First Drive: Kia Sorento GT-Line
The sportiest Sorento makes the most of the flagship’s latest technology, explains Alex Grant.
SECTOR Large SUV PRICE £37,425-£42,925 FUEL 43.5mpg CO2 170g/km
Although the Sportage has had the biggest effect on transforming Kia’s street cred, the larger Sorento has quietly been re-shaping opinions too. Luxurious and well-equipped, almost a third of UK buyers opt for top trim levels, and it’s shown what had been a value brand can offer a premium-grade SUV too.
So, while visual changes amount to little more than a visual nip-tuck, there are some significant upgrades to be found here. Most notably, a pair of GT-Line versions which allow Kia to compete head-on with the premium brands’ sportiest, most popular, equivalents. Based on the mid-spec KX-2 and KX-3, these add 19-inch wheels, black leather seats and, for those speccing the GT-Line S, LED headlights too.
As with all Sorentos, power comes from a 2.2-litre four-cylinder diesel engine, with four-wheel drive. But the GT-Line includes Kia’s new eight-speed automatic gearbox, and (unlike KX versions) also gets paddles behind the steering wheel to shift between them. As a result, it also gets five different drive modes, tailoring steering and drivetrain responses to the journey ahead.
This makes a huge difference to the way it drives. The eight-speed box is quick, smooth and doesn’t over-shift between its ratios as others can, and the high gearing keeps the already quiet engine from intruding into the cabin. Tune the steering towards the sportier end of the drive modes and, with self-levelling suspension as standard, it gains the sort of reassuring weight that older Sorentos lacked. It’s not a driver’s car, but it feels more agile, and safer, on British roads without resorting to overly stiff suspension. Though it does come with a significant economy sacrifice versus the manual gearbox, which isn’t available on either GT-Line version.
That said, factored into a car which already looked the part, came generously equipped and offered seven-seat flexibility, it’s another reason for premium-brand SUV customers to consider the alternatives.