What Car? says...
Natural selection affects SUVs, not just animals, and seven-seaters that drink diesel are starting to look like dinosaurs. So the Kia Sorento – like a species with a strong survival instinct – has evolved.
Instead of simply slinging a petrol engine under the Sorento’s bonnet, Kia has used its expertise in the field of electrification to give the model ‘self-charging’ hybrid (HEV) and plug-in hybrid (PHEV) options. You can still get a diesel version for now, and every version gets four-wheel drive and an automatic gearbox as standard.
Kia has set its sights on premium rivals including the Land Rover Discovery Sport with the Sorento, so it has been filled to the brim with standard equipment, but is that enough to compete against the best seven-seat SUVs?
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
The 'self-charging' hybrid (HEV) Kia Sorento is nippy enough, with 0-62mph taking 9.0 seconds. True, there's a slight delay between you pressing the accelerator pedal and the car surging forwards, but it's not pronounced enough to become irritating, and you won’t struggle when it comes to overtaking or getting up to motorway speeds.
The plug-in hybrid (PHEV) model has a bigger battery and its more powerful electric motor gives the Sorento slightly quicker acceleration (0-62mph takes 8.7 seconds). It's still not as quick as the Audi Q5 or the Land Rover Discovery Sport, but it’s more than sufficient for everyday driving.
Officially, the PHEV can run for up to 35 miles on electric power alone, although in the real world you'll be lucky to get more than 25 miles. The maximum towing weight of the PHEV is 1500kg, matching the Honda CR-V PHEV.
If towing is your thing, the 2.2 CRDi diesel will be the one for you because it can tow up to 2500kg, more than any other version and enough for it to win the 1900kg+ category at our 2022 Tow Car Awards.
Even when you're not towing, there’s plenty of torque on offer and that makes up for the fact it has less outright power than the other versions, making it perfect if you regularly need to haul a full complement of passengers or luggage around.
Suspension and ride comfort
Whichever Sorento you decide to go for, big wheels are the order of the day. You see, 19in alloy wheels are standard with the petrol and PHEV engines, while diesel versions come with even larger 20in ones.
We’ve yet to try the biggest wheels on offer but the 19in wheels you get on the petrol Sorento cause it to fidget over surface imperfections and thud harder over potholes, although the motorway ride is very good. You also get self-levelling rear suspension, which is handy if you’re planning to tow or carry heavy loads.
The PHEV is the least agreeable model in the range, but even that's not uncomfortable – it's just a bit more jarring over sharper imperfections and its ride is not quite as settled, largely because of its heavy battery pack.
The Sorento’s reassuringly weighted steering allows you to place the car confidently on twisty rural roads and also makes it easy to track straight and true on motorways. In town, you’ll find the wheel becomes light enough to twirl easily.
As you might expect, though, this tall and heavy car wasn’t made with sports car handling in mind. If you’re after keen handling, you might want to look at the BMW X3 or, if you want seven seats, the more expensive BMW X5.
Body lean is most pronounced in the heavier PHEV model, but it's still less roly-poly than PHEV versions of the Citroën C5 Aircross and the Discovery Sport. The self-levelling rear suspension helps improve the Sorento's stability and handling when it's being used for towing though.
Noise and vibration
If you're driving either the HEV or the PHEV in pure electric mode then, rather predictably, you won't hear any engine noise. In fact, even when the petrol engine is being used, it frequently shuts off as you slow down and remains fairly quiet when you’re accelerating gently. Hard acceleration reveals a coarser edge to its timbre, but it’s not so bad that it’s a nuisance.
Unlike some hybrid cars the Sorento switches smoothly from electric to petrol power. The automatic gear changes are smooth and the brakes are well judged and progressive – even in the PHEV, which has more aggressive regenerative braking.
There's some suspension noise over bumps in the road, and a bit more tyre and wind noise at 70mph compared with the best cars in the class, but it never becomes tiring. The Sorento's diesel engine is rather grumbly and sends a few vibrations up through the steering wheel.
Strengths Diesel engine good for towing; well-weighted steering; impressive motorway ride
Weaknesses Rival PHEVs ride better; not as refined as rivals
The interior layout, fit and finish
Driving position and dashboard
If you like a lofty driving position, you'll love the Kia Sorento. Better still, the driver’s seat comes with electric adjustment as standard, and includes four-way adjustable lumbar support and a memory function. The steering wheel lines up neatly with the seat and pedals, and there’s a footrest with plenty of room for your left foot.
