Meet the Kia Sorento, a big SUV with an even bigger story to tell.
It has been around for 18 years often trying to overcome SUV badge snobbery but version four has smashed it with more style, more quality, more engines, more technology, more space, more everything. Oh, and more money with the entry plug-in hybrid a salty £45, 655 while the range topper is an eye popping £54,000 give or take a few hundred quid.
But is it a bargain for the big bucks?
Built on a new platform Sorento is spacious and can even rub shoulders with SUV royalty like the Land Rover Discovery and Volvo XC90. It has seven seats, not many of those around, and yes, it is a genuine seven seater with the third row able to house a couple of adults.
Even though it is four wheel drive the floor is fairly flat and not compromised by the usual transmission hump so there is no problem fitting three chunky adults across the middle row. Sorento is a little wider than the previous model, and there is a smidgen more head room. With the third row folded the boot is huge, big enough for four large suitcases, apparently, so there is obvious appeal for big families. Drop all the seats, using levers in the side walls and two people could sleep in it, it is that deep and wide.
And third row passengers are well catered for with heating controls and a USB port in each side wall. In fact there are two more cleverly built in to the backs of the front seats and another three more up front.
Entry level 2 does not get on board navigation but you can use an app from an Android Auto or Apple Carplay mobile to get directions on to the car’s touchscreen. The only drawback, and it’s a silly one, is that the phone, and therefore navigation directions, cannot be paired on the move. I know we are hell bent on safety but why is it necessary to stop a passenger performing the operation.
Apart from navigation and keyless entry the PHEV entry Sorento has just about everything you need and a bit more which is good for those stretching to the top of the budget.
Quality has been improved with upgraded finishes while the only areas still covered in hard plastic are the boot walls although it is easier to clean so maybe it is not such a bad idea.
Dashboard layout is a conventional affair with a clear digital driver’s display and an eight inch touchscreen for audio, phone and driver aids, but good old fashioned switches for the heating controls. I am an old fella so this is my kind of dashboard although Sorento does not have the wow factor of the futuristic Peugeot 5008, but I did like the rotary gear selector.
The sharpness of the reversing camera tells you the graphics could be better and probably are another grade up where the screen is 10.25 inches.
Performance from the turbo charged 1.6 petrol is strong and gets a hefty boost in horse power and torque from the electric motor. A 50-70mph dash takes 5.7 seconds which is impressive for such a big car.
Electric range is 35 miles, I managed a 26 mile cross country round trip and still had electric miles left so not that far off the mark. A full charge from my Podpoint wallbox took three and a half hours.
Anyone wanting to haul a caravan or horsebox is going to be disappointed with the PHEVs paltry 1500kg towing limit but unlike some key rivals Sorento still has a diesel which can pull up to 2500kg. It is also £4k cheaper than the plug-in.
Which car do you choose? Space is the key and how much you need for your family. Both the Skoda Kodiaq and Peugeot 5008 are much cheaper, offer seven seats and are better to drive along twisting roads but neither can match the Sorento’s living room space or offer a plug-in hybrid.
Toyota Rav4 and Honda CR-V plug-ins are similarly priced but also fall short of the Kia’s space package.
Kia has put down a marker with Sorento which punches above its weight and is even a plausible alternative to more expensive big guns like Discovery or Volvo XC 90. It doesn’t have the ultimate quality and finish of the premium SUVs but is not that far away any more.
Sorento 2 PHEV AWD
1.6 litre 6sp auto; 261bhp
0-60mph 8.4secs; 119mph
176mpg electric combined
41mpg petrol only
Electric range 35 miles
38g/km. VED zero
Boot 809 litres
Insurance group 33