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REVIEW – Kia Sorento HEV ‘4’


Kia Sorento 1.6 T-GDi HEV 4
  • Exterior Styling
  • Interior Finish
  • Engine / Performance
  • Ride / Handling
  • Economy
  • Practicality
  • Equipment
  • Value For Money
4

Summary

The all-new Kia Sorento has a big presence. The styling is very ‘American’, but it suits the big 7-seater. And given how successful Kia is across the Atlantic; it makes sense. The 1.6 T-GDi petrol engine is assisted by an electric motor, making this a car that performs capably whilst still being relatively frugal. Interior quality is good, with plenty of new tech, but the price of nearly £50k means it doesn’t come cheap.


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Exterior Styling

The Sorento is Kia’s flagship model; the biggest, most expensive one sold in the UK. Accordingly this latest iteration has a big visual presence.

On first glance you could be forgiven for thinking this is an American car. With a big, square front end and those split rear tail-lights the Sorento would certainly fit in across the pond. And that’s no accident either: Kia is a very popular manufacturer in the States, so is playing to its strengths with the styling here.

Being the range-topping ‘4’ model, there is plenty of chrome on the exterior; including grille surrounds, window surrounds and side skirt insert. Contrasted with the very executive-looking Mineral Blue it really gives the Sorento a premium appearance.

The LED daytime running lights are a stylish design, moulded to the bottom of the headlights and hugging that oversized front grille. There are even lights concealed within the lower front grille, resulting in a very distinctive head-on look.

It’s a similar story at the back too. The tail lights are a focal point, whilst the Sorento lettering is so large you can’t miss it. I’d say Kia is proud of the job it’s done with the styling here, and rightly so.

The alloy wheels on this HEV 4 model are 19-inches in diameter. That actually sounds quite large, but the Sorento is so vast that these just aren’t large enough to fill the arches. The tyres are a 235/55 profile, which also makes the wheels look small.

There is no GT-Line or similar in the UK at present, and I think it’s needed. Swap the chrome for gloss black, fit some bigger alloys and the Sorento would look a whole new level of cool. Incidentally styling like this is available on the North American market…

Interior Finish

If you covered the badges and showed someone the inside of the Sorento, I don’t think ‘Kia’ would be their first choice for who made the car. And that is meant as a compliment – this cabin is by far the best we’ve ever seen on a Kia in the UK.

The dashboard design was better on the Kia Stinger – with its upholstered-effect dashboard and turbine air vents – but the Sorento makes up for this with some impressive technology and some nifty features of its own.

There’s a large fully-digital instrument cluster, which is nice to see. Next to this is a rather large 10.25-inch touchscreen multimedia unit. There’s a rather premium-looking etched metal finisher on the dashboard and door cards, the latter incorporating some LED ambient lighting for maximum style.

In addition to the metal trim there is an upholstered-effect upper dashboard, gloss black trim and contrast white stitching to the black leather found throughout the cabin. A special mention to those rather inviting front seats too, with their honeycomb pattern and decent side bolsters.

A rather large panoramic roof lets light into what is a rather dark cabin, and has an electronic sun blind for when it gets too bright.

There’s a lot to love about the Sorento’s interior, but also a few areas where I hoped for just a little more. It would be good to have more customisable ambient lighting in the cabin, to really allow the driver to set a mood that suits them.

And whilst the general quality is much higher than before, there are still some dodgy plastics about. Granted, these are generally in areas where functionality is also important – such as the seat backs – they are also not discreet enough for the Sorento – a near-£50k car –  to get away with it.

Engine/Performance

The powertrain in this particular Kia Sorento is a new one, the 1.6 T-GDi HEV. It’s a 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine combined with a 44.2kW electric motor.

This is a self-charging hybrid system – the 1.49kWh battery can be recharged quickly through coasting/braking and can then assist the petrol engine to save fuel. There is no need (or ability) to plug in, and you still have a 67-litre fuel tank.

So whilst the engine alone might seem small, this powertrain offers up 226PS and 350Nm of torque. That’s more than capable of shifting the 2,006kg Sorento. 0-62mph takes 8.7 seconds and the top speed is 119mph. It’s not exactly lightning-fast, but is certainly more sprightly than you’d expect in a car this size with a small petrol engine.

