The Kia Sorento is a superb SUV in a market that often delivers nothing out of the ordinary
What car comes with a beach, a wood-burner, a café or its own forest? They are part of the “nat sounds” available in the highly sophisticated infotainment system. They are a calming or relaxing influence in a car which is already in the lowest stress sector of driving.
This large seven-seat SUV launched last year and the Kia Sorento 4 tested is the top of the three available trim levels. Powered by a choice of petrol or diesel engines and self-charging battery. A plug-in hybrid powertrain also joined the range.
Our 1.6-litre petrol is the latest low emissions engine from Kia, and when combined with a beefy 44.2kW electric motor and 1.49kWh lithium-ion polymer battery, it can deliver up to 226hp.
The remarkable and highly efficient powertrain is mated to a slick, smooth and quiet six-speed automatic transmission with selectable modes of Smart, Sport and Eco, to optimise economy and performance further.
There’s always a gear for the conditions, whether ambling along in town and country or pushing on for more urgent needs. Here I must mention the rather clever blind Spot view monitor system, utilising rear-facing overtaking and undertaking cameras which activate when the indicators are used within the instrument panel.
The petrol engine provides good performance with instant acceleration helped by the electric motor; it is pretty quiet until it heads towards maximum revs. Working in tandem with the self-charging electric power, the Sorento returned a very creditable 40mpg during time with the SUV. This economy would have seemed impossible just a few years ago for anything but a noisy and clunky diesel in a seven-seater family car.
Underfoot it slows and stops with modest, gradual pedal pressure and total control, securely holds on a hill and moves away again. At the same time, the steering imparts good feedback even if the turning circle is not compact for urban streets and parking.
The Sorento’s suspension set-up, front strut and rear multi-link would not be out of place under a sports car and gives the large family SUV excellent handling assisted by its all-wheel-drive. Overall for a seven-seater, the Sorento is well appointed throughout and very comfortable; that said, the two rearmost seats in the third row really are suitable only for children with short leg and headroom.
Behind the last row of seats, the boot is about mid-thigh height, flat and sensibly shaped with reasonable capacity even before you gradually start raising the volume by systematically dropping the backrests.
For driver and passengers, it’s very easy to climb up and into the cabin, with lots of space in Row 1 and Row 2 and some of the most comfortable seats I’ve enjoyed in a long time. The front pair has lots of powered adjustment range and you can select the reach on the middle row as well. Climbing into Row 3 is more restricted but fun for children.
Once inside, the low waistline and big windows give good sightlines and vision with big quick-acting wipers, powerful washers both ends and at night, a bright set of LED lights with long-range and widespread beams.
You feel safe and secure in the Sorento, sitting up high, in comfort and a cabin climate system that is easily variable but always refreshing.
Some care is needed when reversing, but the sensors and onboard camera are a massive help and very clearly show what’s around you, making it easy to manoeuvre confidently.
On the move, you have a responsive chassis and powertrain with excellent road-holding and a very smooth ride as the suspension soaks up all manner of potholes and bumps.
Tight corners can induce some body roll if taken at speed, and you are always aware of how hard the suspension is working judged by the modest tyre and road noises.
The Kia Sorento 4 is extremely luxurious and insulating, putting me in mind of 4×4 SUVs costing twice the price but delivering a lot less in sophistication with a shorter warranty. The Kia seven-year warranty puts the Sorento 4 ahead of most rivals and explains why it has picked up a brace of awards and will deserve more.
Robin contributes to a number of outlets in Wales and the UK, including the Driving Force editorial syndication agency feeding the biggest regional news and feature publishers in Britain.
Robin is the longest serving chairman of The Western Group of Motoring Writers. He specialises in the Welsh automotive sector and motor related businesses with interests in Wales and publishes WheelsWithinWales.uk which covers news, features, trade and motor sport in Wales.
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