Kia Sorento SUV - Engines, drive & performance
The big Kia has a comfortable, sophisticated feel and a good range of engines
The latest Sorento sits on a new platform, and while the SUV is only 10mm longer than its predecessor overall, there's now more length 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. While the older car felt rather vague, the steering in the new car has more weight to it, giving it a more accurate feel as you turn in.
Tackle some bends, and the Sorento feels solid and secure for a seven-seat SUV, but Kia has made the suspension quite firm to keep its mass in check. It's a shame, because most buyers in this part of the market would probably prefer extra comfort over some extra handling prowess.
Kia has also updated the '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.
The standard hybrid Sorento is fitted with a 1.6-litre turbo petrol engine and an electric motor, giving it a combined total of 226bhp. It's mated to a six-speed automatic gearbox and 0-62mph takes nine seconds, which makes the hybrid slightly quicker than the diesel under full acceleration.
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.
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.
Despite the battery and electric motor increasing the car’s weight, it feels secure when cornering thanks to good body control. The suspension absorbs the majority of cracks, lumps and potholes in the road too.
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 261bhp and a 0-62mph time of 8.7 seconds.
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.
The suspension setup means the car has a slightly firm ride but it works competently enough to smooth out potholes and other road imperfections. As you’d expect, the PHEV handles 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 engines
While the 2.2-litre diesel engine may seem like a carry over from the old Sorento, it has been thoroughly redeveloped, with an aluminium cylinder block and other new parts that reduce its weight and improve performance. With 190bhp and 440Nm of pulling power, it can get it from 0-62mph in a respectable 9.2 seconds – despite its hefty weight.
The diesel is also paired with four-wheel drive and a new eight-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox that's now a 'wet' clutch design for smoother shifts. It feels like a good match for the Sorento, and there's almost no diesel clatter when starting the engine or under acceleration.
It’s a shame then, that we expect very few buyers to choose this model. The hybrids are almost as efficient – and in some situations, more economical – than the diesels, and are more than capable of the longer journeys and heavy tasks buyers would ordinarily have subjected them to.