Nothing reinforces how far Kia has come over the last decade than the evolution of the Sorento SUV. Earlier generations of Kia’s flagship SUV always represented strong metal for money but lacked the design to appeal to those wanting something a little bit fancy.
The current version of the seven-seater is an instance where Kia was able to anticipate a shift in the market and get the formula right, something Holden and Ford have repeatedly struggled to do.
The 2018 Kia Sorento has raised the bar just a little higher, it’s a car that can now argue a strong case for families chasing a fully loaded hauler. Our tester is the range-topping Sorento GT-Line, in the current sales climate, this isn’t just Kia’s flagship SUV, it’s their flagship family car.
Being a car that sits at the summit, it’s listed at $58,990 (prices before on-roads). It is a big spend, but everything is included, the Sorento GT-Line is loaded with comfort, convenience and safety equipment. For context, an equivalent Mazda CX-9 Azami costs $64,790 while a Toyota Kluger Grande will set you back $69,617. For some additional thought, the Sorento range opens with the V6 petrol-powered Si model for $42,990.
It’s an unassuming car from the outside, it doesn’t scream for attention. With white paint, it just blends in, perhaps a little too much. The front end is immediately identifiable as a Kia, the ‘tiger-nose’ grille is now one of the brand’s most recognisable exterior features. Designers could have exhibited a little more flare, especially at the rear.
Kia is developing a reputation for well-executed cabins and the brand is true to form with the Sorento. For the most part, the Sorrento's cabin is brilliant in both functionality and design. Kia is now consistently delivering a high-quality tactile experience at all touch points. The soft-touch materials and the crisp action of all the driver controls set a very high standard indeed.
One peculiarity is the piano black lacquer finish found on either side of the centre console, shiny surfaces in family cars are magnets for scratches. Matte finishes are a better choice for both looks and durability.
We are also not sure about the four-spoke steering wheel, it doesn't look as sharp as the tiller found in other Kia models.
The infotainment system is exceptionally easy to use, smartphone owners will enjoy the mirroring tech that makes life that little bit easier. A slightly larger screen would be welcomed, the clean layout has left an abundance of space on the dash for the screen to expand.
Tech heads will notice the large digital screen that resides in the centre of the instrument cluster, all the important information is located there.
In terms of room, the Sorento offers a remarkably spacious cabin. Those in the second-row will appreciate the vast amounts of leg room and the flat floor means three can travel in comfort. Like most seven-seaters, the rearmost pews are primarily suited to children. If the third-row is folded away, the boot is huge.
The Sorento is unique for an SUV of its size, the height is perfect, it’s not a car you need to climb into, it’s more of a slide.
Pressing the start button reminds us the GT-Line is exclusively diesel powered, the 2.2-litre 147kW/441Nm turbo unit has a subtle grumble which is a long way removed from the rattlers of the past.
After only a few kilometres it became evident that the Sorento’s lower centre of gravity provided a much nicer drive than many of its rivals. The ride is more wagon-like than what is the norm with large SUVs. Same story with the handling, the car doesn’t float and flop around like similarly sized cars often do, everything is controlled.
Kia takes the time to locally tune its cars for our conditions, this most likely means very little for city buyers, but those in the country will happily acknowledge the effort. Over poor surfaces, the suspension is polished and keeps things smooth.
Speaking of smooth, the new eight-speed transmission glides through the gears without any fanfare. It makes good use of the available torque, especially low down in the rev range.
The feel of the brake pedal was slightly on the spongy side with what seemed to be a bit of unnecessary travel.
The GT-Line is equipped with all-wheel drive which can be locked, but the car’s height is a double-edged sword. The Sorento’s ride height is a good thing when on-road, however, the low clearance of 185mm will limit serious wilderness taming.
We spent a few days with the drive selector set to the eco option and it presented a comfortable ride which was perfect for daily use. The sports mode and paddle shifters are somewhat superfluous, the urge to push the Sorento hard wasn’t present during our test week.
For a large SUV, the Sorento is a very easy car to live with. The GT-Line extends a little further with clever inclusions like the 360-degree drone view camera system which makes parking idiot proof. The Sorento is unlikely to ever be out of its element during daily duties around town.
During our highway assessment rain began to hammer down revealing the absence of rain sensing wipers. This isn't a big deal, but in a car with a spec sheet that resembles The Iliad in length, it’s a curious omission.
A lengthy highway stint also established the Sorento’s refinement levels. When it comes to refinement and all things related to cabin insulation and noise suppression, Kia is everything Mazda is not. The camour of other passengers is the main cause of driver discomfort.
After a week behind the wheel, covering some 742 kilometres, we returned a combined consumption figure of 8.3L/100km.
Kia is the trendsetter when it comes to ownership, Kia backs its cars with a seven-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, seven-year capped-price service program and a seven-year roadside assistance package – the last two are dependent on returning to a dealer to complete the required maintenance.
Service intervals are set at a very handy 12 month/15,000km. Costs over the seven-year capped-price structure average out to a reasonable $454 for each visit to the service bay.
Like all of Kia’s cars, the Sorrento has certainly come a long way. The improvements in the overall sophistication of the product show why Kia is attracting a wider gamut of buyers.
The diesel Sorento is nice to drive, efficient and comfortable, throw in the option of seven-seats and it’s also versatile. Having driven a few large SUVs, this is easily one of the better options for those who are chasing a more car-like driving experience.
2018 Kia Sorento GT-Line Specifications
Price from $58,990 plus on-road costs Engine 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbocharged diesel Power 147kW @ 3,800rpm Torque 441Nm @ 1,750 – 2,750rpm Transmission eight-speed automatic Combined Fuel Consumption 7.2L/100km Tank Capacity 71L Length 4,780mm Width 1,890mm Height 1,685mm Wheelbase 2,780mm Tare Weight 1,985kg Ground Clearance 185mm Turning Circle 11.4m Service Intervals 12-months/15,000km Warranty seven year/unlimited kilometre
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