New Kia Sorento and Land Rover Discovery Sport vs Honda CR-V

The market for large hybrid SUVs is reaching boiling point with the arrival of these new contenders from Kia and Land Rover. The car they have to beat is the Honda CR-V...

New Kia Sorento and Land Rover Discovery Sport vs Honda CR-V fronts

The contenders

NEW Kia Sorento 1.6 T-GDI HEV AWD 2

List price £38,845
Target Price £38,280

Latest generation of Kia’s large seven-seater promises acres of space in a more upmarket interior, plus it gets full hybrid power


NEW Land Rover Discovery Sport P200 AWD R-Dynamic S Plus 7-seat

List price £39,975
Target Price £37,658

Comfortable and practical, this is one of our favourite large SUVs as a diesel; let’s see if this updated mild hybrid petrol version can maintain that fine record


Honda CR-V 2.0 i-MMD Hybrid AWD SR

List price £36,340
Target Price £33,322

Afive-seater only in hybrid form, but the CR-V has beaten the Mazda CX-5 and Toyota RAV4 previously. Here, we’re testing it with four-wheel drive for the first time


The previous-generation Kia Sorento was enormous. In fact, were you to fill its seven full-sized seats today, you’d be breaking the rule of six. It was so big, in fact, that even before Covid-19 reared its ugly head, owners were regularly complaining to Kia dealers about getting lost inside. Okay, that last point isn’t strictly factual, but what is true is that if you wanted a large SUV with an enormous amount of space and didn’t want to spend the earth, the Sorento was it.

Kia Sorento 2021 rear

But not if you wanted a large hybrid SUV. Adding the ‘hybrid’ criterion ruled out the Sorento and all the other seven-seat SUVs for around £40,000, including the Land Rover Discovery Sport. Indeed, to get a big hybrid SUV for that sort of money, you’d have to go for something like the Honda CR-V, which, in hybrid form, comes only as a five-seater.

Heck, life is so complicated. Or at least it was, because the all-new Sorento does come as a proper hybrid. Not the plug-in type, admittedly, with a battery big enough to ferry the kids to school using just electricity, but it has enough amps to potter about in traffic without troubling its 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine. In other words, the same sort of ‘self-charging’ hybrid as the non-turbocharged 2.0-litre CR-V, which we’ve included in this test because we’re aware that not all buyers need seven seats.

For those who do, the Discovery Sport is now also in the mix with its range of new mild hybrid engines, including this 2.0-litre turbocharged P200 MHEV petrol. Mild hybrid means a small electric motor and 48-volt battery are on hand to support the engine, promising to boost both performance and fuel economy, although it can’t drive itself along using electricity alone.

Land Rover Discovery Sport 2021 rear

Driving

Performance, ride, handling, refinement

As the most powerful of our contenders, it's hardly surprising that the CR-V is the quickest in the sprint from 0-60mph, pipping the Sorento by a small margin (8.0sec versus 8.3sec), whereas the Discovery Sport is around one and a half seconds adrift, only just scraping under 10 seconds for that dash.

Likewise, the CR-V can whizz you most easily up to motorway speeds or past slower-moving traffic, while the Discovery Sport is the tardiest. And the CR-V has the quickest reactions when you put your foot down; both the Sorento and Discovery Sport take a breath before starting to surge forward.

Honda CR-V 2021 rear

The CR-V is helped by the fact that its CVT automatic gearbox is seamless. The Sorento’s conventional six-speed auto is also generally smooth, but the Discovery Sport’s has nine gears, and it doesn’t seem to know what to do with them all. Occasionally, it lunges aggressively from one to another. Or, if you lift off the accelerator, anticipating some mild engine braking, it alternates between holding onto a low gear defiantly or slumping immediately into a higher gear with barely any retardation at all.

At tickover, the Discovery Sport’s engine sounds more like a diesel, although it does smooth out as the revs increase. The Sorento is the opposite when it comes to engine noise: it’s almost silent when running in electric mode at low speeds and still pretty serene when the petrol engine kicks in, until you accelerate hard, at which point it gets a little coarse.

The CR-V can also run quietly in electric mode and mostly uses its electric motor to drive the wheels, with the engine simply charging up the battery. But sometimes the engine drives the wheels directly through the elastic band-like CVT ’box – and its behaviour doesn’t follow normal rules. It can be subdued when you’re driving very gently, but on other occasions – such as when you’re climbing a hill – the engine screams away frantically. The noise isn’t deafening, but sometimes it’s incongruously out of step with the speed at which you’re travelling.

Kia Sorento 2021 front

On top of that, the CR-V generates the most tyre noise at motorway speeds, followed by the Sorento, while the Discovery Sport has the least. The latter also whips up the least wind noise at high speeds, but it's the least impressive when it comes to stopping power; it needed an extra 10 metres in which to pull up from 70mph (in damp conditions) compared with the Sorento and eight more than the CR-V.

Still, the Discovery Sport is able to tow the most: a braked trailer up to 2000kg. The Sorento can pull 1650kg and the CR-V a feeble 750kg. What's more, the Discovery Sport is the best off road, because it's not only able to draw upon four-wheel drive (like the others) but also a raft of electronic driving aids, the most ground clearance and all-season tyres.

The Sorento has the least ground clearance but a few gizmos to keep you going on slippery ground, such as hill descent control and Terrain Mode, which mimics the Discovery Sport’s ability to optimise its four-wheel drive system for mud, snow or sand. The CR-V has four-wheel drive, but that’s it.

Land Rover Discovery Sport 2021 front

What about their on-road dynamics, though? Well, none is going to make you quiver with joy on a meandering B-road, but the Sorento is the most composed and confidence-inspiring. True, it has the slowest steering, but that makes it feel relaxed and easy to master, plus it leans the least through bends and grips hardest.

The CR-V is also tidy for such a bulky brute. It steers with just the right weight and response to let you guide it blithely along twisty roads, but with softer suspension, it isn’t as agile as the Sorento.

As for the Discovery Sport, that's a bit of an oddball. Its light, quick steering could’ve come from a sports car, but there's a lot of body lean as you turn in to corners, and the Discovery Sport has the least grip, especially in the wet.

Honda CR-V 2021 front

Nor is it the smoothest-riding car here. R-Dynamic S Plus trim comes with big, 20in wheels, which are part of the reason why it’s the clumsiest over potholes and the least settled at motorway speeds, although it’s never truly uncomfortable.

The CR-V is like a plumped-up pillow by comparison. It’s the best at softening off speed bumps and damping down potholes and is the smoothest at high speeds. The trade-off is that it sways about and bounces around the most along undulating roads.

The Sorento, meanwhile, sits in between the two, which, on balance, makes it the most comfortable. It’s less knobbly than the Discovery Sport and steadier than the CR-V – characteristics that will appeal to a wider audience.


What are they like inside? >>

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