Rarely do you get to test a 4×4 when you actually need one, but our Kia Sorento 2.2 CDRi review week ended up erring on the snowy side. Is the seven-seater and its 2.2-litre diesel able to cope with other facets of life quite as competently, though?
Atop the Kia range sits the Sorento, a beefy seven-seater with a commanding driving position. On paper it should make a great deal of sense, given that its proportions border on van-like.
But most consumers don’t want a van, do they? They want tech and comfort and luxury, with reliability and desirability thrown in for good measure. Not a wall of white-painted metal with a thrashy diesel.
Being a Kia means the first of those ‘ability’ words is catered for, thanks to a seven-year, 100,000 mile warranty. And with the Stinger proving to be a bit of a hit among younger petrolheads, you could probably say it has some of the latter.
Before hoisting ourselves into the cabin, we had some negative preconceptions. Cheap-ish 4x4s of this size can look and feel cheap, nasty and uninspiring; a byproduct of creating as large a vehicle as possible and offer it for as little. Is that the case for the third-generation Kia Sorento?
What is the Kia Sorento?
There is overlap with the Hyundai Sante Fe, which makes sense as Hyundai is a sister company. The Sorento comes with all-wheel drive as standard (of the Dynamax variety) and, usefully, you can lock that in permanently (50:50 front to rear) to aid traction on really slippery terrain.
Seven seats are also standard, as is the ability to fold down different sections of the rear bench to help you load long items. That and its grand proportions make it one of the roomiest cars in its class.
Relatively few competitors with seven seats are anywhere near as affordable, either, such as the lovely Volvo XC90 and the Land Rover Discovery Sport, making it hard to ignore if you have a big family or need as much boot space as possible without buying a transit. It is, after all, not that far off being five metres long.
In its third-generation, the Kia Sorento benefits from a more pleasing design – inside and out – as well as an eight-speed auto (instead of the old six-speed) and just the one engine, a 2.2-litre CDRi diesel capable of up to 49.6mpg. It can even look somewhat sporty, too, if you go for the more recent GT-Line and GT-Line S variants that sit above the KX-1, KX-2 and KX-3.
As for towing, the six-speed manual can cope with up to 2.5 tonnes if you attach a braked trailer and it has a self-levelling rear end to make life easier.
How does the Kia Sorento 2.2 CRDi drive?
Like a well-refined machine. A drag co-efficient of just 0.33 means there is relatively little wind noise as you trundle along and even if there was Kia has added lots of soundproofing. It is a quiet ride, especially as the torquey nature of the 2.2-litre diesel makes it easy to make good progress without enduring high revs.
That new eight-speed auto gets on with changing gear without you ever really noticing it, which is what you want in a family car, while the 197bhp power output means you can actually drive rather fast. It is somewhat refined, too, with stop and start technology reducing its emissions output.
Not only that, being 14 per cent stiffer than its predecessor helps improve the handling, although you rarely forget it has a kerb weight of up to 2,002kg. It is never as sharp as the Land Rover Discovery, nor does it feel as involving to steer despite the Flex Steer system’s adjustable steering weight.
In terms of comfort, meanwhile, the seats in the front are particularly good at making long journeys bearable and the suspension – though sometimes a little too squishy – smooths out most roads to a sufficient level. It was rare we ever felt uncomfortable, even after a traffic-heavy three-hour drive.
We really expected very little from the Sorento but by the end of the week it had impressed. It’s not that it has a great personality or is fun to drive, rather it is its ability to get on with any task without ever being anything but dependable and refined that strikes a chord.
The issue is that there are a number of other SUVs out there with superior road manners that make more sense if you can do without seven seats, including Kia’s own Sportage.
What about the interior and specs?
Besides having huge amounts of space, the Kia Sorento also manages to look premium. Not quite Volvo levels, admittedly, nor should Audi, BMW or Mercedes worry too much in the glitz department. But the design and materials trick you into thinking you spent more money.
Though tall adults will want to avoid the rearmost two seats, which face forwards, everyone else should find the head and leg room just about ample. Folding them down is done by pulling on a strap that releases the locking mechanism, making it an easy process for when you want extra boot space.
The most basic car is somewhat barren in terms of infotainment, as in expect to see no navigation system. Above that though, you get a reasonably decent touchscreen (either seven or eight inches in size).
Usefully, a reversing camera is standard on all models (you will need it), as is a DAB digital radio with support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Our car was the GT-Line S, which means all the trimmings (and a £41,995 price tag). Extras fitted to the GT-Line and GT-Line S include 19-inch alloys, twin exhaust pipes, stainless steel side steps for maximum ruggedness, red brake calipers and 235/55 R19 tyres. Unique to the GT-Line S are LED headlights instead of projection-based ones.
Should I buy the Kia Sorento 2.2 CRDi, then?
Seven-seaters are rarely pleasing and the ones that are cost a small fortune. Kia has managed to create a capable and confident happy medium that should do big families (or big hoarders) proud.
Even the most basic Kia Sorento is one hell of a load-carrying behemoth, not to mention well-built, comfortable and largely refined, all of which make it a solid choice. But if you do splash the cash, higher-up models are still decent value.