Don't let its gloomy exterior fool you, the Kia Sorento is an excellent buy
Generous cabin real estate and sparkling performance make the Kia Sorento CRDi EX a formidable SUV
What have we got here - a big Korean land tanker?
Indeed. The Sorento is the largest SUV that Kia makes at the moment: a massive mover of families and accompanying paraphernalia. The boot is absolutely enormous, offering up 605 litres (1,662 litres with the second row of seats flat) of stowage space, enough to swallow up everything from small items of furniture and dogs to those six suitcases of clothes your daughter will insist on taking on your clan's next long weekend away.
Lurking beneath the floor of this capacious boot is a pair of fold-up seats that can increase passenger count to seven at the expense of 463 litres. I didn't use them but I guess I am not really the target market.
Space is one thing but luxury is another. What's life like in there?
Kia currently offers this SUV in two trim lines - entry-level LX and the slightly more posh EX. My Sorento wore the latter and, I must say, it was a jolly nice thing to spend time in. And spend time in it I did. Across five days I clocked over 700km and every last one of them was effortless.
From the comfortable seating position to vastly improved NVH (noise, vibration, harshness) levels, the Sorento makes for an effortless long-distance cruiser.
The list of standard features isn't as long as it could be, perhaps, but there's enough kit on tap to keep you happy. Highlights include leather upholstery, an easy-to-use touchscreen infotainment system (compatible with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto), dual-zone climate control (with vents in the back) and cruise control.
You also get front parking sensors and reverse camera - a real boon in a vehicle this big.
Let's talk about that engine - is it enough in a machine this hefty?
On paper a 2.2-litre turbodiesel doesn't sound like much. Especially when you factor in that the Sorento weighs over two tons in its most lavish specification. In reality, however, this motor proves more than sufficient thanks to its generous torque. A meaty 440Nm is available between 1,750 and 2,750rpm, which gives the Sorento some impressive tractability.
FAST FACTS: KIA SORENTO 2.2 CRDi EX
• ENGINE: 2,199cc four-cylinder turbodiesel
• POWER: 147kW at 3,800rpm
• TORQUE: 440Nm from 1,750 to 2,750rpm
• TRANSMISSION: Eight-speed automatic
• 0-100KM/H: 9.4-seconds (claimed)
• TOP SPEED: 203km/h (claimed)
• FUEL: 6.9l/100km (achieved)
• PRICE: From R609,995
Out on the highway it really comes into its own and this Kia will cruise unfussed for hours at a time at speeds well above the legal limit. Overtaking seldom necessitates a downshift from the eight-speed auto 'box while noise levels are pleasingly low for a unit this busy.
Fuel economy is outstanding: in a week of driving I averaged 6.9l\100km.
Silly question, I suppose, but is the Sorento any good to drive?
Not bad for the barge it is. The Kia Sorento turns it well despite its megalithic proportions and can actually be hustled along at pace with a fair amount of confidence before your eyes start widening for the wrong reasons. It's no hot hatch but then it was never meant to be.
Ride quality is reassuringly supple thanks to the combination of a long wheelbase and relatively soft dampening. I touched on it before but, again, I have got to commend Kia on the new levels of refinement they've injected into this SUV. Even at speed the Sorento manages to resist wind and road noise as well - or better - than some more "premium" rivals.
Sounds like you're smitten with this machine
I must admit the Kia Sorento surprised me some. For beneath that fairly forgettable exterior is a properly capable SUV that's well packaged and easy to use. Whether you're looking to transport a large family or just something to cart around the trappings of your hobby-intensive lifestyle, the Sorento ticks all boxes with its class-leading versatility.
An added bonus comes in the form of fine road manners and an ability to devour long distances with all the verve of a GT car. The knockout delivery comes through the combination of a semi-affordable price, low running costs through good fuel consumption and Kia's famed five-year unlimited mileage warranty. If you can live with the slightly dour styling, the Kia Sorento CRDi is an excellent buy.