Without laying the praise on with a trowel, it has to be said that if there was a once-a-decade 'most improved' prize then Kia should pick up the award. We've watched as the Korean company have morphed from a value-led brand to a rival for many of the mainstream cars that Europe can offer. Recently we had the pleasure of a week of mixed motoring with the flagship Kia Sorento 2.2L CRDi KX-4 Auto AWD and found it practical and capable.
The model as tested is pricey, mind: With a fully loaded specification this KX-4 model SUV costs a whopping £41,545 OTR. Is it worth it? Yes, I suppose so, if budget allows, but most users would be happy with a lower spec and price while still getting the same basic car.
The Kia Sorento is up against stiff competition in this sector so it needs to be good to compete. Fortunately this big car looks every inch the premium product. The overall design is sleek and attractive, if conventional for an SUV, with a roomy interior that features leather heated and ventilated front seats (on the tested model) and a whole catalogue of technology and features too numerous to list here.
As with all vehicles from Kia, there's a class-leading seven-year warranty which should provide peace of mind for long term ownership. A five-star rating from Euro NCAP means the Sorento comes up to the mark for safety.
The Engine Room
There's only one engine across the range, a four-pot 2.2L diesel that meets EU6 emission regulations. All models have intelligent four-wheel drive and a choice of either a six-speed manual or automatic gearbox. Essentially it all comes down to trim and accessory differences.
It’s a smooth unit unless you put the boot in, at which point it starts to sound harsh. Drive it normally though and the engine just hums away in the background. With a 0-62mph time of 9.6 seconds it's no slouch and on the road there’s a goodly amount of mid-range pull.
The Sorento’s fuel economy and CO² emissions are pretty good for such a large car, with consumption coming in at around 40mpg if driven steadily. All models come with Kia’s ISG stop/start system as standard. The automatic versions cost more to buy so unless you really need a self-shifter, you could save some cash by sticking with the manual. More economical too.
This third generation Kia Sorento is the company's most prestigious model and as such needed and gets some executive-class space, style and refinement. The dashboard is neat and tidy with a big, clear screen and the usual facilities. It's not going to win any prizes for originality but it all works conveniently.
Longer, lower and wider than the previous model, the Sorento gets increased legroom and headroom across all three rows of seats and a bigger boot. It gets better: The third row seats are actually usable and older children can sit in comfort. No afterthought toddler rumble seats here and they fold flat too, leaving over 600L of luggage space. Even with the third row up there's still space for shopping.
Comfort and refinement are to the fore. The Kia Sorento is a proper cruiser-class vehicle. Thanks to extra insulation in the engine bay and under the wheel-arches, engine and road noise are greatly reduced. At speed the giant wing mirrors increase wind noise.
That means the passenger cabin stays nice and quiet, even at full steam ahead. Certainly, the car is softly sprung but does a good job of absorbing the lumps and bumps of Britain's roads. Although bigger wheels look great it's probably best to stick to the standard offerings. It'll be more comfortable on the fat tyres and mpg will improve.
Kia’s Flex Steer system is fitted as standard. It's a good system that adjusts the weight of the steering wheel as speed increases, although the differences are not that noticeable and the feel is light and a bit remote. Still you won't be taking this for a blast around Silverstone, so sit back and relax. That's how to drive this car. Inevitably there's some body roll in the corners but what can you expect? After all, it's a family SUV, not a rascally hot hatch.
Given the choice I'd go for a KX-2 model with a manual 'box and get a big comfy genuine seven-seater for under £30k. I loved the flagship, don't get me wrong, but at over forty grand is pushing it a bit. Value is where Kia excel and that's all right by me.
The Kia Sorento is a hit. Roomy and comfortable, very well appointed, easy to drive, and economical to run for such a massive motor. As a brand Kia are becoming increasingly successful and good luck to them.
Author: Geoff Maxted