Kia Sorento long-term test: report 1

The Kia Sorento fought off some prestigious rivals to be voted Large SUV of the Year at the 2021 What Car? Awards, but does it continue to impress when you live with it every day?...

Kia Sorento hybrid long termer

The car Kia Sorento 1.6 HEV T-GDi Auto AWD 2 Run by Claire Evans, consumer editor

Why it’s here The Sorento impressed our road testers so much that we voted it our Large SUV of the Year, but what’s it like for an extended family to live with? 

Needs to Be a relaxing cruiser for occasional motorway commute, have good access for my octogenarian parents and be economical on frequent short local trips

Mileage 1255 List price £39,110 Target price £37,489 Price as tested £39,505 Test economy 38.1mpg Official economy 40.9mpg Options fitted Premium Paint £660

15 May 2021 – Make mine a large one

For my latest car, I’ve gone big: I’ve opted for Kia’s largest SUV, the Sorento. But that doesn’t mean I’ve splashed out an excessive amount of cash. My 2 spec Sorento retails at just under £40,000 – and significantly less than that with our Target Price discounts.

Even though it’s the most affordable version of the car (no, I’m not sure what happened to the 1 trim level, either) it comes with a lavish amount of kit, including four-wheel drive, an automatic gearbox, heated front seats and a reversing camera. In fact, the only optional extra available is Premium Paint, and I chose that to get my car in Mineral Blue rather than the standard Essence Brown (yuk).

My HEV hybrid version's combination of a 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine and an electric motor should mean that it won't be a pricey car to live with. It’s certainly doing well on the fuel front so far: in its first 1000 miles, the Sorento has averaged around 38mpg, which is pretty good for a seven-seater that weighs just shy of two tonnes.

LT Kia Sorento rear

There’s more to the Sorento than value for money, though; it's also striking enough to stand out from the ranks of samey, plain Jane SUVs. There are lots of flourishes and sweeping lines along the bodywork, plus dramatic features such as the big teeth of the front grille and the chunky square-sided rear light clusters. 

I think the exterior styling also helps the Sorento live up to its stylish Italian name; Sorento is a coastal town that perches on cliff tops overlooking the Bay of Naples with dramatic views of the sea and Mount Vesuvius.  

On the inside, the car has durable-looking cloth seats, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the solidity and high quality of the trim and controls. The switches on the centre console all have a nice sturdy feel and the shiny chrome heated-seat buttons stand out from the black background making them easy to spot at a glance. The steering wheel controls for the radio, phone and cruise control are equally easy to find without having to spend hours reading the owner's manual.

Kia Sorento 2021 infotainment screen

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity are standard, making it a doddle to use your phone apps through the car’s infotainment screen. But you do have to plug your phone in to use these features, and only one of the three USB ports in the cubby under the centre console works for this – the other two just charge up your phone. 

So far, I’ve made a couple of 150 mile-plus trips in the big Kia and found it eminently comfortable for long-haul work. The engine remains hushed and copes admirably with motorway speeds, and the turbocharger kicks in to give a good boost of acceleration whenever it's needed for changing lanes or passing slower vehicles. The ride is compliant too, and even though the car is pretty tall, it’s not bothered by side winds. 

Most of my early trips have been solo, but I did use the Sorento to take my parents for their coronavirus vaccinations. With its tall, wide-opening doors and fairly high seats it was easy for them to get in and out of, and the high riding position gave them good visibility even in the rear seats, which they liked.

Kia Sorento hybrid long termer

There are several driving mode options on the Sorento. While I’ve not had a chance to try out the off-road ones yet, I’ve had a play with Eco and Sport on the rural roads near to home.

The only niggle so far is that when you pull away in Eco mode there’s a discernible pause between you pressing the accelerator and the car leaping forwards. Switching to Sport mode for local driving alleviates that. I've not tried Smart mode yet, but it could turn out to be the best choice as it monitors your driving and changes the set-up to suit your style and the driving conditions.

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