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Driven: Kia Sorento GT-Line S. Image by Kia.

Driven: Kia Sorento GT-Line S
Revised for 2018 and given more kit, the Kia Sorento remains an excellent big SUV.

   



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Kia Sorento GT-Line S

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

Kia's superb seven-seat SUV, the Sorento Mk3, undergoes its midlife model facelift - which is predictably subtle. Minor aesthetic changes to the exterior and the cabin are part of the updates for the whole range, but at the top of the tree there's a new GT-Line S model that features the company's latest eight-speed automatic gearbox. So what is this 40,000-plus Kia SUV like, now it has been revised?

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Kia Sorento 2.2 CRDi GT-Line S Auto AWD
Pricing: Sorento range from 28,995; GT-Line S from 41,995
Engine: 2.2-litre turbocharged four-cylinder diesel
Transmission: all-wheel drive, eight-speed automatic
Body style: five-door seven-seat SUV
CO2 emissions: 170g/km (VED 500 first 12 months, then 450 per annum next five years, then 140 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 43.5mpg
Top speed: 127mph
0-62mph: 9.1 seconds
Power: 200hp at 3,800rpm
Torque: 441Nm at 1,750- to 2,750rpm

What's this?

One of the best seven-seat... well, five plus two, as the rear rows in these things at anything below Volvo XC90 or Audi Q7 levels are really only for children... anyway, where were we? Oh yes, one of the best SUVs with seven chairs of varying sizes aboard, at any price. Save for its slightly smooth and Americanised exterior, there's very little to fault with the third-generation Kia Sorento. Until the Stinger came along, the Sorento was the Korean company's flagship, in terms of its size and its expense, and what a fitting flagship it was.

Having said that, this particular facelifted Sorento is more expensive than even the wonderful Stinger GT S. That's because this model is one of two new trim lines introduced as part of the SUV's midlife update package and it's called the GT-Line S. Aside from the mildly tweaked bumpers and new LED lights outside, plus the fresh steering wheel design and instrument cluster within (items which all 2018MY Sorentos benefit from), the GT-Line S has quad 'ice-cube' front fog lights, big 19-inch wheels, a twin exhaust at the rear, stainless steel side steps, black leather seats with grey stitching, perforated leather for its steering wheel and a GT-Line S-specific leather gear gaiter - which, as you might notice, surrounds a shift lever for a slushbox.

This is another new item for the SUV family, the eight-speed automatic - again, as already seen in the Stinger - now making its way to the Sorento, replacing the clunky old six-speed unit that was previously an option. It's standard fit on the GT-Line S and the next model down, the GT-Line (this is the other new specification as part of Kia's updates), and a 2,000 extra on the KX-2 and KX-3 cars further down the spec ladder. The eight-speeder brings a minor improvement in combined economy compared to the old self-shifting transmission, at 43.5mpg, while trimming CO2 emissions 4g/km to 170g/km overall. But it promises to deliver more in the way of refinement and eager engine response to prods of the throttle.

Other than that, much of the Sorento's excellent offering remains. The same 2.2-litre, four-cylinder turbodiesel with 200hp and 441Nm continues, as does Dynamax all-wheel drive - which runs in front-wheel-drive mode until necessary, when it can split torque 60:40 front-to-rear - and the manufacturer's unbeatable seven-year warranty. Due to the GT-Line S model's status as the range-topper, the equipment levels are phenomenally generous: kitchen-sink stuff including (but absolutely not limited to) LED headlights with Dynamic Bending, a panoramic sunroof, heated and ventilated front seats, split-zone climate control up front and climate for the third row of seats, adaptive cruise control, a heated steering wheel and the outer seats in row two, a 360-degree monitor and reversing camera, a ten-speaker Harman Kardon premium sound system, and an absolute plethora of active safety and driving dynamics software to keep everyone on board as safe as possible.

