By Steve Berry
THE Kia Sorento is the South Korean company’s flagship offering and this third generation SUV is bigger and bolder than what has gone before.
It now offers seven seats as standard and an interior to rival the more up-market brands.
The exterior is much improved too. It is more “pumped-up” in a masculine kind of way and has more of the traditional 4×4 chunkiness about it.
The wide, tiger-nose grill has a 3D mesh that looks rather smart and the slimline, chrome headlight units are suitably swept back, giving the front a modern, sleeker look.
This new Sorrento looks large too – in fact it’s longer by 95mm with an 80mm increase in wheel base, while sitting lower by 15mm to emphasis its purposeful stance.
The wide skid-plates, both front and rear, and two-tone side-body cladding add to the solid, practical appearance as does the wider, bolder rear.
The interior has taken a quantum-leap in style as Kia have gone down the minimalist route by simplifying the most common controls and grouping them together for ease of use.
There is increased headroom and legroom, although the third row is strictly for a couple of kids on longer journeys.
The rearmost passengers get their own heater controls too while, on all but the base model, the second row gets heated outermost seats.
Kia have also kept the options minimalist as there is just the one engine choice: a 2.2 diesel unit giving you 197 bhp and a 0-60 time of 9 seconds.
It is mated to a 6-speed manual transmission but for around an extra £1,700 you can choose a 6-speed auto box – but you will pay a penalty at the pumps as the auto box isn’t as efficient as the manual.
There are four trim-grades and all come with seven seats with a 40:20:40 split in the middle row and a 50:50 split in the rear.
Impressively, they also come with 4-wheel-drive, making the Sorento one of the best value-for-money, large capacity SUVs out there.
If safety is a priority then you’ll also be impressed with the range of driver-aids. They include adaptive cruise control, around view monitoring, cross traffic alert, smart park assist, lane departure warning with blind spot detection and adaptive front lighting.
The £28,850 KX-1 is fairly well-equipped with 17in alloys, fog lights, air con, multi-function leather steering wheel, all-round electric windows, cruise control with speed limiter, 6-speaker hi-fi with DAB radio, USB and aux ports, bluetooth and reversing sensors.
But for £32,315 (OTR) you’d be much better off with the KX-2 which, as well as adding a 7in touchscreen with European Sat Nav, also adds 18in alloys, automatic lights and wipers, black leather/faux leather upholstery, dual auto Air Con, electronic parking brake (auto transmission) and self-levelling suspension.
The manual KX-3 I’ve been driving (£36,165) adds luxuries such as a panoramic sunroof with auto blind, Xenon headlights, LED rear lamps, powered driver’s seat, engine stop/start and smart entry system, smart tailgate, ambient lighting, infinity sound system, 8in touchscreen, 7in TFT colour instrument display and lane departure warning.
I think the KX-3 offers more than enough premium feel for the money. That panoramic sunroof is superb and I was impressed by the interior materials too. The leather seats felt supportive and look great while the driving position was spot on too with perhaps just the “over the shoulder” view being a little restricted by quite a wide B-pillar.
Access to the two extra seats is quite easy while folding the seats flat is also very easy from inside the hatch. For really large loads you can fold the middle row to give a whopping 1,662 litres.
Driving the Sorento can best be described as “uninspiring” but it is also predictable which is no bad thing in a family car. The only niggle would be the notchiness of the manual gearbox.
Overall, you’d be hard pressed to get such a large, seven-seater SUV with AWD for this type of money and when you take into account Kia’s excellent 7-year/100,000-mile warranty the decision may be made for you.
AT A GLANCE:
Kia Sorento 2.2 CRDI KX-3 Manual
OTR Price: £35,850
Engine: 2.2 turbo diesel
Power: 197 bhp
Transmission: 6-speed manual
0-62mph: 9.0 secs
Top Speed: 124 mph
Economy: 46.3 mpg