+ Comfortably seats seven adults
+ Looks great inside and out
+ Great to drive
- Premium price tag
- Automatic gearbox slightly hesitant
-We can’t think of anything else
Verdict: The new Kia Sorento is the most practical large SUV on the market today, with room for up to seven adults to sit comfortably. With AWD as standard across the range there’s no budget version, but a high-quality cabin and refined driving experience make it worth every penny.
Not so long ago people who needed a car which could seat seven people were confined to shopping in the showrooms of shame – MPVs like the Renault Espace were highly practical but had about as much charm and charisma as Donald Trump’s hairpiece.
Today compelling SUV-shaped offerings like the Peugeot 5008, Land Rover Discovery and this, the Kia Sorento, mean having seven seats doesn’t have to come at the cost of style and driving refinement.
The 2021 Sorento is a complete overhaul of the old car, which is evident from its big and tough-looking new grille, flicky rear spoiler and integrated twin tailpipes at the back. The Sorento looks solid and purposeful, where before it looked a bit bland.
It’s the same story inside – forget everything you think you know about the Kia Sorento’s interior. Where build quality was never the problem it looked cheap and filled too much space with naff plastics. The new model breaks up the dash with blobs of piano-black trim and chrome, and most of the parts you touch are wrapped in soft material.
Even the entry level ‘2’ trim comes with an 8-inch infotainment system which is responsive and hosts Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It’s placed high on the dash which makes it easy to look at and reach. In 3 and 4 trim levels the screen grows to 10.3-inch and the screen has a sharper resolution, and wireless charging comes as standard.
Where the Sorento trounces the opposition is interior space. While cars like the Peugeot 5008 and Land Rover Discovery offer a third row of seats, they seem like a gesture crowbarred into the car and are very cramped for anyone other than small children. The Sorento’s extra two seats are spacious and comfortable enough for two adults, and only taller passengers would notice the impeded headroom.
The engine range is refreshingly simple, with a 199bhp 2.2-litre diesel which will make sense for anyone who does high mileage, and a 1.6-litre self-charging petrol hybrid which produces 226bhp. The last option is a plug-in hybrid which offers 261bhp thanks to its 1.6-litre engine and 90bhp electric motor.
For such a big car the Sorento drives extremely well. The ride is refined, especially on the smaller 17-inch wheels which come with 2 trim, is composed both at high speeds and around town. The 6-speed gearbox on the standard hybrid can be slightly hesitant to downshift, but we’re nit-picking to be honest.
The diesel and standard hybrid don’t feel especially powerful on a car this big, but nippy enough. If you want a bit more performance then you’re better off looking at the PHEV which feels noticeably faster, packing a total of 261bhp. It can also cover 35-miles of electric-only driving, according to Kia.
The only fly in the ointment is the Sorento’s price: starting at £38,845 it’s more expensive than alternatives like the Peugeot 5008 and Volkswagen Tiguan Allspace, and if you want a top spec model you’re looking at German car prices. One reason for this is the fact Kia doesn’t do a cheapo version – all cars come with AWD as standard and even the 2 trim level has heated seats and steering wheel and adaptive cruise control.
This means pound-for-pound the Sorento still offers Kia’s trademark value for money, and don’t forget that none of those other cars come with the same seven-year warranty. For anyone who needs a highly practical seven-seater which doesn’t compromise in other areas then it’s hard to think of a better choice.
The Sorento’s cabin feel luxurious and comfortable. Where before the styling was bland and relied on cheaper materials, now your fingers find soft-touch plastics, piano-gloss panels and blobs of chrome. The steering wheel feels solid and hosts key controls, such as the radio volume.
All of the important parts are positioned within easy reach and the driver’s eyeline, including the infotainment screen, and Kia has kept common functions like climate control out of the infotainment system, although the touch-sensitive buttons can feel a bit vague and fiddly.
Both the 8-inch and 10.3-inch infotainment systems are slick and responsive, but there’s a marked improvement in terms of resolution and graphics on the bigger version, which comes as standard in all trims other than the entry level 2 trim. Both versions are paired with a 12.3-inch digital driver display which hosts a good range of information, including turn-turn sat nav instructions.
Apple CarPlay and Android auto come as standard in all trim levels, and wireless charging is standard in 3 and 4 trim levels.
In terms of practicality it doesn’t come any better than the Kia Sorento. The third row of seats offers enough legroom for adults and the seats themselves are supportive – a long journey sat right at the back of the car would not be a problem at all. Headroom is slightly compromised but would only be an issue for taller passengers.
The second row of seats can slide forwards and backwards, as well as recline, so you should be able to settle on a configuration which means all seven occupants have enough space.
The rest of the cabin is equally roomy with all occupants given more than enough leg and head room, and the Sorento’s large width means there’s a lot of arm room both in the front and back. It also means the storage cubby in the centre console in the front is huge, and the door bins are generously sized.
Even with the third row of seats upright there is enough room in the Sorento’s boot for a couple of weekend backs or some shopping, but when they’re folded flat it offers 616-litres of space (608-litres on the hybrid model). That’s around as much as the Peugeot 5008 but less than the Land Rover Discovery.
The diesel engine offers plenty of low-end torque (450Nm) which is handy around town, but it’s the fact it can return a claimed 42mpg which will appeal to high-mileage drivers most. With a 0-62mph of 9.1-seconds you couldn’t call it fast, but it’s nippy enough.
The 1.6-litre hybrid is slightly quicker at 8.7-seconds and the electric motor certainly helps with the off-the-line response, but again it doesn’t feel especially fast.
The PHEV version actually feels quite spritely thanks to a combined output of 261bhp and does the 0-62mph sprint in 8.4-seconds, but because of the immediate shove of the electric motor it feels faster. With a claimed 35-miles of electric-only driving on a full charge the average UK commute is more than covered, and the 13.8kWh battery should take between three to five hours to charge at home.
Kia promises the PHEV will do up to 176.6mpg too.
What’s most remarkable about how the drives Sorento is how composed it is, considering its huge size. Both at high speeds on motorways and slower road stuff the ride is controlled and composed. The bigger wheels which come on the 3 and 4 trim level cars can harshen up the ride around town, but it’s still not at all terrible.
Big cars like this aren’t meant to be pushed hard in corners but even so the Sorento does a good job of minimising body roll. In the 3 and 4 trim self-levelling rear suspension comes as standard, which is especially handy for those who need to tow something. On that subject, if you do need to tow a caravan or large trailer then you’ll want to go for the diesel, which has a towing capacity of 2,500kg. The hybrid offers 1,650kg while the PHEV drops to 1,500kg.
Because all versions of the Sorento come with AWD as standard it is pretty handy in the slippery stuff, and comes with a terrain mode which can be switched between sand, mud and snow. On normal roads the Sorento grips well and will be a reassuring buy for anyone who lives in an area blighted by bad weather.