A fine family car, the Kia Sorento Reviewed

In Car Reviews, Kia by Neil Lyndon

If you are in the market for a big, top-notch 4×4, there may be perfectly good reasons why you wouldn’t get a Volvo XC90.

  • The dear old aunt’s will came up a few tens of thousands short of your rosy expectations.

  • The company fleet manager scowled and asked who the hell you think you are.

  • The Premium Bonds were a let-down yet again.

In each of these tragic circumstances, the new Kia Sorento would be such a fine and comforting second-best that, after one or two years, you might stop grieving over the XC90.

Whereas the XC90 may be almost perfect in every way, the Sorento is merely excellent. But, at £28795, the cheapest Sorento is almost £17000 cheaper than the cheapest XC90 at £45750. And the most expensive Sorento, at £41000, is not only £22000+ cheaper than the most expensive XC90 at £63705. It’s also cheaper than the cheapest XC90.

Moreover, on top of the bulging wads of moolah that would remain in your bank account, you’d need to account for the fact that the Kia’s shopfront price includes a level of standard specification to match a top-spec Jaguar, while many thousands extra would have to be spent on the XC90 to reach a comparable level of kit. The Sorento that came to me for a week was the 2.2 CRDi ‘KX-4’ Auto AWD which costs £41000, all-in. That includes a longer list of supplies than a seven year-old takes on holiday – with such expensive goodies as 19” alloy wheels, panoramic sunroof, 7” LCD screen and Xenon headlights with automatic levelling.

If you looked inside the Sorento at the leather upholstery, the dual automatic air conditioning, the heated seats front and back and the wrapped pillars, would you come to the conclusion that you were being offered a level of quality £20k less than the Volvo? I don’t think so.
And, don’t forget, the Sorento comes with Kia’s standard seven-year warranty, whereas Volvo’s is a meagre three years.

“Even so, the Sorento is a fine family car. Engineered and manufactured to standards to match Toyota, it represents a serviceable and sensible choice at a price which may be far from bargain basement but will leave you enough in savings from the cost of an XC90 to put a kid through college”.
Those consolations should keep you warm through many a long night of pining for the XC90. And for the rest of the time, you’ll have a seven-seater SUV to enjoy that is as good as anything in its class except for you know what…

“Didn’t we already have this car some time ago?” asked my wife. She couldn’t see any exterior difference between this new Sorento and the one that came before. It was an entirely reasonable mistake. Despite the narrower nose and tiger grille which is Peter Schreyer’s distinctive touch, this Sorento – which is the third generation since Kia/Hyundai started turning them out in tandem with the Santa Fe in 2002 – remains largely a bulky, bulbous lump of anonymity so far as looks are concerned, just like the others.

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In fact, however, the new Sorento is a radically different car; but the changes are almost entirely beneath the skin. The outgoing model was quite a serious contender as a conveyance to carry the laird to the butts for the grouse shoot. The new car abandons any attempt at offering a low ratio option on the six-speed transmission and ditches the separate chassis and rigid suspension which have always been the hallmark of the resolute 4×4. Those changes, along with the introduction of multi-link suspension, bring a weight reduction of 215 kg and a transformation in the handling and ride of the car on the road.

The AWD version we borrowed will still brush aside any challenges that are likely to be set by a British winter and will still make a perfectly competent job of plodding across the grouse moors with the picnic for the guns. So let’s say it has lost 25% of its capability off-road: in exchange for which, it has gained about 50% of all-round improvement on the road. Two-wheel drive versions are available but the four-wheel drive set up provides the greater grip and security on the road.

It still rolls noticeably through corners, sure. This is not a Mercedes AMG estate we’re talking about. It’s still not dazzlingly sprightly, with 0-60mph acceleration that barely nicks below 10 seconds. But the 2.2 litre turbo diesel engine which is the only option is lively, responsive and reasonably economical. Our overall average of 39.7 mpg was not far off the manufacturer’s claim of 42.2 mpg.

The two seats that fold flat in the rear are for carrying an extra couple of Cubs to the Scout Hall rather than embarking on a family holiday with the grandparents. If they are raised, they fill all luggage space.

Even so, the Sorento is a fine family car. Engineered and manufactured to standards to match Toyota, it represents a serviceable and sensible choice at a price which may be far from bargain basement but will leave you enough in savings from the cost of an XC90 to put a kid through college.

Judged in that context, this car might deserve to be first choice for people with a healthy respect for money and responsibilities to fulfil.

2016 Kia Sorento 2.2 CRDi ‘KX-4’ Auto AWD – On the road as tested £41,000



PROS AND CONS: Big √ Excellent √ High Spec √ Lively and responsive √ Not an XC90 X

FAST FACTS: Max speed: 124 mph, 0-62 mph: 9.6 secs, Combined mpg: 42.2
Engine layout: 2199 cc, 4 cylinder, 16-valve diesel, Maximum power [email protected], Maximum torque 325lb/[email protected], CO2 177 g/km

Car reviewed by

Neil Lyndon

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Neil Lyndon has been a journalist, broadcaster and writer on the UK's national stage for 40 years, writing for every "quality" newspaper on Fleet Street. He started writing about cars and motorbikes for The Sunday Times in the 1980s and was Motoring Correspondent of the Sunday Telegraph for 20 years, having previously written a column on motorbikes for Esquire. He is also recognised as a leading commentator on gender politics, having published No More Sex War in 1992 - the first ever critique of feminism from a radical, egalitarian point of view.

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