With June Neary
Kia's much improved third generation Sorento is a big 4x4 priced like a smaller one. If you fancy getting extra off-roader for your money, it could be worth a look. June Neary investigates.
Will It Suit Me?
For quite a while now, buyers looking for value for money from their next 4x4 have done well to remember the name of Kia's Sorento. Originally launched in 2003, it was always priced like a compact 4x4 but had the bulk and, more crucially, the carrying capacity of a larger family-sized model. Of course, back then value for money was Kia's speciality. These days the Korean brand has improved on virtually every aspect of its vehicles and is charging a little more for them to reflect the upturn in quality.
We're looking here at the third generation model announced early in 2015. In this guise, the Sorento still has the size to impress and in line with so many of its rival 4x4 models, steps have been taken to improve its ride and handling on the road at the expense of some off-road ruggedness. Kia is also claiming that the Sorento is now a 'crossover' which is a trendy term for 4x4s which place more emphasis on tarmac driving than getting their tyres dirty. It makes sense for most people when they tot-up how many times they really test their 4x4 vehicle's off-road and as someone who hates cleaning the car quite intensely, I certainly avoid the mud at all costs.
Cars that tout themselves as crossovers tend to be lower and sleeker in appearance than their more rough and ready 4x4 counterparts. The Sorento follows this convention with an elongated shape, a large front overhang and a steeply raked windscreen. My family liked the look of it.
The cabin follows a 'modern and wide' theme, providing the interior with a stable, horizontal layout and appearance. A higher proportion of soft-touch materials and leather aims to create a luxury feel. One of the most distinctive interior styling features is the Swiss watch-inspired centre-console, although to this eye it still looks more Casio than Rado. There's a stack of room inside though, with five or seven seat models offered. The extra 80mm of wheelbase means greater legroom throughout. Cargo space is also increased over the previous version, and capacity with the third row seats folded flat is up 17.5 percent, from 515 to 605-litres. The Sorento also features a neat under-floor tonneau cover storage compartment.
The third row seating is just about comfortable enough for a couple of adults on long trips - but only just. It'll probably be OK for taking granny to the garden centre though and a couple of kids will be fine here. All occupants benefit from more luxurious surroundings, with notable improvements in the soft-touch materials used to trim the cabin and higher levels of equipment for all trim grades.
Behind the Wheel
It's a diesel-only format for Sorento buyers these days, with all versions powered by a revised version of Kia's 2.2-litre CRDi turbodiesel engine, driving all four wheels via a six-speed manual gearbox or a six-speed automatic. This powerplant makes 202PS, giving the Sorento the ability to sprint to 62mph in just 9.0 seconds and then on to a top end of 124mph. That was enough performance for me.
A great deal of work has gone into improving refinement, with a stiffer bodyshell, additional soundproofing, acoustic shields built into the engine bay and a thicker dashboard. Depending on speed, ambient noise within the cabin is claimed to be between three and six per cent quieter than the previous car. It certainly felt refined.
As before, this car lacks the low range gearbox that would mark it out as a serious off road tool. Still, all models have 4WD (by no means a given these days with family SUVs), a layout that sees 100 per cent of torque is directed to the front wheels under normal driving conditions with drive directed rearwards as slippage is detected by the computer. There is, however, a Lock Mode which will split power equally between the front and rear axles to help in slippery conditions at speeds of up to 40km/h. The vehicle also comes with DBC, Kia's version of hill descent control, which controls speed on steep descents and HAC hill start assist which prevents the Sorento rolling back when pulling away up hill.
Value For Money
Prices start at around £27,000, so Kia pricing is no longer bargain-basement. Still, you get a lot of car for the money. Kia is known for its generosity when it comes to specifications and the Sorento is unlikely to be a disappointment in this respect. Standard equipment on all models runs to a leather-trimmed wheel, body-coloured bumpers, chrome exterior door handles, aero blade-type front wipers, projection headlamps with cornering lights, electrically folding, adjustable and heated door mirrors, chrome interior garnish, rear air ventilation, LED daytime running lamps, cruise control and reversing sensors.
This MK3 model debuts a number of technologies to improve convenience and further enhance the ownership experience. Select from an Around-View Monitor, with four cameras helping the driver to manoeuvre when parking, and a Smart Power Tailgate. This system opens the tailgate automatically when the key is 'sensed' in close proximity to the trunk, so owners can slide their shopping bags or heavy objects straight into the vehicle. Safety hasn't been overlooked either and although exact specs have yet to be finalised, the Sorento has been engineered for Adaptive Smart Cruise Control, Lane Departure Warning System, Front Collision Warning, Blind-Spot Detection, Lane Change Assist, Rear Cross-Traffic Alert, and Speed Limit Information Function, which displays the speed limit in the driver's instrument cluster based on cameras detecting roadside signs.
As for running costs, well an exhaust-gas recirculation system has helped the Sorento's 2.2-litre diesel engine achieve strong fuel economy and CO2 emissions of 47.9 mpg and 155g/km.
Could I Live With One?
Lots of people depend on their 4x4 as a do-it-all family vehicle and in that kind of role, this MK3 model Kia Sorento continues to stack up well. It still represents solid value for money and there are very few seven-seat 4x4s that can rival it on that score. It's also sturdily built and comes with a generous specification as standard. An SUV for head as well as heart.