable, sophisticated feel and a good range of engines

Carbuyer Rating

4.3 out of 5

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Engines, drive & performance Rating

4.0 out of 5

The latest Sorento’s platform was designed to be 10mm longer than before, with more space between the front and rear wheels. This longer wheelbase makes the Sorento feel even more stable to drive, and Kia has also improved the way it steers. We’re happy to report that the facelifted car we drove in the US felt much the same as before from behind the wheel.

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While we reserve full judgment of the Sorento’s ride quality for when we test the facelifted version on UK roads, our test car across the pond felt slightly improved in this respect – over some bumpy and less-than-perfect tarmac, we found the Sorento smoothed these imperfections out a little better than before. It felt relaxing, comfortable and composed.

Our test car was also fitted with a 2.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine that won’t be coming to the UK, however, the existing engine lineup from the pre-facelift car has been carried over to the latest model, so aside from a few power tweaks the changes aren’t massive.

The Kia Sorento gets a 'Terrain Mode' system, allowing the driver to choose settings for driving on snow, mud and sand, should those conditions arise. This isn’t a hardcore off-roader, but features like this should help you out if you ever find yourself towing a horsebox across a muddy field.

Hybrid engines

The standard hybrid Sorento is fitted with a 1.6-litre turbo petrol engine and an electric motor, giving it a combined total of 212bhp. From a standstill, the extra pulling power provided by the electric motor is instantly noticeable. The Sorento certainly feels quick enough for a big SUV, with the petrol/electric powertrain offering ample power for getting up to speed on motorways; it should be enough to satisfy buyers looking for a diesel alternative. However, the 1.6-litre petrol engine can sound rather strained if you ask for lots of power, especially at the top of its rev range.

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When driving in town, running on electric power is possible if you’re gentle with the accelerator. The only noise is a faint whirring from the electric motor and some noticeable tyre rumble. When the petrol engine starts up the transition is refined and quiet, and the six-speed automatic gearbox is well-suited to the hybrid powertrain, with smooth gear changes during normal driving.

Plug-in hybrid engines

The plug-in hybrid Sorento combines the same turbocharged 1.6-litre petrol engine and six-speed automatic gearbox as the standard hybrid but adds a more powerful electric motor and a larger 13.8kWh battery. The result is an increased power output of 249bhp.

In full EV mode, the Sorento PHEV is whisper quiet, with only a hint of tyre noise at higher speeds. Even on the motorway, the petrol engine is barely audible, meaning the car feels very refined on the move. Push the accelerator hard and the electric motor gives it a healthy dose of extra power.

We found the PHEV to handle very similarly to the regular hybrid model, despite the extra weight of the larger battery, with impressive chassis control and decent resistance to body lean in corners. The steering lacks feel but it does have a positive precision and weight to it.

Kia Sorento diesel engine

While the 2.2-litre diesel engine may have been offered in the Sorento for quite some time, it has been thoroughly redeveloped during its life, with an aluminium cylinder block and other new parts that reduce its weight and improve performance. With 190bhp and 440Nm of pulling power, it offers impressive acceleration despite its hefty weight.

The diesel is also paired with four-wheel drive and an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox that offers very smooth shifts. It feels like a good match for the Sorento, and there's almost no diesel clatter when starting the engine or under acceleration.

The hybrids are almost as efficient, however, and in some situations they’re even more economical than the diesel, yet still capable of longer journeys and heavy tasks buyers would ordinarily have subjected them to. As a result, we think they represent the sweet spot, and most buyers should opt for these instead.

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Charlie writes and edits news, review and advice articles for Carbuyer, as well as publishing content to its social media platforms. He has also been a regular contributor to its sister titles Auto Express, DrivingElectric and evo. As well as being consumed by everything automotive, Charlie is a speaker of five languages and once lived in Chile, Siberia and the Czech Republic, returning to the UK to write about his life-long passion: cars.

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