All versions have a sharp 12.3in-digital display behind the steering wheel (rather than analogue instrument dials). Changing what the screen shows is easy using the buttons on the steering wheel, but it's not as versatile as the ones in the Audi Q5, the Seat Tarraco and the Skoda Kodiaq.
Mercifully, Kia has avoided the temptation to bury all the heater and stereo controls within the centrally mounted touchscreen (as they are in the Peugeot 5008).
There’s still a good old-fashioned knob to control the volume and you can tweak the interior temperature using conveniently positioned rocker switches. There are a few fiddly touch-sensitive buttons for controlling some of the other functions.
Visibility, parking sensors and cameras
Perched up in the Sorento’s driving seat, you’re treated to a good view of the road ahead. The windscreen pillars don’t get in the way too much at roundabouts, and while the rear pillars are quite chunky, there are small side windows at the back of the car to help improve over-the-shoulder vision. Nevertheless, the Honda CR-V is still an easier car to see out of.
To help make parking a doddle, every Sorento comes with front and rear parking sensors and a rear-view camera. That camera is upgraded to a 360-degree bird’s eye view camera if you go for the top Edition trim.
That trim also comes with a blind-spot camera, which is good to have, especially if you do a lot of motorway driving. It shows a feed from rear-facing cameras in the door mirrors on the digital driver's display when you use the indicators.
Sat nav and infotainment
You won’t be left wanting when it comes to infotainment. That’s because a 10.3in touchscreen infotainment system with DAB radio, Bluetooth, built-in sat-nav, and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone mirroring is standard on every car. You also get wireless phone-charging.
The system itself is responsive to all of your prods and the menus are easy to fathom. In fact, we’d go as far as to say that it’s one of the best touchscreens in the class. That said, we’d still prefer it to have a rotary controller (like the BMW X3 has) to make it less distracting to use while driving.
To avoid squabbling over who’s charging what, all three rows of seats in the Sorento have USB ports (there are eight in total). You even get a powerful Bose stereo system with 12 speakers, if you upgrade to Edition trim.
For the most part, there’s little to complain about when it comes to the Sorento's interior quality. You’ll find lots of soft, appealing plastic, including on the insides of the rear doors – something that's by no means guaranteed in this class.
There is also chrome and piano-black trim throughout, all the switches operate with precision and everything feels solidly screwed together.
To make things feel a little plusher – and help the Sorento live up to that premium price tag – you’ll find that the chrome and piano-black trim is complemented by leather trimmed seats and door trims, along with window blinds for the rear-seat passengers.
Interior quality is about on par with the Hyundai Santa Fe and the Honda CR-V, but can’t match the Q5 and X3, both of which feel like true luxury vehicles.
Strengths Great infotainment system; good driving position; decent visibility
Weaknesses Interior quality can’t match premium rivals
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
We seriously doubt anyone will find a shortage of head room in the Kia Sorento, and the front seats slide back a reasonably long way to accommodate those with long legs.
There’s also plenty of space between the driver and front passenger; that's because this car has one of the broadest interiors in the class.
The door pockets are a good size and there’s a load of storage under the front centre armrest. You also get a handy shelf in front of the gear selector, which is an ideal size for stowing a mobile phone, some keys and a wallet. It's also where you’ll find the wireless phone-charging pad.
Rear space is very generous. The second row seats slide and recline and, assuming you haven't slid them all the way forwards, leg room is plentiful (a six-footer will find a decent amount of fresh air between their knees and the back of the seat in front).
Head room is compromised by the Edition trim’s panoramic roof – but only by a small amount. By contrast, if you buy the Peugeot 5008 with a panoramic roof, head room becomes quite tight.
Sitting three adults across the second row is made easier by the Sorento's width and the minimal hump in the middle of the floor. The outer second-row seats and both third-row seats have Isofix mounting points (for child seats).
All Sorentos – including the PHEV version – come with seven seats as standard and there's more space on the third row than there is in a Land Rover Discovery Sport or 5008. Even adults will fit, thanks to head and leg room similar to what you'll find in the Hyundai Santa Fe.
Seat folding and flexibility
The Sorento's sliding and reclining second-row seats have seatbacks that split 60/40. That's not quite as handy as the 5008’s three individually reclining and folding rear seats, or those in cars such as the Audi Q5, which are available with a 40/20/40 split. There's no ski hatch in the Sorento, either.
