2015 Kia Sorento Si Petrol Review

The new Kia Sorento has to live up to the expectations of the outgoing model. It also needs to take the South Korean brand another step forward.

You’ve got a budget that stretches just over 40 grand. You want an SUV. It needs to have proper seating space in the second row and, while it might be an underused feature for some, you need a third row that’s actually useable on a regular basis too. Ventilation and fan controls for the air conditioning system in the third row would be an important bonus.

It doesn’t matter if the engine is petrol-powered; that works for you as well as diesel does in your real world. Your forays off-road don’t go much further than the gravel carpark at the weekend sports run, so 2WD fits the bill perfectly and helps to save some extra cash over the equivalent 4WD model.

Leather trim isn’t a must, but proper safety considerations are, and a warranty that translates to real value is important to you too.

We’ve just spent a week behind the wheel of your perfect vehicle…

The 2015 Kia Sorento Si might be the price leader in the new Sorento range, but there’s nothing cheap and nasty about the ownership experience it delivers, or what I would call its ‘fit for purpose’ execution.

We might often question the number of SUV buyers that actually need an SUV (and suggest they buy a large sedan or wagon), but this new Sorento in base form certainly makes sense. It definitely goes part of the way to explaining the continued explosion in SUV sales in Australia.

The new Kia Sorento impressed us at its local launch - read the full Kia Sorento range pricing and specification breakdown here.

As Alborz pointed out in his launch review, Kia has mirrored BMW’s penchant for simple and classy interiors, and given it a South Korean twist. Even devoid of leather and the extra luxury you would find in the top spec Platinum model, the driving experience behind the wheel of the Sorento Si feels way more premium than you’d ever expect – but more on that later.

Pricing starts from $40,990, plus on-road costs. Our test Sorento Si is what we’d refer to as ‘lightly optioned’. Very lightly optioned in fact. The only extra is the premium ‘Sunset Red’ metallic paint, which adds a reasonable $595.00 to the cost. So, for just under $41,500 plus the usual on road and dealer costs, you can drive away in a Sorento exactly like this one.

Among the lengthy standard feature list, there are two that jump out immediately as wise choices for Australian drivers, whether they live in the urban sprawl or the rural fringe. Sensible 17-inch alloy wheels mean there’s no expensive low profile tyres to replace, and a bit more sidewall to soak up poor road surfaces. The second feature we like is a full-size alloy spare wheel and tyre combo. That feature alone is a must for any Australian driver - especially a family driver - who intends on heading anywhere out of the CBD.

While Kia predicts that the bulk of Sorento sales would head the way of the diesel, there’s no reason the budget-conscious buyer should walk straight past the petrol Si model in the showroom. The 3.3-litre V6 engine makes 199kW at 6400rpm and 318Nm at 5300rpm, and drive is transferred to a smooth six-speed automatic gearbox. Sorento petrol runs on regular unleaded too, so there’s no expensive 95RON required if you need to save some money week to week.

The gearbox at any speed around town impressed me. It’s smooth and rapid to shift cogs, regardless of road speed or load and you’ll be more than satisfied with the way the gearbox and engine combination work together if you spend most of your time slogging around town. I didn’t notice any clunking, hesitation or annoying tendencies in heavy stop/start traffic either.

With 5th gear a 1:1 ratio and 6th gear a proper overdrive, the Sorento claims a relatively efficient 9.9 litres/100km on the ADR combined cycle. We saw an indicated 11.5L/100km, mainly around town, but that 6th gear overdrive should see that figure drop significantly if you spend longer periods on the freeway. If you spend all you time around town though, the V6 petrol engine won’t be able to match its ADR claim, but there’s no surprise there.

I knocked over a short freeway run and it’s immediately impressive just how quiet and insulated the entry level Sorento is at 100 or 110km/h. Only the slightest wind noise from around the rear view mirrors is evident in the cabin.

Around town from take-off, I expected to encounter significant torque steer and wheel-spin from the FWD platform, given there’s a reasonably powerful V6 engine getting things moving. But, unless you drive like a maniac every time you move off, you won’t experience any of that silliness and I only noticed a slight chirp when I darted into a gap on a dewy morning. You can obviously induce wheel-spin if you bury the throttle pedal, but if you drive around town sedately – as you’d expect most Sorento owners to do – there’ll be no such behaviour.

While the engine knocks out a fair chunk of torque and power, the Sorento is no rocket ship off the mark, or rolling on from 60km/h, if you do drive sedately. It’s more of an easy cruiser around town and you can feel the Sorento’s heft if you’re paying attention. It’s no lightweight, either, tipping the scales with a kerb weight of 1921kg, which ensures some of the engine’s potential performance is a little muted.

The turning circle around town is tight enough to make the Sorento easy to manoeuvre and the electric power steering never feels heavy at low speeds either. Think of mum or dad trucking the kids to and from school, moving into and out of tight parking spots, and the steering weight makes perfect sense. Some SUVs are guilty of overly meaty steering, but the Sorento isn’t one of them. It strikes a solid balance between low-speed usability and higher-speed certainty.

The aforementioned interior space is an immediately noticeable step forward from the outgoing Sorento, even in this base specification grade. The steering wheel is both tilt and telescopically adjustable and, combined with the six-way adjustable driver’s seat, ensures drivers can easily find a comfortable driving position. Even height-adjustable front seat belts are standard in the base model Sorento.

The second row affords passengers proper room and space to get comfortable, regardless of how tall the front seat passengers are. Likewise the third row, which will accommodate adults. With that third row folded flat, there’s more than enough luggage storage for the average Australian family. While the outgoing Sorento always felt a class bigger than the competition, this new model seems to benefit from clever interior packaging and a redesign that’s made it feel even more spacious.

It’s hard to argue that the Sorento models further up the range pile are more appealing in an outright sense, but they are also more expensive. Likewise the diesel engine, which will have an efficiency and flexibility advantage over this base model petrol engine.

Despite those factors, buyers on a budget won’t feel like they’ve had to miss out if they opt for this petrol model. It’s a refined, spacious and comfortable SUV that the family will love. It’s great value, too, and that is perhaps its strongest weapon.