What is it?
The latest Kia Sorento is a large, range-topping full 4×4 SUV
Seven seats, new premium models, new eight-speed auto gearbox
The Kia Sorento GT-Line is a clear effort to keep the SUV, for many years the brand’s flagship model, competitive against many emerging rivals, and in most areas the upgrades work.
Buyers tempted by a GT-Line will gain a lot of SUV for the money, with loads of interior space and significantly improved interior quality. It boasts more up-to-date technology – especially the new eight-speed auto gearbox – and the ability to go much further off the tarmac than many of its rivals could manage.
Buyers wanting a large, quality all-rounder should certainly take a look at the Sorento.
For many years, the Kia Sorento was the Korean brand’s flagship. The ‘proper’ big SUV was always the first to get the new technology, and when the latest, third-generation model launched in 2015 it was seen as leading phase two of Kia’s transformation, from budget brand to mainstream manufacturer of quality cars.
Today, however, there’s a new flagship in town. The Sorento has lost its top dog status to the Kia Stinger, the newly-released and potent-looking coupé. And the SUV is also facing competition like never before from a whole host of new rivals entering the market – all much newer, and with more up-to-date technology.
So Kia’s answer, for a model it still considers a highly important part of its line-up, is to update the Sorento – principally by adding two new range-topping trim levels. And as part of this package, the previous six-speed auto transmission is replaced by an all-new eight-speed variant.
The Sorento does have two factors in its favour as it fights off the new SUV onslaught. Firstly unlike many of its rivals, it is a proper, full-time four-wheel-drive off-roader, with true go-anywhere ability.
Secondly, it has seven seats, and for those who need such capacity the options today are much more limited than they used to be. The rise of the SUV has in turn seen the virtual death of the MPV, and few of the new breed offer the bulk carrying ability their predecessor people-carriers did.
The problem for the Sorento, however, is that one other SUV that does also offer seating for seven is the Skoda Kodiaq – a rival almost universally praised since its launch little over a year ago and one that is increasingly becoming the car everyone must beat.
Buying and owning a Kia Sorento
The central changes to the new Sorento range are the addition of the two new trim levels, GT Line and GT Line S. These sit above the existing KX1 and KX2 grades and offer an alternative to the KX3 grade, while also effectively replacing the previous range-topping KX4.
Both newcomers are only available with the new auto transmission. The GT Line is £7,500 more than the cheapest Sorento, the £28,995 KX1 with manual transmission, and £1,800 above the cheapest auto in KX2 grade.
So what does one get for the money? Both the GT-Line and GT-Line S gain subtle exterior styling upgrades, in the form of bespoke double five-spoke alloy wheels, stainless steel side steps, red brake calipers, more stylish ‘ice-cube’ headlamps and twin exhaust pipes.
Inside there is plentiful leather, on the seats, steering wheel and gear shift, all of it in a black shade and grey-stitched.
In terms of equipment the GT-Line takes the KX2 as a start point, and adds keyless entry and start, power adjustment of the front seats in eight directions, a seven-inch digital display ahead of the driver, plus safety upgrades aiding lane keeping and observing speed limits, plus a driver attention warning system.
Choose the GT-Line S and the bill jumps another £5,500. The additions over the GT-Line are led by a significant safety upgrade – this is the only Sorento on which autonomous emergency braking comes as standard.
Blind spot detection, a rear cross traffic alert for reversing out of parking spaces, and adaptive cruise control are also part of the safety specification, and the Sorento earned a five-star Euro NCAP rating back in 2014.
Getting into tight spaces is further aided by a park assist system and an around-view monitor which can be viewed at any speed, while other niceties supplied as standard include two extra power adjustments on the front seats (which are ventilated), a panoramic sunroof, LED headlamps that bend around corners, solar reflecting glass and window blinds, and a ten-speaker sound system.
One final major plus is the fact that, like all Kias, the Sorento comes with a seven-year warranty – definitely worth having.
Inside the Kia Sorento
The Car Expert set the new Sorento models a major challenge by firstly driving them just days after getting out of the Skoda Kodiaq, and also by firstly trying one of the ‘normal’ KX2 variants.
The Sorento KX2 is a very competent, traditional SUV, but slipping into it the surroundings immediately feel dated, compared to not only the Skoda but other more recent rival challengers.
The surfaces are ordinary, areas such as the satnav graphics appear a generation behind, while starting a car with a key seems so old hat these days. This clearly shows the pace of change because, when it launched in 2015, the Sorento represented a pivotal step up in Kia quality standards.
The interiors of GT-Line models, however, pull back much of the deficit. The plentiful leather does a lot to increase the feeling of quality. The satnav still appears a bit basic in its graphics and over colourful compared to the likes of VW Group’s product, but at least the screen is big and easy to use, and housed in a stylish centre binnacle. And yes, there is keyless entry.
The Sorento is a big SUV, and this translates to loads of interior space, especially above the head and whether in front, back or very back. Unusually for seven-seaters, the rearmost two seats are usable by not just younger occupants, though getting into them is not quite as easy as in, for example, the Kodiaq.
With all seven seats in place, the boot offers 142 litres of space. Fold the rear seat flat – a very easy process – and this grows to 605 litres, fold both rear rows and you have a massive 1,662 litres – that’s more than 50 over the sister Hyundai Santa Fe, though again not as much as in the Skoda.
Driving the Kia Sorento
Choosing one’s powertrain on a Sorento is easy as it only comes with one engine, a 2.2-litre diesel developing 200hp and 441Nm of torque. On GT-Line models this can only be combined with the new eight-speed automatic transmission – an option on other models.
Replacing the previous six-speed unit, the eight-speeder improves official combined cycle fuel economy to 43.5mpg alongside a small reduction in CO2 emissions to 170g/km. For such a big SUV, these are better than adequate figures.
It is also a highly refined gearbox. While accelerating crisply, reaching 60mph in just over nine seconds which is competitive with rivals, the Sorento feels totally relaxed. The automatic shifts are slick and sure, with none of the hunting such transmissions can suffer from. The new ‘box is definitely an improvement on its six-speed predecessor.
On the road the Sorento cabin is a hushed, comfortable environment to travel in – much effort was expended on improving noise vibration and harshness in the design of the third-generation model, and the work is evident in the lack of evidence of any extraneous sounds or bumps.
The Sorento is also a proper 4×4, and as a result feels very planted and sure-footed on the road, though it can be a bit ponderous if cornered too enthusiastically. You do, however, have the sure knowledge that it would not be fazed if the road ran out. Driving one on the launch event during the worst winter for many years proved undramatic.
With rivals emerging at a rapid rate, Kia had to do something to keep the Sorento competitive in its market. The addition of the GT-Line models just about fulfils the brief.
While perhaps not quite offering enough to tempt potential buyers away from a Kodiaq, the Kia Sorento GT-Line is a lot of SUV for the money. It’s big, with loads of interior space, and with significantly better perceived interior quality than previously.
The new transmission is a definite forward step, and the Sorento also retains the ability to go much further off the tarmac than many of its rivals could manage. Buyers wanting a large, quality all-rounder should certainly take a look at it.