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Driven: Kia Sorento. Image by Kia.

Driven: Kia Sorento
Another fantastic seven-seat SUV from Korea - so, this or a Hyundai Santa Fe?


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Kia Sorento

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

Good points: interior design, beautifully simple seating configurations, supple ride, impressive refinement.

Not so good: four-cylinder diesel only, the Hyundai alternative, steering devoid of life.

Key Facts

Model tested: Kia Sorento 2.2 CRDi KX-3 AWD manual
Price: from 28,795; as tested 35,845
Engine: 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbocharged diesel
Transmission: all-wheel drive, six-speed manual
Body style: five-door, seven-seat SUV
CO2 emissions: 161g/km (Band G, 180 VED annually)
Combined economy: 46.3mpg
Top speed: 124mph
0-62mph: 9.0 seconds
Power: 197hp at 3,800rpm
Torque: 441Nm from 1,750- to 2,750rpm

Our view:

So here we are, just a few weeks after driving the latest Hyundai Santa Fe, now in the 'cousin' from Kia. As both of these big, seven-seat SUVs are absolutely brilliant - and, to be honest, probably better than a lot of supposedly more premium metal, like the Volkswagen Touareg - the question is: which of them should you choose, the Hyundai or this Kia flagship?

The Sorento has been around since 2002, but only recently has it become a model to seriously consider in the large SUV market. And despite being largely similar in appearance to its predecessor, this third-generation version's exterior styling is much better. Gone are the strange upright reflectors that used to reside at the outer edges of the rear bumper; gone is the slightly Sportage-esque front end, that didn't quite work on the bigger SUV; and revised is the glasshouse. For an 'all-new' car, these are reasonably small changes all, but they're enough to elevate the Sorento from slightly cumbersome to good-looking - if a little conservative and vaguely Americanised, meaning the Hyundai is the better option when it comes to kerb appeal in my opinion.

The interior is harder to call and while we would accept that some might prefer the Hyundai's cabin, we're going to pin our colours to the Kia's mast, mainly because of a lovely TFT instrument cluster that's a little bit more advanced than that in the Hyundai - and the Sorento's more attractive steering wheel. Like the Santa Fe, the Sorento - here in high-ranking KX-3 trim - is spacious, ingenious, aesthetically pleasing and well-equipped; it is light years ahead of the cabin found in the MkII Sorento. The kit list includes leather seats, which are heated in the front and the outer two chairs of the middle row, multi-zone climate control, a heated steering wheel, touchscreen satnav, reversing camera, a ten-speaker, high-power sound system and much more.

After that, there's really nothing in it. This Kia Sorento is as superb as the Hyundai. There's just one engine, the 2.2-litre four-cylinder diesel, it's all-wheel drive only and there's a choice of six-speed manual or automatic transmissions (this is all the same as the Santa Fe, as the two share hardware). Our Sorento test car was a manual, which has a marked effect on emissions - the automatic is two bands higher for VED, resulting in tax bills of 350 in year one and 225 annually thereafter, instead of a flat rate of 180 for this gearbox. It's also a pleasure to use so we'd advocate sticking with it and saving your money.

And the 197hp, 441Nm engine has no problem shifting such a large amount of metal, as it is hushed and blessed with maximum torque at very low revs, making it suitably punchy for day-to-day driving. Extend the engine out and it never becomes harsh or loud, and the Sorento feels every bit as powerful as the Volkswagen Touareg with a 3.0-litre V6 TDI engine. That's seriously impressive performance from the Kia.

The Sorento's ride is fabulous, as is the body control; it's not strong enough to see the Kia able to convince you that it's sporty, but it is capable of barrelling along a back road at a decent lick without becoming awfully ragged. The brakes are good too, but sadly the steering's not great, being overly light no matter which of the selectable modes you put it into. No matter, as otherwise the Sorento is dynamically well-sorted, easily up to cutting it in urban driving and on country roads as it is cruising down the motorway in supreme comfort.

What's most incredible about the new Kia Sorento, and also the latest Hyundai Santa Fe, is that they're considerably cheaper than some big German rivals with seven seats - such as the Audi Q7 and BMW X5 - without feeling in any way cut-price or bargain basement. Even in top specification, they're a good ten grand less than the must-have brands, which is a serious amount of money for a buyer to be slotting into their back pocket, especially when you end up with thoroughly polished all-round machines.

So we'd put the Sorento up there with the class leaders, just like the Santa Fe. But to return to our original poser: which should you buy out of the Kia and the Hyundai? Well, the Hyundai has the slightly cheaper range, the cost-saving option of five seats if you don't need seven (only on SE and Premium models, not the range-topping Premium SE) and arguably a sharper suit. The Kia counters with a nicer cabin and a longer warranty than the Santa Fe: seven years/unlimited mileage, rather than five years/unlimited mileage.

We're prevaricating, aren't we? That's because we're going to shamefully cop out. We really can't choose between these Korean 4x4s, as they're sensationally good vehicles. You could make a fine, rational argument for why you bought either one over the other and you wouldn't hear us complaining or telling you that you'd made a mistake. So, putting the Hyundai aside for one moment, it behoves us to say this: in just 13 short years, Kia has gone from making an oddball, budget SUV with a Sorento badge on it that was simply there making up the numbers in the 4x4 world, to one of the best big off-roaders in the business. Any way you cut it, that's a truly remarkable development curve and more than enough reason to buy into the third-gen Sorento.


BMW X3: for slightly less than the 35,845 Sorento, a mid-trim, manual X3 can be had. Sharp chassis and badge cachet, but nothing like as capacious as the Kia and five seats only.

Hyundai Santa Fe Premium SE: what else could we list here? Every bit as good as the Kia. Pick this or the Sorento and you're onto a winner.

Volvo XC90 D5 Momentum: an absolutely sublime seven-seat SUV in every respect. Makes a Range Rover look criminally overpriced, but this entry-spec diesel is 46,000 - a whole city car more than the Kia Sorento.

Matt Robinson - 24 Sep 2015    - Kia road tests
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2015 Kia Sorento. Image by Kia.2015 Kia Sorento. Image by Kia.2015 Kia Sorento. Image by Kia.2015 Kia Sorento. Image by Kia.2015 Kia Sorento. Image by Kia.

2015 Kia Sorento. Image by Kia.2015 Kia Sorento. Image by Paddy McGrath.2015 Kia Sorento. Image by Paddy McGrath.2015 Kia Sorento. Image by Paddy McGrath.2015 Kia Sorento. Image by Paddy McGrath.


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