The skinny: Kia’s new Sorento takes the leap from “family-friendly”, to “family first”, with a bigger interior, better noise insulation, and increased safety. This Sorento Platinum, at the top of Kia’s Sorrento range, not only features one of the best diesels in the segment, but also comes equipped with plenty of added safety and comfort items.
At nearly $60k on-road, it’s pressing into premium-brand territory. But, for what it offers, compared to its closest competitors from Japan, the Sorento Platinum diesel represents pretty impressive value, shaving some 10 grand or more off the top-tier seven-seat SUV competition.
Vehicle Style: Large SUV
Price: $55,990 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 147kW/441Nm 2.2 4cyl turbo diesel | 6spd automatic
Fuel Economy claimed: 7.8 l/100km | tested: 8.1 l/100km
At this point, other car makers with large seven-seat SUVs should be feeling a little nervous. Kia’s Sorento may not be a new nameplate, but this latest version plays hardball in the family-friendly SUV sector.
While it wears a fresh new look externally, it’s on the inside that really counts, and Kia has served up a high quality, flexible, and contemporary interior.
There are plenty of premium features packed into the top-spec Platinum model, plus a diesel engine, which is something that Kluger, Pathfinder, and CX-9 are all unable to match.
THE INTERIOR (Rating 4/5 Stars)
Quality: From fine-grade plastics to solid-feeling switchgear, everything has taken a move upmarket in the new Sorento.
There’s a liberal application of metallic highlights, and broad swathes of glossy woodgrain, giving a very Euro-centric look and feel.
Fit and finish is top notch, panel gaps throughout the interior are extremely precise and tight fitting, which is very reassuring.
Comfort: Platinum buyers are treated to leather seats throughout, with front and outboard middle row seats heated – and the steering wheel as well.
Those front chairs also come with cooling and power adjustment, so comfort gets a big thumbs up.
For those interested in the third row, it’ll fit most teenage lumps without a hassle, although the aspiring basketballers of the family might want to sit further forward once they pass about 170cm in height.
The second row can be slid fore and aft, and reclined for extra comfort, or for extra cargo as required. There’s no tumble-forward rear seat access though, so loading could be easier.
Equipment: All Sorento models come with seven seats, cruise control, multi-function steering wheel with audio controls, 7-inch touchscreen infotainment, satellite navigation, Bluetooth connectivity, six-way powered driver’s seat, front and rear parking sensors, and dual zone climate control with third-row fan control.
Ante up to the Platinum and you’ll also get heated front and second row outer seats, ventilated front seats, ten-way driver and eight-way passenger powered seat adjustment, leather trim, hands free powered tailgate, rear privacy glass, powered panoramic roof, 7-inch TFT instrument cluster, illuminated front scuff plates, rear door sunshades and ten-speaker premium Infinity audio.
Storage: With all three rows in place there’s 142 litres of cargo space; drop the third row and that grows to 605 litres. Leave only the front seats in place and carrying capacity grows to 1662 litres.
In the cabin the glovebox and centre console are huge, there’s plenty of room, including bottle holders in the door pockets, and the console and centre stack offer plenty of smaller places for odds and ends.
Driveability: Kia’s 2.2 litre diesel engine is the same as appears in the Hyundai Santa Fe, but in this application manages a slightly stronger 147kW at 3800rpm and 441Nm between 1750 and 2750rpm.
For running around town, the Sorento has more than enough urge to move off cleanly, and ample underfoot to whistle down a freeway on-ramp to safely merge with fast moving traffic.
Thanks to the all-wheel-drive system, there’s no torque steer or kickback through the wheel when accelerating hard. Put the foot down in slippery conditions, and power is directed away from the front wheels to the rear-axle, without a loss of traction.
Away from town, the Sorento will tackle highway miles without breaking a sweat. Over hilly terrain the gearbox rarely kicks down to a lower gear, relying instead on the strong torque of the diesel.
Prod the throttle to overtake, and despite the low rev ceiling, the Sorento springs to life with surprising urgency.
As the sole powertrain offered in the Platinum model, the all-wheel-drive and diesel combo works incredibly well (V6 petrol, and front-wheel-drive are available in lesser models), and fits the vehicle’s persona perfectly.
Refinement: Not every diesel SUV can claim to be as eerily quiet and smooth as the Sorento. Be it idling, or pulling a full load up a hill, there’s so little disruption inside that cabin that you can barely pick it as a diesel.
Wind and road noise are well-suppressed also, making for easy conversation between all three rows.
The six-speed auto is as smooth as silk too, with soft up- and down-shifts. And, riding the engine’s broad torque curve means there’s little need for the box to hunt for the right ratio.
Ride and Handling: Kia has tuned the ride and handling to suit Australia’s roads, and the needs of its customers. Out on the open road it floats along with a gentle serenity that’s hard to beat – that’s despite the big 19-inch rollers underneath.
Handling is well-controlled through bends, but there’s a bit of lean into corners and some early understeer. Nothing too troubling though, and just right for such a big, comfy SUV.
Braking: There’s no hiding the amount of weight being pulled up and at times the Sorento felt a little slow to pull up, particularly when loaded. That aside, the brakes are easy to control and in an emergency stop they do bite down with proper urgency.
SAFETY (Rating 5/5 Stars)
Safety features: All Sorento models come with six airbags (dual front, front side, and full length curtain) plus ABS brakes with brake assist and electronic brakeforce distribution, stability and traction control, hill start assist and emergency stop signal.
All seats feature three-point seatbelts and adjustable head restraints. Front seats feature height adjustable belts with load-limiting pretensioners. Front and rear park sensers and a reverse camera are also included.
Platinum models also feature blind detection, lane change assist, lane departure warning and rear cross traffic assist.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Seven years/unlimited kilometres
Service costs: Kia’s capped price servicing extends for seven years, with service intervals set every 12 months or 15,000km. The total program cost is $3487 while individual services vary between $400 up to $661 for the most expensive four year/60,000km service.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY (Rating 4.5/5 Stars)
Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander ($53,240) – Hyundai’s Santa Fe is mechanically similar, and offers sharp looks. On the inside the centre stack is a little more fussy, but overall it is just as family friendly inside. (see Santa Fe reviews)
Toyota Kluger Grande AWD ($67,990) – On price the Kluger GXL is a closer match, but for features you have to look to the Grande. The Kluger feels immense, both inside and out, and the user friendly interior is impressive. (see Kluger reviews)
Nissan Pathfinder Ti 4WD ($65,090) – Like the Kluger, a lesser Pathfinder will put you back in reach of the Sorento’s price, but not its features. On the road the Pathfinder feels incredibly civilised and doesn’t sacrifice any space either. (see Pathfinder reviews)
Toyota Kluger Grande
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL (Rating 4/5 Stars)
The Sorento delivers another step forward for Kia. Inside, the Sorento is one of the most civilised and well-finished products Kia has delivered yet, with world-class levels of refinement that make hours at the wheel a breeze.
The cabin is ready and willing to absorb family and friends, and even third-row riders will find little to complain about.
Compared to the petrol-powered competition, the frugal diesel Sorento is far cheaper to run, but feels every bit as strong behind the wheel.
The Sorento is a definite winner for Kia, and will make a definite winner for Aussie families too.