What is it?
The Sorento is Kia’s flagship vehicle and is said to have changed the way the world saw Kia when it was launched back in 2002. Now in its third incarnation, the Sorento marks the start of the next stage in Kia’s transformation from a purely value-driven company into a world-class manufacture of premium quality cars. Question is, has it succeeded?
On the road
Due a new platform, the new Sorento is longer, lower and wider that previous models, which consequently translates into a surprisingly agile and fun SUV to throw around corners. Add to that a re-engineered 2.2ltr turbo diesel engine coupled to the slick manual 6-speed box, the Sorento came alive on the twisty roads of North Wales - and that was the last thing I expected to happen. In fact, it was such good fun that Muddy Madam had to swallow a couple of travel-sick tablets to cope as she hung on for dear life! Make no mistake, the Sorento is quite a large car, but it really didn't feel like it, the ride, the steering, the engine and that gearbox transformed what could be described as a large family barge into something quite spritely.
Returning home via the A499, A55 and M56, the Sorento gave us another side to its personality, that of a luxury cruiser. With Adaptive Cruise Control and Lane Departure amongst many of its specs, you do get a lot of car for your money. After a long 325 mile, 6 hour drive, the computer was telling us that we’d achieved an average of 47.2mpg, and we can’t argue with that.
Off the road
Limited only by its ground clearance and tyre choice, the Sorento surprised me by getting everywhere I pointed it, which I'm guessing would be beyond most normal owners needs. It comes as standard with differentials that lock at the touch of a button, this allows an equal amount of power to reach all four wheels. Handy if you need it, but the Sorento got me everywhere without even a glance at the button.
Getting behind the wheel of the Sorento you're reminded of Kia's desire to move up in the world, as the interior is thoughtfully designed and jam-packed with features. The dashboard is stylish and upmarket with all the buttons and switches in all the right places, though I did think the steering wheel was a tad cluttered, but after a week I got used to it. The 7-inch touch-screen is easy to navigate and almost a joy to use. I say almost, I personally don't like them but this is one of the better ones.
Although it's isn't a major selling point, but of all the 30-odd press cars I drove in 2015, the Sorento has by far the best interior lights of them all. And on the subject of lighting, it also has illuminated external door handles, and for the life of me I can't remember a situation in which I’ve been unable to see a door handle, not even when out camping in the middle of nowhere. Nice touch though.
The extended wheelbase of the 2015 Sorento not only creates room for a decent pair of third row of seats, but it also allowed us to put a King size Tempa mattress in the back without the need to adjust the front seats. Also worthy of a mention is that all the seats fold flat.
Engines ‘n’ transmissions
When it comes to power plants, the only option is the 2.2ltr, 4 cylinder diesel, which is no bad thing. When coupled to either the 6-speed manual or 6-speed auto, the 197bhp engine gives you between 42 and 49mpg and will propel you to 124mph in either 9 seconds for the manual, or 9.6 seconds in the auto.
I could write a small book on the improvements that Kia have made to the 3rd generation Sorento, and it’s all very impressive. Overall I thought it was a great car to drive, good seats, spacious inside, good layout of controls, and quite classy. The Sorento proved that it has dual personalities, not only is it frugal, a fabulous family barge with loads of space for awkward loads, but it's also a comfortable cruiser and bloody good fun when you find your inner Jenson Button!
Have I mentioned that Kia's 7 year warranty is the best in the business? Of course I have.