Power is sent to all four wheels via a 6-speed automatic transmission, which does a good job of keeping the engine noise to a minimum. Stick your boot into the carpet, however, and you’ll find that the 1.6 T-GDi is not the most pleasant sounding at higher revs.

Around town, the Sorento is nippy enough – the additional torque from the electric motor giving an instant response to inputs which is amplified at low speeds. On the motorway the Sorento is composed and comfortable – happily sitting at cruising speeds.

Once again though, the US market seems to have it better than us. Over there, the Sorento is available with a 2.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine that puts out 285PS and has an 8-speed DCT automatic. Yes, the fuel consumption will be less, but the additional performance will be worth it to some. Our recent review of the Jeep Wrangler 280PS shows the appeal of such power.

Ride/Handling

Despite its size and bulk, the Sorento behaves well on the road. Kia has opted for a setup which is more towards comfort, and that makes absolute sense on this executive 7-seater.

For the most part this car will spend its life driving through town or on longer motorway journeys. And for those journeys it will be comfortable. The Sorento absorbs bumps well and seems to flatten out the road surface to make any drive smoother.

For the odd occasion you decide to give it a bit of welly down a B-road, the Sorento is relatively composed. As would be expected, body roll is present when you turn in sharply, but it’s not as bad as I feared. You are able to drive briskly without feeling unwell, which is always a positive when there could be 7 people on board.

Grip is excellent thanks to the AWD system. Come rain or shine, you can get the 226PS down onto the road. To help you along the way there are three drive modes – Eco, Sport and Smart – as well as three terrain modes; Snow, Mud and Sand.

Steering lacks feel but has a nice weight to it. What’s more, it’s pretty direct, responding well to driver input.

The driving position is good, with plenty of adjustment in the seat and steering wheel to find your perfect setup. As with most tall SUVs the height gives a great view of the road ahead.

But, like its styling – the feeling from behind the wheel is pretty American. This is a big car, and from the driver’s seat it really feels it too. Personally I like that feeling of road presence, but others might not.

Economy

This self-charging HEV variant of the Sorento is a good way for people to explore the world of electric vehicles. Since the world is heading away from fossil fuels, we will soon only be able to buy alternative-powered vehicles.

But if you’ve never had a hybrid or electric vehicle before, they can seem daunting. Often there is a lot going on with complicated displays, strange noises and cabins/controls that have been deliberately made to look unlike ‘normal’ cars. Over the coming years we will no doubt see this change such that you would be unable to tell an electric vehicle from a petrol one.

So to explore this world of electrification, the Sorento HEV is very user-friendly. You don’t need to plug it in to charge, since this is done through coasting/braking. But you are still able to see the benefits of an electric motor – giving assistance to the petrol engine and showcasing the appeal of instant torque.

And you can see the technology works – combined fuel consumption for this model is 38.2mpg on the WLTP cycle. For a car this size, and one with a petrol engine, that’s not bad going at all.

CO2 emissions are 169g/km, again on the WLTP cycle. That equates to first year VED of £545 and subsequently £145. But because the Sorento in HEV 4 guise costs over £40,000 it will incur the VED surcharge – currently an additional £335 (so £480 total) payable for five years, starting with the second VED payment.

If you’re looking for the ‘easiest’ electrified model then this is a good way to see improved economy with little-to-no inconvenience. There is also a plug-in hybrid Sorento. This boasts even better fuel consumption, but will mean plugging in and keeping the battery charged to maximise the benefit.

Practicality

The Kia Sorento is, inherently, a very practical family car. It has seven seats, which is great for when you have to ferry the kids and their mates about. And whilst adults wouldn’t be especially comfortable on a long drive in the third row, it could save the day for a short trip.

The middle row is vastly spacious, with plenty of leg and head room. You can slide this row backwards and forwards to improve third row leg room, and even giving a little away there is still plenty for the second-row passengers.

The Sorento also comes with some little touches that can make a big difference to family life. Take the integrated rear sunblinds, for example. It doesn’t seem like a huge feature yet can stop a rather droning “the sun’s in my eyes” thus being worth their weight in gold.

Parking in tight spaces is never going to be too much fun – this is ultimately a very large vehicle – but there are camera systems and sensors to help make it a bit less perilous.