The problem is that, for all this undisputed luxury, the facelifted Sorento GT-Line S starts from 41,995, meaning it falls into the trap of costing 450 to tax from years two to six of ownership. So the big question will be: is it worth such strong money, then?

How does it drive?

The Sorento GT-Line S swats aside many of its main rivals in a number of regards. It's comfortably more refined, powerful, interesting and pleasant to be in than the revised Nissan X-Trail with the 2.0-litre dCi, while it actually feels nicer inside and roomier than the Land Rover Discovery Sport. The closely-related Hyundai Santa Fe is due for replacement soon and, despite the fact the other, outgoing Korean SUV has slightly more daring and attractive exterior styling, in other respects the Sorento now feels the superior machine.

But that leaves just one Czech-shaped competitor in the Sorento's way: the Skoda Kodiaq. And this is a tougher challenge for the Kia, one that we're not sure the Sorento can overcome given its steep list price compared to the Skoda.

Nevertheless, the Sorento GT-Line S has an incredibly strong array of talents. The new automatic, for a start, is a big improvement on what went before, as it segues gearchanges together imperceptibly, reacts brilliantly to clicks of the steering wheel's paddle shifts and will happily drop a number of cogs in an instant if you decide to clog the throttle. In short, it's the gearbox this SUV was always designed for and it now makes the manual models appear redundant, rather than the go-to choices in the SUV's line-up.

The Sorento's steering also seems to be better, with a more natural weight and response in Normal mode. There's still a bit too much artificiality to the set-up's weighting in Sport, but as the Kia's major controls are beautifully calibrated in Normal mode, you don't really need to ever drop into Sport. The handling is therefore decent on the Sorento, with good turn-in and an impressive level of body control. Performance is also robust too, that 2.2-litre providing real thump thanks to its 441Nm and the motor remaining reasonably quiet even if you rev it beyond 3,000rpm.

But the Sorento's real strength is its refinement, with one caveat - those 19-inch tyres generate a little too much chatter at all times, which becomes elevated on poorer road surfaces. However, it's not a deafening noise and, thanks to the Sorento's slippery exterior, it cuts through the air with a 0.33Cd, so you don't hear much in terms of ruffling around the A-pillars or the door mirrors. Yet it's the ride on the non-adaptive, standard springs and dampers which impresses most, as the Sorento positively oozes along even the worst road surfaces. It's our oft-quoted football referee analogy here, once again - which is, as you don't ever really notice the suspension doing its work on the Sorento, then it's doing a magnificent job indeed.

In terms of its lightness of touch, spectacular visibility out and the judgment of its controls, the Kia is a tremendously easy thing to live with and it is equally at home in town, country or out on the motorway. It's a great, comfy thing to simply drive around in, smoothly making your way with traffic flow and enjoying the Sorento's relaxed character. It's glaringly obvious it has got even better with Kia's raft of revisions. Therefore, we love it more than ever.

Verdict

The Kia Sorento Mk3 was a fabulous thing before its facelift. With some useful improvements and polishing of what was already there, the updated model is therefore guaranteed to worm its way into your affections in short order. Well equipped, smooth and unruffled on the move, packing a muscular engine and a marvellous new eight-speed automatic transmission, the only real weaknesses of the Sorento GT-Line S are its hefty price and slightly too much tyre rumble. However, the Sorento is definitely still right up there, competing at the very top of the seven-seat SUV game. If you're after an example of this type of vehicle, you'd be absolutely daft to ignore the deeply talented Kia.

4 4 4 4 4 Exterior Design

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Interior Ambience

5 5 5 5 5 Passenger Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Luggage Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Safety

4 4 4 4 4 Comfort

4 4 4 4 4 Driving Dynamics

4 4 4 4 4 Powertrain


Matt Robinson - 2 Mar 2018



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2018 Kia Sorento driven. Image by Kia.2018 Kia Sorento driven. Image by Kia.2018 Kia Sorento driven. Image by Kia.2018 Kia Sorento driven. Image by Kia.2018 Kia Sorento driven. Image by Kia.








 

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