The Sorento tries to be upmarket, and nails it.
You know the connotation that your mind just made between ‘Kia’ and ‘cheap’? Banish that, and do it now. The new Sorento is all-new from the ground up, and it’s set to shake the ‘cheap as chips’ image that the brand has cultivated (intentionally or otherwise) over the years. The Sorento is a premium family wagon, no doubt about it.
Now that you’ve adjusted to the idea of a premium Kia, let’s get on with it. The Sorento is a real contender in its segment, and in Platinum trim, brings the game right up to compact premium SUVs like the Audi Q3 and BMW X1. But does it have a right to command a price tag just shy of $60,000 at the top end?
“Kia Sorento has gone ultra stylish in its just-released third generation. As almost a third of vehicles sold in Australia in 2015 will be SUVs the Sorento's "look at me" style is certainly important.” - CarsGuide
While Kia calls its new Sorento an evolution over the outgoing model, we believe that it’s a little more revolutionary than they’d like to admit. It has bags and bags of style and presence, and in decked-out Platinum grade (that Kia claimed more than half of buyers will go for when the car was launched), it looks properly posh. The flagship Sorento GT-Line adds more visual flair, with 19-inch wheels, additional chrome trim, and ‘ice-cube’ LED fog lights, among others.
While the Sorento can be accused of looking a lot like the Carnival people mover, that’s not too bad an association to make. Also comparable is the amount of room on offer, with practicality levels comparable between the two. And if it looks like the Sorento isn’t all that prepared to handle the rough stuff, you’d be on the money: This is an SUV that’s more focused on its duties in-town and on paved roads, where it’s likely to spend most of its life anyway.
Engine & Drivetrain
“All front-drive Sorentos use a petrol engine, and every all-wheel drive Sorento is powered by a diesel.” - WhichCar
The Sorento is available in our market with just two engines: A 3.3-litre V6 petrol, producing 199kW and 318Nm, and a 2.2-litre diesel managing 147kW and 447Nm. Though the diesel is down on power, the massive torque advantage gives the Sorento an effortless quality when on the road, especially on motorways over long journeys. And it manages to return a 7.8l/100km fuel consumption figure.
The 3.3-litre petrol, found on the lower-end front-wheel drive models, hits its torque peak at a heady 5,300rpm, which means that rapid progress will require patience and determination. It doesn’t feel outwardly smoother than the oil-burner either, and its only real benefit comes from the reduced weight, which makes the Sorento feel just a little bit better behind the wheel.
All cars are fitted to a six-speed automatic gearbox as standard.
“Most surfaces in the Kia Sorento are now soft to the touch and richly textured, while available two-tone color schemes accentuate these quality materials. There's now enough of a premium look and feel that higher trim levels seem properly luxurious.” - Edmunds
If you think the exterior is a generational leap over the outgoing car, then the interior will undoubtedly impress further. Generous use of soft-touch materials around the cabin lend the Sorento a plush ambiance, while the overall design is a clear departure from Kia cabins of old.
Standard equipment on all models is a touchscreen infotainment unit (with GPS navigation), dual-zone climate control, USB/Bluetooth/Aux inputs for the stereo, a multifunction steering wheel, reversing camera, all-round parking sensors, LED daytime running lights, hill-start assist, tyre-pressor monitors, and electronic stability control.
Behind the Wheel
“While some rival manufacturers seem hell-bent on trying to inject sporty handling to their large SUVs, Kia has concentrated on what matters most to family buyers: a comfortable ride.” - WhatCar?
This, is where it can get a bit confusing. While some reports say that the Sorento is a decent SUV to drive, others say that it can feel a bit disconnected, and a bit roly-poly in the corners. Regardless of which opinion may be right, the GT-Line models offer the best driving experience, with their lower-profile tyres offering more in the way of driver involvement.
What all reports we’ve combed through have agreed upon though, is the sheer comfort and refinement that the Sorento offers behind the wheel. NVH levels are low regardless of trim (though bigger wheels will inevitably result in louder tyre noise), while the suspension setup can soak up even the most jarring surfaces, leaving occupants unfazed. Only mid-corner bumps upset the ride, with the big Kia scuttling slightly in those cases.
Safety & Technology
“The new Sorento is currently rated as the safest SUV in Australia by ANCAP, regardless of price. That means it’s safer than the recently launched (and significantly more expensive) BMW X5 as well as the likes of Mercedes-Benz ML and Audi Q7.” - CarAdvice
The Kia Sorento boasts a healthy level of standard safety kit, with things like vehicle stability control, six airbags, a reversing camera, and all-occupant seatbelt warnings coming as standard. The Sorento also boasts a “strong body structure,” which absorbs impact forces and distributes it through the body, minimising cabin intrusion during a collision.
Higher-end models like the Platinum and GT-Line cars get things like autonomous emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, lane-change assist, and lane-departure warning. There are also features like adaptive cruise control, and rear cross-traffic alert, which significantly reduces the risk of an accident when reversing out of a parking space.
Of special note is how the Sorento faired in ANCAP testing. When it was put through the safety body’s myriad of tests, the Sorento gained the maximum five-star safety rating. It even managed to gain perfect scoring for pole and side-impact tests, shaming cars bearing heftier price tags. As a family wagon, the Sorento is a tough proposition to beat.
The Sorento has largely remained a class favourite of sorts within its segment. Previous iterations gained this distinction by being value-driven, bargain-basement propositions, while the new model takes ‘value-driven’ and embellishes it with luxuries and fittings most buyers wouldn’t dream of. If Kia wanted to show-off their new breadth of abilities in a mass-market production car, then the Sorento is likely the best example of that, to date.
The pick of the bunch is, as the marque expected, the Platinum AWD model. With its torquey diesel engine, the Sorento Platinum makes for an excellent long-distance cruiser, with excellent refinement and road manners. Pair that with a full suite of active safety systems, and the Sorento sees itself positioned to capture more marketshare than ever before. It’s a properly good car, this. And not just for a Kia.
CarsGuide - 80/100 - “All-new Kia Sorento is stylish, spacious, smooth and a real pleasure to drive. We can see it doing nothing but pulling increased sales over the superseded model.”
WhichCar - 80/100 - “The Kia Sorento is a comfortable seven-seat SUV that’s beautifully finished inside, well equipped, and enjoyable to drive, with a reversing camera in all versions. The optional diesel engine is refined and powerful, and the Sorento is covered by Kia’s seven-year warranty.”
Edmunds - 80/100 - “The Kia Sorento is bigger, more sophisticated and better to drive, making it an appealing alternative to seven-passenger SUVs that were previously a class above it. Kia's midsize crossover is definitely worth a long look.”
The Car Connection - 82/100 - “The Kia Sorento grows a little bit larger, and grows up a lot.”
WhatCar? - 80/100 - “The Kia Sorento makes sense if you need seven usable seats, but don’t want an MPV.”
CarAdvice - 80/100 - “Overall, the Kia Sorento is an excellent choice for buyers looking for a family-friendly, feature packed, luxury appointed, super safe and well warranted SUV. There’s no doubt that it’s the best large SUV on the market for the money.”
Motoring - 75/100 - “As a quiet-riding seven-seater with families front of mind – and with one of the most comprehensive after-sales packages in the business – the Sorento makes a lot of sense. It’s a practical, economical and capable SUV with enough bling to satisfy even the most discerning family buyer. If you haven’t considered a Kia before, you’d be silly not to now.”
Car & Driver - 70/100 - “Whether you’re shopping for a five- or seven-passenger mid-size crossover SUV, the 2017 Kia Sorento needs to be on your shortlist.”