I’ve already touched on the benefits of a self-charging hybrid powertrain, but in essence this has no impact on your daily life. You never have to stop to charge the car, nor will it spend hours plugged in at home to maintain a 30-or-so mile electric range, like a plug-in hybrid would. Instead you just go about your normal life and the car will be a bit more economical than a regular petrol engine would be.

Perhaps the only downside to the HEV powertrain, and something which will undoubtedly affect electric vehicles becoming the go-to solution, is the towing capacity. You see this large 7-seat SUV is only rated for 1,650kg braked weight. That’s far inferior to the Sorento diesel’s 2,500kg.

Equipment

Kia has always been a brand that offers lots of tech as standard. There are set trims with increasing levels of equipment, and you simply choose the one that has what you’d like. I have previously said that it was time Kia started showcasing some new technology, and with the Sorento that’s exactly what Kia has done.

All models in the UK have an impressive standard specification, which includes LED exterior lighting, heated front seats, heated steering wheel, automatic lights and wipers, digital instrument cluster, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, front and rear parking sensors and a reversing camera.

Safety equipment includes Intelligent Speed Limit Assist, Forward Collision Avoidance with cyclist and pedestrian detection, Lane Follow Assist and Multi-Collision Brake Assist.

The ‘4’ model tested here has even more bells and whistles, including a 360-degree camera system, heated outer-rear seats (middle row), ventilated front seats, blind-spot monitoring, Bose premium sound system, head-up display, smart power tailgate and keyless entry.

It’s great to see things like the digital instrument cluster. It’s exactly what Kia needed to freshen its technology offering and compete with other brands. There’s some really nifty features within this too. Put an indicator on and a display pops up which shows you the blind spot for the direction you are looking to turn. This is a great reference point and is especially handy when pulling out from the side of the road.

If I was to be particularly picky, I would prefer to see some more customisation of the instrument cluster. The setup in any of the VW-Audi group cars allows for several user-defined layouts to be preset. You can go from a twin-dial setup to a full-screen map at the touch of a few buttons.

Value For Money

Kia’s position in the market has certainly shifted over the past few years. When they first came on the scene, it was all about value for money – offering workable family cars for a really good price. Inevitably there were savings made in terms of build quality.

As the years moved on Kia started loading cars with more tech than rivals as standard. Quality improved, but still perhaps not to the same level as some European brands. But for the price the Kia choice was always great bang-for-buck.

Now Kia has upped the quality bar once more – the Sorento is unquestionably the best I have ever tested in terms of fit and finish. But with these improvements – with a larger variety of higher-quality materials – comes further price increases.

Right now Kia sits in the middle of the market – a high-quality car that still costs less than the ‘premium’ brands.

The starting price for the Sorento range is £39,360 which is not exactly what you’d call cheap. The 1.6 T-GDi HEV 4 costs £47,610. Premium paint adds £660 bringing the price, as tested, to £48,270. That’s a lot closer to £50,000 than I’d have hoped, and could put some buyers off.

Don’t get me wrong – there is some incredible technology on the Sorento; gadgets and gizmos that you’d love to show off to your mates. But there is strong competition from the flanks of VWAG, in the form of the Skoda Kodiaq and Seat Tarraco.

Both of these are excellent cars and whilst they may not have quite as much tech as the Kia, they are cheaper, so it becomes a more difficult decision. That being said, if you can afford a Sorento, it’s an outstanding car that will be a pleasure to live with.

Facts and Figures

Engine 1.6-litre, 4-cylinder turbocharged petrol with 44.2kW electric motor
Max power 226PS at 5,500rpm
Max torque 350Nm at 1,500 – 4,500rpm
Drivetrain 6-speed automatic transmission, four-wheel drive
0-62mph 8.7 seconds
Top speed 119mph
Fuel tank size 67 litres, 1.49kWh battery
Fuel consumption 38.2 mpg combined, WLTP
CO2 emissions 169 g/km WLTP
Kerb weight 2,006kg
Towing capacity 1,650kg braked / 750kg unbraked
Luggage capacity 608 litres (5-seat mode)
NCAP rating 5 stars
Base price £47,610
Price as tested £48,270
Company website www.kia.com/uk/new-cars/sorento/

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