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First drive: Kia Sorento Mk4. Image by Kia UK.

First drive: Kia Sorento Mk4
Kia sharpens the looks and improves the interior of the Sorento SUV for its fourth outing.


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Kia Sorento 1.6 T-GDi HEV 4 AWD

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Kia makes clear steps in pushing the all-new Sorento Mk4 seven-seat SUV even further upmarket, with more distinctive, individualistic exterior styling and an interior with a notable uplift in quality from the previous generation. But with said premium posturing, the Sorento is no longer quite as conspicuously affordable as it once was, while there's a suspicion that lower-spec models with smaller wheels ride much better than the plushly equipped top-grade versions. So was Kia right, this time around, to squarely take aim at the European elite with the Sorento?

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Kia Sorento 4 HEV 1.6 T-GDi AWD AT
Pricing: Sorento range from 38,845, 4 HEV T-GDi as tested from 46,945
Engine: 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol plus 44.2kWh electric motor and 1.49kWh lithium-ion battery pack
Transmission: all-wheel drive, six-speed automatic
Body style: five-door, seven-seat hybrid SUV
CO2 emissions: 168g/km (VED Band 151-170 Alternative Fuel Vehicles: 530 first 12 months, then 465 years two-six of ownership, then 140 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 38.2mpg
Top speed: 119mph
0-62mph: 8.9 seconds
Power: petrol 229hp at 5,500rpm, electric motor 60hp, quoted system maximum 229hp
Torque: petrol 350Nm at 1,500-4,500rpm, electric motor 264Nm, quoted system maximum 350Nm
Boot space: 179 litres (seven seats in use), 813 litres (five seats in use), 1,996 litres (two seats in use)

What's this?

The fourth iteration of the Kia Sorento seven-seat SUV, which has always been one of our favourite models at the 'entry level' of full-sized vehicles genuinely capable of taking a septet of people onboard. It was a decent value offering when it first appeared in 2003 but, over the course of the intervening 16 years and two more generations, by the time the facelifted Mk3 bowed out it was a genuinely brilliant all-rounder. So we're excited to try the all-new one.

Which looks a lot more instantly identifiable straight from the off. Kia is no longer playing it safe aesthetically, nor is it slavishly copying European designs to try and curry favour with a western buying market; instead, it is ploughing its own styling furrow and good on it for doing so. The Sorento Mk4's general detailing is clearly inspired by the artist formerly known as the Telluride Concept, which of course is now on sale in the US as the Telluride 'mid-sized' SUV. Where 'mid-sized' apparently means a whopping great behemoth capable of seating seven bulky adults and powered by a 3.8-litre V6 petrol engine. But we digress.

Nevertheless, while we approve of the new Sorento's sharp suit, we're not totally enamoured with it by the same score. Where the Mk3 was 'generic US-pleasing' design in its smoothness, this one is 'edgy US-pleasing' and it might not be a shape which ages well. But enough hypothesising about things which may or may not happen: the long and short of it all is that it stands out, this Sorento. You won't mistake it for anything else at a distance of 50 yards and more. And that can only be a good thing.

Talking of good things, the cabin is much better - and it wasn't as if the Mk3 had an awful interior in the first place. All models get a one-piece extrusion that forms the instrument cluster and the central infotainment screen, which vaguely brings to mind the Mercedes MBUX array. Every Sorento Mk4 has a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster to make the most of this feature (weirdly, in Eco mode, the font switches to an antiquated LCD-type display, but in the other settings it looks fine), but the entry-grade version (more anon) has a smaller eight-inch infotainment display, while the bigger boys in the hierarchy enjoy a swisher 10.25-inch touchscreen. It's not just the digitalised fascia which impresses as you climb aboard, though, but also the neatly designed switchgear, the intelligent layout of all key features and the fancy diamond-pattern fillet of trim in the middle of the passenger dashboard, which is repeated on the door cards.

This is an excellent interior where form and function work together, rather than these facets being mutually exclusive. It looks good and it operates well. And then there's the space and practicality. Kia has really gone to town here, with all kinds of neat touches like USB sockets in the sides of the front seats, USB sockets and individual climate controls in row three, a convenient place to store your boot's retractable luggage cover when you're using all of the chairs (you'd be surprised how many seven-seat family vehicles overlook this simple yet effective detail), and huge great cupholders and door pockets capable of taking bottles in the rear doors. All the seats in row two slide individually, access to the rear is good and, if you are taking a full complement of humans within the Sorento, a 179-litre boot is retained at the back of the car. This rises to vast numbers of 813 and then 1,996 litres, as you fold rows three and two away respectively. OK, so in the very back of the SUV, you can get decent legroom if you slide the seats about to balance out space for all passengers, but the Kia still has low-mounted squabs so the seating position for adults is far too knees-about-the-ears; yet the amount of legroom in row two is approaching the limo-like, so as long as you stick kids in the very back everyone onboard should be happy.

