Check out the $65k seven-seater SUV you’d think was worth double
Look no further than the Sorento to witness the ascension of Kia.
Impressive technology, good looks and it’s backed by one of the best warranties in the business.
Over the past decade the Korean brand has evolved and been embraced by Australians. Encouraged by the seven-year warranty and rapidly improving designs under the guidance of former Audi guru Peter Schreyer, Kia has excelled as the youthful brand alongside sister company Hyundai.
The two brands often share platforms, tech and mechancial components, and Hyundai this year had the mantle as one of the best on-road seven-seater SUVs with its Santa Fe. Now the Sorento has arrived it has serious competition.
Base models start from less than $47,000 drive-away, but the top-shelf diesel GT-Line we tested is $64,990.
Look around the cabin and it would be easy to confuse the environs with a prestige European.
Quilted nappa leather seat trim looks plush, clean lines are created by a 10.25-inch colour infotainment screen with smartphone mirroring apps, then there’s the digital 12.3-inch driver instruments, panoramic sunroof, 12-speaker Bose stereo and all this riding on 20-inch alloys — the features list trumps SUVs surpassing $100,000.
White is the only colour which doesn’t attract a premium, with silver, grey, blue, black and pearl white adding $695.
Capped price servicing is available for seven scheduled maintenance intervals (annual or every 15,000km) if you return to the dealer, the average price is just less than $500. That might be expensive compared to come Japanese rivals, such as Toyota, but Kia does have a strong list of inclusions which many omit from capped price plans.
The seven-year warranty has long been the industry best, matched by SsangYong and MG, but Mitsubishi just announced 10 years or 200,000km — watch for Kia follow suit.
Australia’s crash safety experts are yet to provide an official rating, but expect the Sorento to rank highly.
Meeting modern expectations with the inclusion of autonomous emergency braking that can apply the brakes for the driver if a collision with a pedestrian, vehicle or cyclist is detected (also works in reverse), as well as blind spot monitoring to avoid side swiping, radar cruise control to maintain set distances from other vehicles and an attention warning function which monitors various inputs and tells the driver to take a break when required.
Among the new additions in the GT-Line is a blind spot view when changing lanes. Once the indicator is applied, within the driver’s instruments a camera view is provided of the blind spot area — Honda has previously showcased something similar from Honda, but only on the left side of the vehicle.
Being longer, wider and taller than its predecessor, the Sorento is a spacious offering which comfortably suits seven.
While the rearmost seats are still best left to kids for longer journeys, generous leg, head and knee room is available in the first two rows.
Kia has certainly raised the bar with fit, finish and infotainment.
The leather looks and feels high-end, together with gloss black and metal-style trims throughout the cabin, it’s a new level of opulence for the brand. Like functionality we’re used to in Audis, Benzes and Beemers, you can choose from 64 ambient lighting colour options. That’s mightly fancy.
Operations are simple and easily navigated, with toggles and buttons well labelled, while the primary touchscreen is simple to use and connects easily with Android Auto or Apple CarPlay. While the 2021 Picanto, Rio and Seltos models have wireless smartphone mirroring, you still need to plug the phone into a cord and the central USB position in the Sorento.
Third row passengers have a 12-volt outlet, two USB ports and aircon controls. Those in the second row also have USB sockets in the back of the front seats. Another three USB ports are found up front, and there is also a wireless phone charger.
Other common sense functions aren’t forgotten with eight cupholders, integrated into the door handles in the second row, along with four bottle holders. With all seats in use there’s about 180 litres of space, that expands to more than 600 with the third row collapsed and more than 2000 with the two pews flat.
Quiet on the road, the Sorento provides a serene experience for all aboard.
While the front-wheel drive V6 petrol engine remains an option, the best pick is the new four-cylinder turbo diesel.
Smooth and meaty acceleration comes courtesy of 440Nm of torque. All-wheel drive grip ensures the seven-seater gets going with purpose, although the steering can feel vague.
Fuel consumption levels have dropped dramatically with the diesel donk, the official figure from Kia is an average of 6.1L for every 100km. We only managed 7.2L, yet that remains thrifty for a vehicle that can haul seven.
The overall driving experience is an easy one, with the Sorento defying its growing proportions by being simple to park and pilot around town or on the highway.
Among the key changes is a rotary dial instead of a conventional gear shifter and the driver simply has to swivel between park, reverse and drive rather that shift forward or backward.
The only annoyance is the satnav warning system surrounding speed cameras and other traffic impediments that we’ve also experienced in Hyundais — the beeps and bongs are loud and intensely annoying.
Having a three-pointed star, propeller or four rings on the grille would be nice, but why pay double?
Svelte looks inside and out. This has the latest in infotainment and the netball team needs inspiring tunes on the way to the game.
SKODA KODIAQ RS $71,990 D/A
Sporting focus from a slightly smaller seven-seater, powered by a fierce 2.0-litre biturbo diesel that generates 176kW/500Nm through all four wheels. Can sprint from 0-100km/h in 6.9 seconds and is full of smart accessories. Offers 230L of boot space with all seats in use, 520L second row down and 1950 all flat.
HYUNDAI SANTA FE HIGHLANDER $66,350 D/A
Standout seven-seater option, under the bonnet is the old 147kW/440Nm 2.2-litre turbo diesel. Can’t match the Kia for the latest infotainment or internal finishes, but a solid option. With the second row folded boot space is 547, and 1625 with the lot collapsed.
Some people still won’t consider Kia purely on brand perception. They’re probably still buying BlackBerry mobile phones. Anyone chasing a seven-seater with impressive levels of space, refinement and technology won’t find better for this money.
AT A GLANCE
2021 KIA SORENTO GT-LINE
PRICE $64,990 drive-away (good value)
WARRANTY/SERVICING 7yrs, u’ltd km (excellent); $2401 for 5yrs (fine)
ENGINE 2.2-litre 4-cyl turbo diesel, 148kW/440Nm (strong)
SAFETY Not yet rated, 7 airbags, AEB, active cruise control, lane keeping assist, blind spot cameras (good)
THIRST 6.1L/100km (7.2 on test)
SPARE Full-size (brilliant)
BOOT 616 litres (spot on)