IT was only last week that I was contemplating the merits of the traditional pick-up against a good-sized SUV and, as if to force the point, I was delivered a smart-looking Kia Sorento ‘Edition’ by the same chaps who took away the Ford Ranger Wildtrack.
Both had rather plush, leather upholstery (the cars, not the chaps), 4-wheel-drive, and plenty of space inside. Both barely fitted on my driveway, with the 7-seat Kia being only about 50cm shorter than the 5-seat pick-up.
I know I may be comparing apples to oranges but unless you really need a euro palette-sized load bay, or can claim back the VAT, why choose the pick-up? Yes, it’s more iconic than a large family SUV and will be more capable on the worst-possible terrain, but for day-to-day use – with the extra assurance of 4-wheel drive for the worst of our British weather – the Sorento is hard to beat as a luxurious family load-lugger.
It will be pretty capable off-road too as all 4th-generation Sorento models are equipped with Kia’s ‘Terrain Mode’ system which offers tweaked settings to cope with Mud, Snow or Sand. I doubt the average driver has ever had to “lock a diff” anyway . . .
Kia have kept it relatively simple when it comes to choices for the Sorrento with 3 choices of engine: 2.2 diesel (190bhp), 1.6 petrol hybrid (226bhp) and the 1.6 petrol plug-in-hybrid (261bhp). The diesel gets an 8-speed DCT gearbox, while the petrol hybrids get a 6-speed auto. There are just 2 trim levels: ‘Vision’ and ‘Edition’.
If towing is your thing, then the diesel can happily pull along 2,500kg, while the hybrid can manage a healthy 1,650kg
Prices start at £44,995 for the Vision diesel model, rising to £56,995 for the Edition plug-in hybrid (PHEV). If you like your hybrids plug-less, then the sweet-spot is the model I’ve been testing; the Kia Sorento Hybrid ‘Edition’ from £51,055.
The Sorento is not just big in size, it’s now big on looks too. It has a more American look – especially from the rear, where those 3D vertical rear light strips put me in mind of a Ford Mustang.
It sits slightly higher than the previous model but still isn’t as ramped-up as some rivals – which is fine as you’re not having to ‘climb’ into the Sorento, so much.
It’s quite high-sided and is imposing from the front where the LED headlights line-up snuggly into the slashes of the ‘tiger-face’ grill.
It may be based on Kia’s new-generation mid-sized SUV platform, but the Sorento feels like a big SUV – it’s almost as big as the Land Rover Discovery and it fits in 3 rows of seats easily.
And you won’t get any complaints from kids in that 3rd row of two seats either as there is good access to them and once ensconced, you’ll find decent leg room too. A couple of adults would be fine on shorter journeys. Kids will love the fact that they get their own air-con settings to play around with, as well as plenty of space for drinks and even somewhere to plug in their phones and tablets.
The Kia Sorento certainly is family-friendly but it’s up front where Kia have pulled out all the stops to provide a cockpit area that can’t fail to impress.
Firstly, the Sorento feels wide inside. The space between driver and front passenger is notably bigger than in the previous model and you immediately feel you are sat in a premium SUV. Then you take a look around and the nappa leather, 12-speaker Bose sound system, huge panoramic sunroof, full digital dash and the 10.25in. touchscreen confirm that Kia have upped the ante once again and managed to give those German brands a run for their money.
The quality of fit and finish is excellent with hardly any scratchy plastics to be seen – and certainly not easily felt. Everything at your fingertips is suitably soft-feel, while the heavily-stylised trim accents not only look good but are subtly lit by ambient light.
The infotainment system has Apple Car Play and Android Auto – although, annoyingly, at this price point, it isn’t wireless. It works very well though and the graphics are pin sharp, if a little heavy on the icons. It will take you a good while to find your way around all the options on offer.
There is 7 years’ worth of free Kia Connect which allows you to interface with the Sorento via your smartphone and also allows you to receive over-the-air software updates automatically. All clever stuff.
And the clever stuff continues with the likes of a head-up display and Kia’s Blind-Spot View Monitor (BVM) which displays high-resolution video feed in the driver’s instrument cluster when indicating, to eliminate blind-spots.
If you want a comprehensive list of all the Kia Sorento’s goodies, and driver-assist systems check out this link here – Kia Sorento
The heated, chunky leather steering wheel feels great and a good driving position is easily found with a 10-way power adjustable driver’s seat which also boasts 4-way electric lumbar support and an integrated memory system. The passenger seat gets 8-way adjustment, also powered.
The second row of seats get heated outer seats and you can slide them forwards and back if you wish to provide more space in the rear. They also recline and can be split 60/40. All-in-all you’ll find all 6 passengers will want for nothing.
The Sorento doesn’t disappoint out on the road, either. Okay, the hybrid system doesn’t have a great deal of initial surge, but somehow, it suits this family cruiser.
The Sorento HEV is powered by Kia’s ‘Smartstream’ electrified powertrain, pairing a 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol direct injection (T-GDi) with a 1.49kWh lithium-ion polymer battery pack. With the battery located under the front seat, the new electrified powertrain has minimal impact on cabin and cargo space.
When first setting off from a standstill, you’ll find the Sorento will be in full EV mode – silent and smooth. When the petrol engine does kick-in you’ll hardly notice, although it will probably be running most of the time unless you travel downhill a lot. Any slow-speed manoeuvring will almost certainly be electric-only, though.
However, don’t expect high MPG figures. In a week of mixed driving conditions, I only managed 36mpg – which makes you take a sideways glance at the diesel . . .
The petrol hybrid is very refined though. Quiet around town and relaxing on the motorway. The Kia Sorento is a real cruiser and I’d have been happy to cover mega-miles in it without having to worry about becoming uncomfortable – even though I did find the front seats a little on the wide side.
The 6-speed auto gearbox is simplicity itself to use. A rotary dial lets you select Drive, Reverse or Neutral with a twist of the wrist. Gear changes are smooth, intelligent and you won’t really notice them – which is just want you want.
Handling was fine for a car of this size, which you wouldn’t want to be throwing around bends anyway. The Sorento doesn’t feel like it has huge amounts of grip, even with its all-wheel-drive system and I can only put that down to the weight and suspension setup, which is on the soft side.
Selecting ‘Sport’ mode provides a little more feel to the steering and a quicker throttle response, but that’s about it.
Don’t get me wrong, the Sorento always feels safe but if pushed too hard into a corner then understeer becomes apparent pretty quickly. The Electronic Stability Control (ESC) won’t let you get into any serious trouble, though. I should say I only drove the Sorento in damp to extremely-damp conditions, thanks to the recent storms in Scotland.
Overall, I found the Sorento HEV a delight to use during the inclement weather – the heated seats and steering wheel were particularly welcome and I was also pleasantly surprised by how quickly the large cabin area warmed up and cleared any fogging of the windscreen.
The flexibility of the seating allows for larger families to travel in comfort, or, if you drop the rear seats, you have a huge load area of almost 2,000 litres. No, it isn’t cheap and it isn’t particularly fuel-efficient, but if you’re in the market for a 7-seat, well-equipped SUV, then Kia’s excellent 7-year/100,000-mile warranty has to help put the Sorento on your short list.
AT A GLANCE:
Kia Sorento HEV ‘Edition’
OTR Price: £51,055
Engine: 1.6 turbo petrol/electric Hybrid
Power: 226 bhp
Transmission: 6-speed Automatic
0-62mph: 9.0 secs
Top Speed: 120 mph
Combined Economy: 38.2 mpg
C02: 168 g/km