For many years Kia has been a somewhat budget brand and as such the quality of their vehicles felt to me, less than quality compared to other brands. In recent years however, they really have stepped up the game and this latest seven seated SUV option from the brand really is surprisingly fantastic and affordable.
The South Korean manufacturer has for years, built cars that fit into all segments of the industry and in Northern Ireland they have sold plenty from super minis like the old Pride, to the old family sized Rio and Carens and then the Sportage and Sorento.
All models have progressed immensely over the last decade and the latest line up sees the Picanto as the super mini progressing through the Soul and Cee’d models as the small family cars up to the Optima which is a large family/business hatch into the Carens as the MPV and then the Sportage and finally the big daddy the Sorento.
The all new Sorento is definitely an attractive looking vehicle and despite being the largest of the Kia fleet it is far from cumbersome like a lot of large crossovers and small SUV’s can be. For instance, parking it around town was no harder than parking an average sized estate car.
This is a good thing as too often manufacturers make vehicles somewhat unpractical for daily family life due to them being overgrown. With its 18 inch alloy wheels, large rear spoiler, rear privacy glass, chrome side moulds and full colour coding the Sorento looks far from poverty spec and indeed at just over £35k for the model tested it isn’t cheap per say.
However compare that price with a similar spec Audi Q7 for instance and you soon realise how much value there is with the Kia especially considering the 7 year 100,000 mile warranty and 2.5 tonne braked towing capacity of this latest model from South Korea.
Staying outside and this Sorento comes equipped with auto levelling Xenon headlamps, electric folding mirrors and a panoramic roof, of which the front half is a tilt slide. A full panoramic roof on many modern cars is fixed so seeing that Kia have opted for a usable opening roof was a breath of fresh air (literally).
Opening the electric open/close tailgate was like peering into a den with the pretty huge boot and with the second row of seats down, soon looked like a cave. The load space was pretty impressive indeed and more than usable with a large entry space.
It was whilst looking in here that I noticed some climate control knobs, vents and cup holders in the trim at the side of the boot and realised that the sixth and seventh passengers get treated very well indeed by Kia.
The third row of seats are hidden under the flat boot space and fold up very easily indeed to create two extra seats that seemed more than adequate for a primary aged child on a long journey, however as per most third row seating, not ideal for most average sized adults and when in use the boot space becomes impractically small.
Due to the extra passenger ability and with its full black leather hide, the second row seating is on sliding rails and can also recline with the added bonus that the outer most seats are heated and with their own air supply between the two front seats and I am pretty sure there was 12v plugs as well as USB ports for charging devices in the rear.
Once seated in the front I found the Sorento a nice height to get in and out from and with a low seating position inside it didn’t feel like I was in a crossover as such but more like a car. The 8 way electrically adjustable and heated driver’s seat and manual passenger seat was more than comfortable and offered decent support all round.
The steering wheel was easily adjusted into a comfortable position and all of the dash instruments were clear and easy to use. The 8 inch infotainment screen was also easy to navigate however I did find getting to the farther most left buttons a big stretch from the driver’s seat as it sat so flat to the dash.
With DAB Radio, Bluetooth with streaming ability, USB connectivity, Sat Nav and reversing camera Along with the climate control settings visible, there isn’t much more that you would need from the car in regards to the audio visual side of things with its Infinity speaker system.
With smart entry (aka keyless technology) and a start button on the dash the 2.2 turbo diesel engine, once fired up was quite sedate indeed and with just shy of 200bhp was far from sluggish on the road despite the heavy weight of the Sorento.
It pulled well in all gears and over 4-500 miles in the week that I drove the car, averaged around 40mpg on mixed driving with claimed figures of 46.3 achievable. Driving wise the Sorento was pleasing and when pushed into bends gave some body roll, but not in an unexpected and unforgiving way.
Visibility on the road was fabulous all round when driving and to be honest pretty effortless which is always welcomed. What was even more welcomed was the Kia Intelligent All Wheel Drive system which to my surprise even had an electronic push button for locking the diff for those times when snow maybe gets a little deeper than expected.
With this AWD system the Sorento is more than capable of living a country lifestyle and indeed on a few of the gravel drives around Ireland Off Road Experience within Clandeboye Estate, the big Kia soaked up all of the bumps and undulations with ease and in as much comfort as on the motorway.
For anyone looking a very affordable seven seater that can cope with a little towing, has the ability to live in the mountains and can do the school run with ease then seriously consider the Kia Sorento AWD, I was mightily impressed with it as was my wife and she is very particular when it comes to cars.
Words & Photos: Graham Curry