Upward mobility. That’s always been aim of the Kia Sorento, which has gone from budget workhorse to reputable family SUV in a little over a decade.
This new version promises to be the most premium yet. However, there is, quite literally, a price to pay for the Sorento’s shimmy up the social ladder because while the original model cost peanuts to buy, this latest version starts at £28,795. If you want the range-topping KX-4 you’ll be writing a cheque for almost £41k.
What’s the 2015 Kia Sorento like to drive?
There’s only one engine: a 197bhp 2.2-litre diesel that’s carried over from the outgoing model. However, it’s been fettled to meet strict new Euro 6 emissions standards, and the CO2 output has also fallen slightly in the process. The latter makes the Sorento a more appealing company car than ever, although it’s still nowhere near as efficient as the X-Trail.
The engine isn’t especially flexible by modern standards; it’s punchy enough but only between 2000-3500rpm. So, if you opt for the standard six-speed manual gearbox (fitted to our test car), be prepared for your left arm to get a good workout on every drive.
Still, the engine is hushed enough unless you rev it hard, and you only start to feel vibrations coursing up through the steering column when you really put your foot down. That’s testament to the efforts Kia has gone to in improving the Sorento’s all-round refinement.
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. On our Spanish test route the Sorento soaked up bumps very well indeed, staying composed even over potholes and eroded patches. That certainly bodes well for the UK.
As you’d expect, the Sorento doesn’t scythe through corners quite like a BMW X3 or even a Land Rover Discovery Sport, but it doesn’t lurch around wildly, either, and there’s a decent amount of grip. We just wish the steering wasn’t so vague and unnaturally weighted, because it spoils what would otherwise be a pleasant driving experience.
What’s the 2015 Kia Sorento like inside?
Unlike rivals such as the Hyundai Santa Fe and Nissan X-Trail – which are available in both five- and seven-seat form – all Sorentos comes with seven seats as standard. The two seats right at the back of the car aren’t simply token gestures, either, because even adults will fit if the journey is short; small kids will be comfortable for hours.
As before, you can only access the third row from the kerb side of the car, but the middle-row seat moves forward far enough for you to hop aboard without contorting your body too much.
Meanwhile, the middle row of seats slides back and forth in a 20:40:20 split, allowing you to maximise legroom when there’s no one sitting behind you. Tall adults will have to cower a bit on KX-3 and KX-4 models, which both come with a standard panoramic glass roof, but there’s more headroom on lesser versions.
Boot space remains pretty much unchanged over the outgoing car. That means there isn’t much luggage room with all seven seats in place, but fold the rearmost two into the floor and that load bay swells to a handy 605 litres – more space than a Nissan X-Trail offers in the same layout. The middle row of seats also folds flat when you need to carry even bulkier payloads.
However, while space and practicality remain much the same as before, the Sorento’s interior quality has taken a big step forward. Gone are the hard, grey plastics that covered the dashboard and insides of the doors on the old model, and in come much softer-feeling and generally higher-quality materials.
The dashboard layout is easy to get the hang of, too, and the 8.0in touchscreen that’s fitted to KX-3 and KX-4 models is bright and easy to read, and fairly quick to respond. The KX-2 makes do with a smaller 7.0in display that we’ve yet to try.
All Sorentos get cruise control, reversing sensors and some form of air conditioning. However, Kia expects the bulk of buyers to go for either KX-2 or KX-3 trim; the former gets automatic lights and wipers, faux leather seats, dual-zone climate control and heated seats, while the latter adds a panoramic roof, xenon headlights and an electrically adjustable driver’s seat.
Meanwhile, the range-topping KX-4 gets just about every conceivable luxury you can think of, including heated and ventilated seats and adaptive cruise control.
Should I buy one?
There’s no doubting this is the best Sorento yet. It’s stylish, decent to drive and surprisingly smart inside. Unlike many of rivals at this price it’s also a proper seven-seater.
However, while previous Sorentos enjoyed limited competition for the money, this new one finds itself right in the firing line of a number of talented rivals, including the Land Rover Discovery Sport. There’s also the formidable BMW X3 for those who can live without seating for seven.
Granted, the Kia is still better value than both of those rivals when you factor in equipment, but while the Sorento’s new found talents will no doubt attract new customers who value space and creature comforts, it’s also in danger of losing some of its existing fan base to the cheaper Nissan X-Trail and better-driving Discovery Sport.
What Car? says...
Kia Sorento 2.2 CRDi KX-2 manual
Engine size 2.2-litre diesel
Torque 325lb ft
0-62mph 9.0 seconds
Top speed 124mph
Fuel economy 46.3mpg