The Sorento also feels good from base model to flagship. There are three grades to go at, which are 2, 3 and then 4, and two drivetrains, which are the new 1.6-litre T-GDi petrol-electric hybrid (HEV) and the familiar 2.2-litre CRDi turbodiesel. The HEV is available at all three model grades, costing 38,845, 42,745 and then 46,945 respectively, while the CRDi is only offered as a '3' for 41,245; PCPs are from 406.93 to 552.54, all figures based on a 36-month contract, 8,000 miles and a 6,000 deposit. All versions are all-wheel drive and automatic, although the CRDi uses an eight-speed dual-clutch gearbox while the HEV is granted a six-speed torque-converter unit. You'll want the CRDi for towing, as it can haul 2,500kg of braked trailer whereas the HEV is limited to 1,650kg, while every Sorento Mk4 has at least LED lights all round, 17-inch alloys, seven seats as standard with a 60:40 folding split in row two and a 50:50 split in row three, dual-zone climate control, auto lights and wipers, DAB, Bluetooth, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration, a reversing camera, parking sensors front and rear, and a host of advanced driver assist safety systems. Stepping up to 3 and 4 grades only bolsters the generosity of the kit list from there, but with such a fulsome standard spec, it's no wonder Kia UK is predicting that the best seller for both retail and fleet will be the cheapest one, the HEV 2. Oh, and one final operational note: of the six colours to choose from for the Sorento Mk4, Mineral Blue (the one in the pictures) is reserved purely for the HEV models and is not available on the CRDi turbodiesel.

How does it drive?

We managed to drive the new Sorento in both 2 and 4 guise as the HEV, and as a 3 CRDi, and our findings were... somewhat mixed. One of the things we really liked about the old Mk3 Sorento was that it majored on easy-going comfort - it wasn't a great thing to drive, albeit it wasn't terrible in the corners either, but as nigh-on-two-tonne, five-metre-long, seven-seat SUVs don't need to be secret track-day warriors, its smooth ride and wonderful refinement made it such a compelling vehicle for family buyers.

The new one, in many respects, is more refined again. We're going to focus on the one we spent the most time in, the HEV 4 with its 19-inch alloys. There's no doubt it's an excellent hybrid drivetrain. The 1.6-litre T-GDi, for which Kia claims all the peak outputs, irrespective of the Sorento's 44.2kW electric motor and small 1.49kWh battery pack adding to the propulsive force, is not one of those four-cylinder petrol engines which becomes harsh and noisy at high revs, while the Kia feels admirably punchy and robust for in-gear acceleration; or, in other words, you never really remember that a 'mere' 1.6-litre petrol motor is trying to shift about a 2,006kg SUV. It's quiet and strong and really rather likeable.

The gearbox isn't bad either, although it doesn't feel as crisp and responsive as the eight-speed unit in the CRDi, but overall the Sorento drives well. But therein lies the rub: it feels as if Kia has gone after sharpening the SUV's chassis to make it more engaging in the bends, at the expense of some low-speed ride comfort, certainly on the 4's 19-inch wheels. The multimode steering is, as we've found on recent Kia products, far more pleasant across the settings in the Sorento than it used to be, while the body control is of a suitably proficient level to make hustling the SUV a surprisingly capable experience.

But there's definitely more city-speed thumping and crashing from the suspension as a result, and we're not sure we're happy that the gain in dynamic abilities is enough reward for the loss of outright damping comfort. The Kia is certainly more pleasant in urban areas as a 2-spec car on the 17-inch wheels, as both the CRDi 3 and this HEV 4 felt too gritty at times on the congested roads of eastern Berkshire. Not out-and-out bad, of course, just not as smooth as the old Mk3 used to be.

Still, as rolling refinement is most impressive in terms of the suppression of tyre and wind noise, and as the HEV manages its resources well to run on its electric power alone for a lot of the time at sub-30mph, the overall sensation of cruising around in the Kia Sorento is a highly satisfactory one. So it remains a talented contender in the seven-seat SUV marketplace, even if most models now surpass the 'mental barrier' of 40,000 - you had to work pretty hard with trim grades and options to get the old Mk3 past 40k, whereas only that top-selling 2 will dip below this threshold this time around. And so that's the one we'd recommend you buy; well, that or the CRDi, which was the best all-rounder of the lot, even with its sometime-knobbly ride. The 2.2 diesel Sorento is still the pick? There's one in the eye for progress and hybrid goodness, eh?


The Kia Sorento Mk4 has taken some great strides in quality and appearance, and it is powered by a decent pair of drivetrains that are both frugal and torquey in equal measure. With its clever and vast cabin, it remains one of the first seven-seat SUVs you ought to be looking at if you're in the market for one of these things, but its firm ride on larger alloys and the increase in prices across the line-up mean we think that, unless you regularly tow horseboxes with your Sorento and you therefore need the grunt of the CRDi 3, you should be focusing on the entry-point HEV 2 as the pick of the range.

4 4 4 4 4 Exterior Design

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Interior Ambience

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 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

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Comfort

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Driving Dynamics

4 4 4 4 4 Powertrain

Matt Robinson - 22 Oct 2020    - Kia road tests
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- Sorento images

2020 Kia Sorento Mk4 1.6 T-GDi HEV. Image by Kia UK.2020 Kia Sorento Mk4 1.6 T-GDi HEV. Image by Kia UK.2020 Kia Sorento Mk4 1.6 T-GDi HEV. Image by Kia UK.2020 Kia Sorento Mk4 1.6 T-GDi HEV. Image by Kia UK.2020 Kia Sorento Mk4 1.6 T-GDi HEV. Image by Kia UK.

2020 Kia Sorento Mk4 1.6 T-GDi HEV. Image by Kia UK.2020 Kia Sorento Mk4 1.6 T-GDi HEV. Image by Kia UK.2020 Kia Sorento Mk4 1.6 T-GDi HEV. Image by Kia UK.2020 Kia Sorento Mk4 1.6 T-GDi HEV. Image by Kia UK.2020 Kia Sorento Mk4 1.6 T-GDi HEV. Image by Kia UK.


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