2021 Kia Sorento review: A sexy, swanky, 7-seat SUV with Volvo in its sights
Skoda? Seat? Peugeot? Nah, Kia’s going after Volvo, Merc and Land Rover
When you think of Kia, which car manufacturers do you mentally group it up with? Maybe Skoda, Seat, Peugeot? Well not anymore. Kia’s been stealthily making the move from the budget end end of things to the more premium market for a good few years now, and the new Kia Sorento has its sights set on buyers who might fancy the likes of a Land Rover Discovery or Volvo XC90.
It might be more comparable with the (also very good) Skoda Kodiaq, SEAT Tarraco and Peugeot 5008, but it’s priced somewhere between the two – a good chunk cheaper than those upmarket rivals, but a lot more expensive than the Skoda, SEAT and Peugeot.
We’re now onto the fourth generation of the Kia Sorento. It’s definitely taken some design cues from US models, such as boxiness, a big front grille and vertical lights at the back. Bit less aggressive than the Telluride though, which we don’t get over here.
The 2021 Kia Sorento now starts at £38,845 for the ‘2’ model. The one you’ll want is the ‘3’, which adds on an extra £3,900 to the price (saving you the maths, that’s £42,745), with the top-spec model costing £46,945. See, it's not cheap.
But you do get a lot for your precious cash monies.
Let’s back it up a bit. The Kia Sorento is the company’s flagship car. It’s a big ol' seven-seat SUV offering loads of space and practicality. It now also has a load of kit, tech and a new ‘self-charging’ (argh, sorry, I said it...) hybrid engine.
Even on the ‘2’ base-spec model, you get an eight-inch infotainment system (no sat-nav though), heated seats and steering wheel, LED headlights, 17-inch alloys and seven seats.
However, upgrade to the ‘3’ and you get larger 19-inch alloys, a bigger infotainment system (10.25-inches if size matters), Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, leather interior, wireless phone charging, electric tailgate, and ambient lighting, as well as heating controls front and rear. No more complaints from the back.
Top-of-the-range ‘4’ gets you Nappa leather everywhere, a head-up display, Bose stereo upgrade (I had a lovely time listening to a rainy day, a ‘lively forest’ and lapping waves while cruising around Berkshire), and sunroof.
It’s what on the inside that counts…
The fourth-gen model has had a big update on the inside. Most of it feels and looks really upmarket and fancy (a couple of people commented that if it wasn’t for the Kia badge on the wheel, you could be sat in a Merc), but there are a couple of bits that look a bit cheaper – yes, I’m looking at you, silver air vent surrounds. Fortunately, Kia hasn’t yet gone down the route of ‘you don’t need buttons for anything any more’, and has kept a couple for the climate control and other bits.
Space-wise, there’s tonnes of it. Loads of room for tall adults in the front and second row of seats, and if you do some furtling around, you can even fit adults quite happily in the third row (for short journeys. They’ll start moaning after a while). Everyone gets their own cup holder and USB port too, which is a really nice touch.
That space extends to the boot as well. If you’ve got the third row of seats out the way, you’ve got 821 litres in the diesel, and 813 in the hybrid, with a mahoosive 2,000 litres with all seats folded.
There’s some fun techy bits too. The blind-spot view monitor beams a live video feed into the digital dash if you indicate to change lanes and there’s a vehicle or hazard in the car’s blind-spot. And the parking collision-avoidance assist yells at you and can brake for you if you’re likely to hit a person or obstacle while parking or reversing out of a space. If a space is too tight, or you just like to show off to your mates, you can also use the key fob to move the car forwards or backwards.
What about… power and driving?
There are two engines available (at the moment, there's possibly a plug-in hybrid on the way): a 1.6-litre… ‘self-charging’ hybrid, and a 2.2-litre diesel.
The hybrid is a turbocharged four-cylinder petrol job, with a teeny 1.49kWh battery and electric motor, giving you 230hp and 350Nm of torque. Four-wheel drive is standard and it’s got a six-speed auto. When it comes to big SUVs, I inevitably always prefer the diesel engine, because it makes way more sense, but I think this is a first… the hybrid pips it for me. It’s quick off the mark, smooth, quiet, with a 0-60 time of 8.7 seconds. If you floor the accelerator, naturally, things get a bit noisy, but apart from that, really good, and if you’re super gentle on the accelerator, you can get a bit of EV-only mode out of it.
Despite preferring the hybrid, the diesel is also decent (and can tow a bit more: 2,500kg compared with the hybrid’s 1,650kg). It has 202hp and 440Nm of torque, managing 0-60 in 9.1 seconds. It’s also four-wheel drive and has a new eight-speed dual-clutch auto gearbox. It’s again, quiet and smooth and you don’t get any of that rubbish clatteriness when you’re accelerating a bit harder. It is only available on the ‘3’ trim level though.
The ride is on the firmer side of things, and some people might want a slightly softer setup from a big family SUV, rather than a bit more handling fun. That firmness really helps to keep things in check around corners, though, with minimal body roll. And if you do decide you want to throw it into the occasional corner, the steering is nicely accurate, and neither weirdly heavy or overly light.
There is also a ‘terrain mode’ system, so if you find yourself in snow, mud or sand, you should be able to cope a bit better. Alas, the roads around Berkshire in October didn’t offer the chance to try those out properly.
Should you buy one?
As ever with these things, it will of course be down to whether the Kia Sorento fits with what you need from a car, and importantly, whether it fits your budget. It's a good-looking. big, practical, capable 7-seat SUV, with lots of kit, lots of tech, Kia's seven-year warranty, that costs quite a lot of £££. So yes, it's very good, but is it Skoda Kodiaq-beating good, especially on the value-for-money front? I'm not so sure.