Has Kia transformed the new Sorento into an SUV that’s more desirable and premium, yet good value for money? Spoiler alert: yes. 

Vehicles have become expensive, haven’t they? In a market where motor vehicles are increasingly becoming dearer and dearer, many buyers have resorted to the trend of “buying down”. Let me explain: whereas consumers once opted for large family cars, usually of the German variety, with the introduction of myriad less-expensive yet accomplished vehicles from South Korea and Japan, they are now looking elsewhere. Enter the growing small- and midsize-crossover craze. 

However, what if it’s a large, seven-seater SUV, complete with accomplished driving manners and lavishly equipped with standard convenience and safety features, you want? Enter the fourth-generation Kia Sorento. To quote the South Korean carmaker’s previous slogan, does the new Sorento have the “power to surprise” its rivals? Kia, however, maintains the “Power to Surprise” years are over. “We have established ourselves,” said the local arm of the Seoul-based brand. 

“The ‘Power to Surprise’ years are over. We have established ourselves”

“The Sorento’s evolution over the last two decades echoes that of the Kia brand as a whole,” said Gary Scott, CEO of Kia South Africa. “The fourth-generation Sorento has been transformed into something altogether more desirable, and representing the perfect balance between premium quality features and value for money.” On a drive from Gqeberha to Plettenberg Bay, we sampled the bold new Sorento (in top-spec, SXL guise) to find out whether these words ring true. Spoiler alert: they do, as we found out on a trip from Gqeberha to Plettenberg Bay. 

Although there’s no empirical manner to objectively determine a car’s looks, the new-generation Sorento does cut a handsome figure, with expressive lines abound. The front end is dominated by a more contemporary, sharper version of Kia’s ‘tiger nose’ grille. Incorporated into the latter item, a pair of LED headlamps house striking LED daytime-running lights. The rear LED combination lamps are inspired by that found on the Telluride. The Sorento turned several heads en route to Plettenberg Bay.

“The cabin is solidly constructed and feels premium”

The highlight of the package was, however, the interior. Opening the doors (done via keyless entry) reveals a solidly constructed cabin that looks premium. Some might argue the interior could do with some vibrant finishing touches. However, the fitment of several shiny bits and pieces, and intricate detailing lift the otherwise dark interior. 

Sorento

Generously equipped as standard, SX (available for R74 000 less) and SXL models feature Kia’s 10.25-inch touchscreen infotainment system, complete with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and 12.3-inch Supervision instrument cluster. A nifty addition, the latter item displayed the left and right blind spots depending on the direction you are indicating. Wireless smartphone charging and an array of USB ports are standard. 

The dual-zone climate control system and ventilated (and heated) front pews came in handy with the sun beating down. The SXL derivative upgrades to a crisp-sounding, 12-speaker Bose surround sound system, a head-up display, smart cruise control and, a favourite item in our market, a panoramic sunroof. 

Dailing in your preferred driving position is a fuss-free task, thanks to the electrically adjustable front pews. Memory functionality is standard. Pressing the engine start button ignites Kia’s new ‘Smartstream’ CRDi engine. Turn the sleek-looking gear selector to “D” and go. The 2.2-litre, four-cylinder oil-burner provided sufficient grunt on the drive. 148 kW and 440 Nm, the latter available from a mere 1 750 r/min, are sent to all four corners via an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission. 

The only gripe we had with the engine-transmission combination is that it required some extra input when overtaking manoeuvres were required along the N2. Activating sport mode did, however, make it a less fussy affair. En route, the driving mode of choice was comfort. A duo of other driving modes – eco and smart – completes the quartet. En route, engine noise was kept at a minimum. NVH levels were of a high standard. 

The suspension is well sprung. Even fitted with those striking 19-inch alloy wheels, the Sorento soaked up road imperfections with aplomb. Arriving at our destination, the 360-degree surround-view camera set-up made parking the seven-seater a cinch. 

Sorento

At a glance

Kia Sorento 2.2 CRDi AWD SXL DCT

In terms of Kia’s local line-up, it’s easy to see that the firm has built a solid foundation for itself over recent years. Case in point: look at sales successes of the Sonet and Seltos. The company arguably has an uncompromising approach to building vehicles that offer a premium feel yet offers good value for money. On paper (or the screen on which you’re reading this review), the flagship Sorento may look expensive. However, were you to consider its standard fitment and, indeed, take it for a drive, you might just realise it’s a seemingly good value proposition, with a five-year/unlimited km warranty and six-year/90 000 km maintenance plan only counting in its favour. 

It may seem like a case of “buying down” when trading in the German premium SUV you currently own for Kia’s seven-seater SUV. However, in the case of the new Sorento, considering everything it offers, you won’t be. In terms of quality, you’ll be “buying up” while spending a little less. 

Price: R988 995
Engine: 2.2 L, 4-cyl, turbodiesel
Transmission: 8-spd dual-clutch
Driven wheels: 4
Power: 148 kW @ 3 800 r/min
Torque: 440 Nm @ 1 750-2 750 r/min
0-100 km/h: 10.7 seconds
Top speed: 190 km/h
Fuel consumption: 6.8 L/100 km
CO2: 177 g/km