KIA is making some very attractive machines these days, like the Sportage and Optima. The latest Sorento continues the excellent, European-minded styling work that the famed Peter Schreyer oversees. The entry-price for the EX version is €37,990 and for your money you get a sturdy, modern-looking machine that actually has off-road ability.
The all-wheel drive's substantial exterior sits well on its standard 17-inch alloys and high profile tyres. Sorento features decent ground clearance, despite being some 10mm lower, plus the strong, clean design lines project a muscular image that is so important in any sports activity vehicle.
Sorento is distinguished from its sister car the Hyundai 'Santa Fe' by the trademark Kia 'Tiger Nose' grille, vertical front fog lamps and by having AWD as standard in the range.
The cabin is easier to access thanks to a lower floor height and there is more legroom for the middle and last rows. Once inside you'll find familiar, good quality switchgear and, of course, a nice elevated driving position. Standard kit is very good with ventilation fan controls for the middle and rearmost passengers. The cabin features a good-size centre cubby and a couple of cup holders.
With seven-seats in place the boot almost disappears (there is modest under-floor stowage), but as a five or six-seater the cargo area is very versatile. Parking sensors come as standard as do roof rails, Bluetooth and air conditioning. Standard driving and safety aids, such as an active hood system, VSM, ESC and HAC (hill start assist control), are welcome.
If you want a stealthy machine with all the toys, the 'Platinum' Sorento at €41,790 should fit the bill. Platinum adds a panoramic sunroof, leather seats (heated up front), electric-powered driver's seat with six-way adjustment, rain-sensing wipers, rear privacy glass, reversing camera and HID (high intensity headlamps).
Power comes from an improved version of the 2.2-litre diesel we know well. 197bhp is available through the carried-over, six-speed manual gearbox (automatic is available). While this would be plenty in something smaller, the four-cylinder engine only does an adequate job of hauling the large SUV around. Don't get me wrong, the 2.2 is no slouch, but it doesn't inspire enthusiastic driving.
Sorento, despite a stiffer body and more direct steering, won't encourage you to take the twisty route home; it is just not that type of machine! That said, the revised diesel unit is relatively economical. Aerodynamic performance is reduced as is CO2 emission (tax band 'C'/€390), thanks to a new exhaust gas recirculation system (EGR). There is a good amount of pulling power at 420nm – so it is useful for towing.
The four-wheel drive (AWD) system used by Sorento is an 'On-Demand' type. The engine delivers 100% of its power to the front wheels unless grip is lost; then up to 50% power is transferred to the rear wheels. Drivers can also select 'Lock Mode' to keep the car in four-wheel drive.
There are more entertaining SUVs out there but Sorento, 'per seat', is 'very well-priced' at €38,000.