Peter Burgess | January 2015
Kia calls the new Sorento “dramatic and muscular”. We reckon it’s a bit brutal in appearance, especially from the front with that massive, ugly grille. Yet Kia isn’t the first going down this road. Just look at the new Volvo XC90.
The third generation Sorento is significantly longer and a touch wider and lower, most of which helps boost space in a vehicle that offers seven-seat capability at least as good as any rival. Kia also says it has pushed the Sorento upmarket with a high quality interior and a whole range of electronic systems to improve safety and make it easy to drive.
It’s heavier, though, unusual these days where manufacturers try hard to reduce weight to improved economy and emissions. But Kia claims better mpg for the new Sorento even thought the engines and transmission aren’t as advanced as those from the major European rivals.
Prices are up by around 5%, and will be finalised in March 2015. Reckon on them kicking off under £30,000, rising to £40,000+ for the top KX4 Sorento. A £40k Kia? You’d better believe it.
What’s the 2015 Kia Sorento like to drive?
It all depends upon the gearbox you choose, manual or automatic. But let’s look first at engine choice, which varies according to country. In Europe the default option is the four-cylinder 2.2 litre turbodiesel, though there’s also a 2.0-litre for places like Poland (for tax break purposes).
The two petrol engines are 2.4-litres and a 300hp 3.3-litre V6, the latter popular in the US where the local factory turns out hundreds of thousands of Sorentos every year.
At the launch in Sitges, Spain, only the 2.2 CRDi was available to drive. Mated to the six-speed automatic transmission, this Sorento is a smooth, quiet and relaxed car to drive. Noise insulation is much improved over the previous model and the performance, while far from thrilling, is entirely acceptable.
Importantly, it is an easy drive, and it needs to be as the Sorento is now a large vehicle. The same can’t be said of the Sorento with the manual gearbox. Although the gearchange works well enough, the extra mass of the vehicle means it’s always important to be in the right gear at the right time.
The result is that, unless you are very diligent, you’ll end up revving the engine more and generate more noise inside the cabin. In contrast, the automatic transmission simply gets the changes right every time, making driving a much calmer experience.
Kia makes much about some clever changes to the power steering that we get in Europe but others don’t. The improvements were impossible to quantify on our test, but the handling is fine and the ride quality very good.
Why buy a Kia Sorento instead of a Discovery, XC90 or X5?
Price, price, price – and that long warranty. For despite Kia’s plea that we accept the latest Sorento as a premium vehicle, it still doesn’t quite measure up, even if you ignore badge snobbery.
The interior has some squishy plastic on the facia with, incongruously, faux leather stitching. The seats, instruments and switchgear are all satisfactory yet fail to make much of a statement. It’s the little things that Kia hasn’t really excelled at in the Sorento, in the same way as it did in the Cee’d.
Yet if it’s a high gadget-count you value, the Sorento can equal the premium rivals. Opt for the very top model and you’ll get cameras that give a birds-eye view, self parking and a tailgate that will opening automatically as you approach the back of the car. These and a raft of safety electronics allow the Sorento stand comfortably alongside the SUV establishment: Land Rover Discovery, XC90 and BMW X5.
Curiously, Kia was reluctant to let us drive the Sorento off-road. I suspect that’s because it’s really a “soft-roader” – competent at dealing with gravel tracks, snow and grass, but perhaps lacking the extreme ability of some rivals. You can even buy the Sorento with just front-wheel-drive, though that’s true of many SUVs these days.
In terms of packaging, the seven-seat Sorento measures up well, with a centre row that slides back and forth and plenty of interior width. It’s no more cramped in the very back than most seven-seaters, though the huge seats immediately in front make it seem claustrophobic.
Verdict: 2015 Kia Sorento
It’s a good, solid car, the 2015 Kia Sorento. There can be no argument about that. With automatic transmission it’s pleasant to drive, quiet, comfortable and extremely practical. And it comes with a warranty that outshines the competition.
The Sorento is no longer the bargain it once was, though. Kia has moved on the from the “bargain” category into simply “better value”, with prices that will rise by 5% over the outgoing car. But it still represents value compared with cars from Audi, BMW, Land Rover and Volvo. Just don’t expect to feel excited by it sitting on your driveway.
Rivals: 2015 Kia Sorento
- Land Rover Discovery
- BMW X5
- Volvo XC90
It seems that large SUVs now have to offer seven seats. It’s the common sense move after buyers found people carriers like the Chrysler Grand Voyager simply too dull. An SUV says something about you and what you have achieved in life. All the above rivals, and the Audi Q7 too, have the right cachet, but the Kia Sorento competes on a more common sense approach.
While still years away from being “sought after”, Kia’s Sorento piles on the features, offers equal practicality and sells for a minimum of £10,000 less than its nearest European rival. Brand new versions of the Discovery, Q7 and XC90 will be with us very shortly. There’s little doubt they will be great cars – but the price gap between them and the Sorento will only get wider.
Specification: 2015 Kia Sorento KX4 2.2 CRDi auto
Engine: 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel
Gearbox: 6-speed automatic
Price: £40,000 (est)
Torque: 325lb ft/441Nm
0-62mph: 9.6 seconds
Top speed: 127mph/203km/h
MPG: 42.7/6.6 L/100km