The Kia Sorento 4 is full of surprises in a market which often delivers nothing out of the ordinary, writes Robin Roberts.
I mean; what car comes with an beach, a wood-burner, a café or its own forest? They are part of the “nat sounds” available in the highly sophisticated infotainment system and are a calming or relaxing influence in a car which is already in the lowest stress sector of driving.
The Sorento 4 tested is the top of the three trim levels in this large seven-seat SUV launched last year with petrol or diesel engines and self-charging battery and which was joined earlier this year by a plug-in hybrid powertrain as well.
Our 1.6 litre petrol is the latest low emissions engine and when combined with a beefy 44.2kW electric motor it can deliver up to 226hp. Mated to a slick, smooth and quiet six-speed automatic transmission with selectable modes to optimise economy or performance, the powertrain is remarkable and efficient.
There’s always a gear for the conditions whether ambling along in town and country or pushing on for more urgent needs, and here special mention must be made of the rear facing cameras in the door mirrors which give live feedback on whats coming up behind or inside you.
The petrol engine provides good performance with instant acceleration, is quiet until nearing maximum revs and combined with the self-charging electric power returned a very creditable 40mpg during our test which would have seemed impossible just a few years ago for anything but a noisy and clunky diesel in a large family car.
Underfoot it slows and stops with modest gradual pedal pressure and total control, securely holds on a hill and moves away again while the steering imparts good feedback even if the turning circle is not compact for urban streets and parking.
The Sorento’s front strut and rear multi-link suspension would not be out of place in a sports car and gives the large family carry-all some good handling aided by its all-wheel-drive, in great comfort and while accommodating up to seven. That said, the two rearmost seats in the third row really are suitable only for children with short leg and headroom.
Behind them the boot is about mid-thigh height, flat and sensibly shaped with good capacity even before you gradually start raising the volume by systematically dropping the backrests.
For driver and passengers, it’s very easy to climb up and into the cabin, with lots of space in R1 and R2, and some of the most comfortable seats I’ve enjoyed in a long time. The front pair have lots of powered adjustment range and you can select the reach on the middle row as well. Climbing into R3 is a faff but fun for kids.
Once inside, the low waistline and big windows give good sightlines and vision with big quick acting wipers, powerful washers both ends and at night a really bright set of long-range and widespread beams. So you really feel safe and secure in the Sorento, sitting up high, in comfort and a cabin climate system which is easily variable and always refreshing.
Some care is needed when reversing but the sensors and camera are a big help and very clearly show what’s around you.
Tight corners can induce body roll if taken at speed and you are always aware of how hard the suspension is working judged by the tyre and road noises.
Otherwise, the Sorento 4 is extremely luxurious and insulating, putting me in mind of 4x4s costing twice the price but delivering a lot less in sophistication with a shorter warranty and that is another surprise.
|FAST FACTS||Kia Sorento 4 1600HEV Automatic|
|Price: £47,210||Mechanical: 226bhp 4cyl 1598cc turbo-petrol, 6sp Auto, AWD|
|Max Speed: 119mph||0-62mph: 8.7 sec|
|Combined MPG: 40||Insurance Group: 34|
|C02 emissions: 169g/km||Bik rating: 37%, £545FY, £480×5|
|Warranty: 7yrs/ 100,00 miles||Size: L4.81m, W1.90m, H1.70m|
|Bootspace: 608 – 1996 litres||Kerbweight: 2006kg|
For: Highly refined and sophisticated, excellent comfort, very smooth powertrain, advance safety systems, highly practical and versatile
Against: Punitive taxation, very little third-row legroom, some road and engine noises, body roll on tight corners, boxy shape.