Car reviews - Kia - Sorento - GT-Line CRDi AWD
Comfortable, quiet, ride, performance, handling, value, quality, styling, practicality
Room for improvement
Rotary dial gear selector can be finicky, overbearing safety systems, 20-inch wheels neuter off-road composure, infotainment system not the most intuitive
Kia kicks it out of the park with its new Sorento seven-seat SUV flagship – mostly
19 Nov 2020
IT‘S hard to believe that less than two decades ago, most people would have laughed in your face if you told them Kia was going to become one of the market’s biggest powerhouses with vehicles that could very seriously worry some of the premium brands.
The new fourth-generation Sorento is one such vehicle and the flagship GT-Line could well be one of, if not the best car the Korean marque has ever made.
Riding on an all-new platform for 2021, the latest Sorento steps things up both figuratively and literally, being marginally bigger than its predecessor, a lot more attractive, more practical and more efficient.
Our test car was the diesel (CRDi) version of the top-spec GT-Line and not to mince our words, we are seriously impressed.
KIA claims to have found and made “60 points of improvement” on the new Sorento compared to the old one and while it would probably be possible, if you had the time to sit down and list most of them, it would be missing the point.
The fact of the matter is, Kia has absolutely knocked it out of the park with the new Sorento and the big family hauler could well be the best model it currently offers.
At $63,070 plus on-road costs, the flagship GT-Line CRDi is far from cheap but we reckon it still offers great value for money, undercutting both the Mazda CX-9 Azami AWD and top-spec Toyota Kluger Grande by more than $5300, with the added bonus of diesel power and efficiency.
With more standard kit than it would be possible to poke a stick at, there is almost nothing the discerning luxury SUV buyer, let alone a mainstream SUV buyer could single out as missing.
The quilted seats are wrapped in Nappa leather while the driver and front passenger get heated and cooling functions with 14- and 10-way power adjustment respectively. The outward rear seats are heated too.
Other standard kit highlights include a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, rotary gear selector dial, interior mood lighting, 12-speaker Bose premium sound system, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, 10.25-inch infotainment touchscreen, satellite navigation, multi-connection Bluetooth, rain-sensing wipers, 8.0-inch colour head-up display, surround-view monitor, smart key with push button start, smart power tailgate with height adjustment, remote smart parking assist with remote engine-start function, panoramic sunroof, wireless phone charging, rear occupant alert, second-row sunshade, electro-chromatic rearview mirror, rear privacy glass, LED head- and tail-lights, aero blade wipers, and driver talk in-car intercom just to name some.
In terms of propulsion, the familiar 2.2-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder engine has been given comprehensive workover, scoring a new aluminium block, higher-pressure injectors, new balancer shafts, and a thermal management system.
Developing 148kW at 3800rpm and 440Nm between 1750-2750rpm, the diesel mill is paired to a new eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission (DCT) while drive is sent to all four wheels by an on-demand all-wheel-drive system.
Starting the Sorento up for the first time, we were pleasantly surprised by how quiet the powerplant was from within the cabin and especially so when on the move.
Around town there is a faint diesel-rumble rather than the all too familiar rattle of other diesel mills and the slick-shifting DCT does an outstanding job of keeping the revs right in the middle of the torque band, resulting in effortless progress.
At freeway speeds the engine is almost inaudible and just trundles along without a fuss, turning over at 1500rpm at 100km/h resulting in a quiet and supremely comfortable cruising experience.
Wind noise is minimal while tyre noise is present but far from intrusive even on coarse-chip bitumen, but it is perhaps the ride that impresses most of all.
Despite riding on 20-inch alloy wheels shod with 255/45 premium Continental rubber, the Sorento stays composed and irons out the worst of the bumps, of which there are plenty in country WA.
The new ZF Sachs shock absorbers are without doubt to thank here yet even more impressively, despite its fantastic ride comfort, the Sorento corners with a calm sure-footedness and composure some other SUVs could only dream of having.
At the end of the day it is still a 1908kg, high-riding family hauler so you won’t be worrying any sportscar drivers through the bends, but for what it is, the Sorento handles very well with plenty of grip provided by those low-profile Contis.
Off-road however some of that composure quickly goes missing, largely due to those 20-inch wheels and premium road hoops.
Half-decent corrugations will see the Sorento jitter about while even minor pot holes and ruts will send a kick through the cabin.
Some would argue why anyone would bother taking this car off-road in the first place given the vast majority of them are destined for lives spent pottering about the city suburbs, but we did so because Kia has fitted the diesel Sorentos with ‘Terrain Mode’, hill descent control and all-wheel-drive.
Just like on many premium, fully fledged off-roaders, Terrain Mode allows the driver to tell the car what sort of terrain they are traversing – sand, mud or snow – so it can adjust the traction control, all-wheel-drive system, transmission and ECU accordingly.
Specifically, we took the Sorento to the top of and over the back of Wellington Mills, a downhill mountain bike park deep in the Ferguson Valley containing plenty of gravel shuttle roads and the occasional steep firebreak.
So long as you take your time and avoid any major bumps or holes – ground clearance is rated at 179mm – the Sorento will plug along making steady progress but don’t think for a moment that it will rival a proper off-roader or Subaru Outback.
It will however rival every large SUV, off-road-minded or otherwise, in terms of practicality.
The cabin is spacious and airy with legroom aplenty in the second row – we actually fit a 193cm passenger behind our own 185cm driving position with room to spare.
Unsurprisingly the third row is best left for children however every row gets their own air vents and USB ports meaning the whole family can stay cool and connected on the go.
Boot space is rated at 187 litres with the third row up or 616L when stowed; both seats folding flat neatly into the floor, resulting in a flat and wide (read usable) cargo space.
In terms of negatives, there are three main things that stand out for us, one of them being exclusive to the GT-Line.
The first and by far the main one is the sensitivity and intrusion of many of the safety systems, which come desperately close to becoming downright annoying.
The main offender here is the adaptive cruise control which has a complete panic attack every time another vehicle moves within the set following distance, i.e. a lane change, and subsequently hits the brakes hard enough to startle both your passengers as well as those in the car behind you.
Next up is the busy infotainment screen which while crisp and attractive to look at and quick in its functions, can prove tricky to navigate when on the move due to the sheer amount of icons throughout the menus, the vast majority of which are all illuminated in the same shade of pink.
Finally, the GT-Line’s rotary dial gear selector needs to be definitively turned all the way across, past a friction point in order to select reverse or drive and doesn’t always register the desired gear when hurried, i.e. when adjusting in a busy shopping centre carpark, instead just finding neutral.
Don’t let these shortcomings dissuade you though; Kia has produced a genuine winner in its new Sorento in terms of just about everything, with its rivals dealt an extra blow when the seven-year/unlimited kilometre warranty and capped price servicing scheme is thrown into the mix.
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