First Drive: Kia Sorento
Kia’s biggest UK SUV majors on technology and also includes hybrids for the first time in its history. Martyn Collins takes it for a drive.
SECTOR: LARGE SUV PRICE: £38,845-£46,945 FUEL: 38.2-42.2mpg CO2: 158-176g/km
The Kia range might have grown, and the brand changed, but one of the Korean manufacturer’s most defining models in the UK, alongside the smaller Sportage, is the Sorento SUV. Stylish, reliable and well-equipped, it’s no wonder the Sorento’s high-value package caught the attention of fleet managers, with top-spec versions of the last-generation model finding favour.
Now it’s back in fourth-generation form, with more of the same but also sharp new looks, added technology and space, and improved off-road ability.
Just two engines are available in the Sorento at first; the most interesting and expected best-seller for fleets will be its first hybrid version.
Called the 1.6 T-GDi HEV, it teams up a 1.6-litre, four-cylinder T-GDi petrol engine with a 60hp electric motor and a 1.49kWh battery pack, giving a total 230hp via a six-speed automatic transmission. It will be joined by a plug-in hybrid version from spring 2021, bringing 265hp and positioned as the most powerful Sorento ever sold in Europe.
But from launch, the hybrid is available in ‘2’, ‘3’ and ‘4’ specification, providing a top speed of 119mph, with acceleration to 60mph taking 8.7 seconds. Yet despite the reasonably athletic performance, this Sorento is still capable of combined WLTP consumption of 40.9mpg and emits between 158-168g/km WLTP CO2 emissions, depending on model. It can also run in full-electric mode for short distances, but only at low speed. However, unlike some other hybrid vehicles, this Sorento can tow a braked trailer up to 1,650kg in weight, with a maximum tow ball capacity of 100kg.
There’s also a diesel, the 202hp ’Smartstream’ CRDi engine, with CO2 emissions of 176g/km plus a combined WLTP consumption of 42.2mpg. This has a maximum towing weight of 2500kg and the same tow ball capacity of 100kg.
From launch, the key fleet model is expected to be the Hybrid in ‘2’ specification and this was the Sorento that we drove first. Starting in electric, this SUV feels smooth and swift from the off, with the petrol engine cutting in smoothly at higher speeds. The ‘2’ specification models are fitted with smaller 17-inch wheels which, when compared to the bigger 19-inch wheels fitted to ‘3′ specification and above, gave a more composed and comfortable ride.
The Sorento HEV only weighs 10kg more than the diesel, so there’s no identifiable difference in the way they drive. The tall SUV silhouette means there’s slightly more body roll, but the new Kia is a tidy handler, although the 17-inch wheels run out of grip sooner. The steering surprises, being well-weighted too.
There are overtones of other premium SUVs in the new Sorento’s styling, but it’s far more distinctive than before. At the front, there’s a larger version of the ‘Tiger Nose’ grille, plus high-set headlights, with LED daytime running lights. At the side, there’s chrome detailing at the top of the front wing and doors and ‘shark fin’ detailing, first seen on the Kia ProCeed around the rear quarter. The vertical LED rear lights and hidden rear wash wipe mark the Sorento out at the back.
Inside, Kia claims the new Sorento “represents a step change in quality and design for Kia cabins”. Quality does indeed feel a step up, with the technology most obvious in the twin digital displays on the dashboard; one 12.3-inch screen for the instruments and the other 10.25-inch touchscreen for the infotainment. All models have 35mm of extra wheelbase and are still seven-seaters, thanks to a new platform. Rear head- and legroom are also excellent, although the third row of seats is only suitable for children. With the third row in place, the hybrid set-up has a marginal effect on boot space, with 179 litres in the HEV, thanks to the battery hidden under the floor, compared to 182 litres in the diesel. However, fold all the rear seats down and the space grows to a cavernous 813 litres (821 diesel).
Whether you go for a ‘2’, ‘3’, or ‘4’ spec Sorento, you won’t want for standard equipment. All models have the full suite of safety kit too, but cleverest must be the Blind-Spot View Monitor, fitted to range-topping 4 spec models, that shows the hidden view on the dashboard.
Prices start at a premium SUV-rivalling £38,845, rising to £46,945 for the 4 CRDi diesel. But the new Sorento is spacious and capable enough to take the fight to rivals.
Comfortable, spacious, stylish and fitted with the latest tech, the new Sorento impresses. The hybrid, with its savings on running costs, should prove attractive to fleets.
Key Fleet Model: Sorento 2 HEV 1.6 T-GDi AWD
Strengths: Comfortable ride, spacious interior, euqipment
Weaknesses: Not cheap, third row of seats for children only
Fleet World Star Rating