What is very handy, though, is that all versions have switches in the boot to fold down the second row of seats remotely. That makes loading a piece of flatpack furniture less of a faff.
There’s barely any lip to contend with when you're loading items into the Sorento’s cavernous boot, and the load area is a usefully square shape, with recesses for extra width right at the back of the car.
Boot space is near enough the same as in the Santa Fe – both cars can hold 10 carry-on suitcases below their tonneau covers in five-seat mode.
Even when the third row of seats is in use, there's enough boot space in the Sorento for a couple of carry-on cases. In contrast, the Discovery Sport has hardly any room for luggage at all when all seven seats are being used.
There’s a small amount of underfloor storage in the HEV Sorento, and it remains accessible when the third-row seats are in use. Unfortunately, you lose that space if you order the PHEV.
Strengths Lots of boot space; very generous interior space
Weaknesses Rear seats are not very versatile
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
Costs, insurance groups, MPG and CO2
The Kia Sorento is pretty expensive, with a higher starting price than top-spec examples of the Peugeot 5008 and the Skoda Kodiaq. In fact, it’s about on par with the Land Rover Discovery Sport, but costs less than the Audi Q5 and BMW X3.
To make sure you get whatever car you choose for the best price, check the latest offers on our New Car Deals pages.
Among big four-wheel-drive SUVs, the Sorento HEV's CO2 emissions are relatively low, but if you're looking to pay as little company car tax as possible, you will be best served by the PHEV Sorento, which emits just 38g/km and has a respectable electric-only range (both help to reduce BIK tax massively). The PHEV takes around 3.5 hours to charge from 0-100% using a home wall box.
The HEV model managed a very respectable 37.1mpg in our Real MPG tests, with the diesel model averaging 42.3mpg. That's far from amazing compared with the Honda CR-V hybrid, but not at all bad for such a hefty car, and way better than the petrol-powered Discovery Sport P250.
Equipment, options and extras
Helping to justify the premium price tag is the fact that both of the Sorento’s trim levels come well-equipped. Indeed, even the entry-level Vision trim comes as standard with heated front and outer rear seats, keyless entry and start, a power tailgate and lots of other kit.
Top-spec Edition trim gets every bit of standard kit that you could imagine, including Nappa leather upholstery, a customisable head-up display, ventilated front seats, remote park assist (which allows it to drive in and out of spaces without you at the wheel) and the upgraded parking camera and blind-spot monitoring system.
We don’t yet have any specific reliability data on the latest-generation Sorento, but Kia as a brand finished a strong eighth (out of 32 manufacturers) in the 2023 What Car? Reliability Survey overall league table. That was below Toyota and Hyundai, but ahead of Mazda, Honda, Skoda, Seat, and miles ahead of Volkswagen, Nissan, Peugeot and Land Rover.
The Sorento comes with Kia’s seven-year (or 100,000-mile) warranty to fall back on. The only brand that can beat that is Toyota, which gives you 10 years/100,000 miles if you service your car annually at a franchised dealership.
Safety and security
Euro NCAP awarded the Sorento five stars (out of five) for safety in 2020, and it scored reasonably well for both adult and child crash protection. Chest protection for the driver in a frontal impact could be better, though.
All models come with active safety gizmos designed to prevent you from having an accident in the first place, including lane-keeping assistance and automatic city emergency braking, which can detect pedestrians and cyclists as well as other vehicles.
You even get parking collision avoidance – in effect, very low-speed automatic emergency braking (AEB) that aims to avoid silly parking mishaps – and the blind-spot camera system.
Strengths Lots of standard equipment; great warranty; decent efficiency
Weaknesses Honda CR-V is more efficient
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The main disadvantages of the Sorento are that it can’t match the interior quality of premium rivals including the smaller BMW X3. What’s more, the X3 rides better and is more dynamic.
Not yet. We can understand why you might be asking this, after Kia consolidated the Sorento range into one trim level, but that was only while we awaited this new version.
We think so, yes. True, it’s quite expensive compared to its natural rivals, but it does enough to justify the premium price tag – it’s very well equipped, reliable and really practical.
|RRP price range||£44,995 - £56,995|
|Number of trims (see all)||2|
|Number of engines (see all)||3|
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)||hybrid, diesel|
|MPG range across all versions||176.6 - 42.8|
|Available doors options||5|
|Warranty||7 years / 100000 miles|
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)||£1,132 / £3,727|
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)||£2,263 / £7,454|