In a competition to see who can offer the most car for the money Kia must pretty much be a shoe-in thanks to the latest Sorento.
At first glance, £41,000 might not sound like a small sum but when you consider just how much the flagship SUV packs in and the premium brands it’s up against it suddenly starts to make more sense.
We were furnished with a top-of-the-range KX-4 auto but the range starts at a more down-to-earth £28,795 for the KX-1. Whatever trim level you go for you’ll get seven seats, four-wheel drive and a 2.2-litre diesel engine.
Our car’s engine was mated to a six-speed automatic gearbox and was good for 197bhp and 311lb/ft. Despite the car’s size – it is massive – it manages to hit 62mph in a respectable 9.6 seconds and never felt underpowered.
On the road the Sorento falls into the ‘relaxing’ rather than ‘invigorating’ driving category. The light controls make it a breeze to manoeuver and the suspension does a good job of isolating passengers from poor road surfaces without turning too spongy. The cabin, too, is commendably cut off from outside noise interference and after some low-speed clattering, the engine quiets down at cruise.
Official green figures are economy of 42.2mpg on the combined cycle and 177g/km of CO2 emitted. Opt for the manual gearbox and slightly smaller (18-inch) wheels, however, and the Sorento will edge to 47mpg. As ever, these are official figures and we actually saw mid-30s mpg.
The Sorento’s massive road presence is reflected in the cavernous interior. From front to rear, everyone has plenty of room and nobody’s going to feel hard done by on a long-distance run. Even those in the rear-most seats can get comfy thanks to the sliding function on the middle row and they even get their own air conditioning controls.
Those rear-most seats must also be praised for the simple mechanism used to flip them up and down in an instant. With them down the boot is a whopping 660 litres and with the middle row folded as well (another one-touch job), there’s a van-like 1,700 litres.
So it’s big and comfy, but what really helps take the Sorento to the next level is the quality and specification of the interior.
The dashboard could be criticised for being a touch plain as its sheer size leaves some large swathes of unadorned black plastic. But the controls are nicely finished and well laid out, and the touchscreen sits neatly in the centre surrounded by a logical array of buttons.
It doesn’t ooze glamour in the way of a Volvo XC90 and the switches don’t quite have the ‘hewn from stone’ feel of an Audi Q7’s but still there’s nothing cut-price about the look or feel of the cabin materials and switchgear.
On top of that, our KX-4 came with almost every piece of kit imaginable. To list it all would take all day but among the highlights are heated seats front and rear (also ventilated and electric up front) keyless entry and go; adaptive cruise control; an opening panoramic sunroof; cornering headlights; parking assist; auto lights and wipers; a tailgate that opens automatically and illuminated door handles.
The media system is excellent – good looking, logically set up and quick to respond. The eight-inch touchscreen packs in a CD/radio with DAB, USB, aux-in and Bluetooth and sat nav and also acts as a monitor for the 360-degree parking cameras.
An array of driver aids completes the cornucopia of kit, incorporating blind spot and lane departure warning, rear cross traffic alert and speed limit information.
What’s perhaps most surprising is that much of this kit is standard from the KX-2 specification up (from £31,995).
The Sorento finds itself in a slightly unfortunate position. There are relatively few full-size seven-seater SUVs and most are from premium brands Kia doesn’t usually compete with.
But while it doesn’t have the ultimate sheen of an Audi Q7, BMW X5 or Volvo XC90 what the Sorento lacks in showy finish it more than makes up for in bang for your buck. With the exception of the Hyundai Santa Fe, even the cheapest of its rivals comes in £5,000 more than the Kia and to kit any of them out to match our KX-4 would push them north of £50,000.
What’s more, none can come close to the reassurance of Kia’s seven-year warranty, meaning there really is very little to touch the Sorento in terms of value.
KIA SORENTO KX-4
ENGINE: 2.2-litre turbodiesel producing 197bhp, 311lb/ft
TRANSMISSION: Six-speed automatic driving all four wheels
PERFORMANCE: Top speed 124mph, 0-62mph in 9.6 seconds