For the past three months the 2015 Kia Sorento SLi has been a part of the furniture in the CarAdvice Sydney office, and now it is time to send the car back.
So, what have we learned over our stint with this Korean-built diesel-powered seven-seat SUV? In short – there’s a lot to like.
Everyone from the editorial team to the video crew, the marketing guys and the finance chief has spent some time in our Sorento. And not one of the people who have driven it has come back to the office complaining.
Part of that praise comes down to the car’s interior. The cockpit has been described by members of the CA team as “classy”, “upmarket” and “pleasant”. Indeed, there’s a nice look to it, with nice textures used throughout, and a simple layout that makes it easy to find where the crucial controls are located.
We have noticed, though, that over just three months of use the leather on the driver’s seat squab has become shiny from people sliding in and out, while on the inboard side the leather is squeaking against the centre console. Other car makers use little felt liners to stop this from happening, but those bits are absent from the Kia.
Apart from that, no other squeaks or rattles have developed, which is a plus.
In earlier updates I touched on the media system, which has generally been found as “pretty easy to use”, but there has been more praise for the twin USB inputs – one up front and another in the second row.
Over the loan period there have been countless phones added to and deleted from the Bluetooth connections list, and not one of the drivers who has spent time in the car has complained about call problems. Some noted, though, that getting the Bluetooth music streaming to play albums in order was a bit of a task.
While the seven-seat setup is more aimed at parents who should have spent more time watching television in their spare time, the fact is that the Kia can cope with five kids easily, and on occasion it has even worked as a shuttle bus for the CA office. We had six adults in the car recently, and there were no complaints from anyone in any of the three rows, with the rearmost chairs reached most easily through the kerbside door (that seat has a single-motion tilt and slide seat).
For little kids, the car’s 40:20:40 split-fold seats allows quick back-row seat access who can clamber over the outboard chairs. The leather wipes down easy in that instance, but we don’t think it would be advisable as a regular access option. Back there are bottle-holders, two small storage boxes and air-vents with a dedicated fan controller, too.
One thing family buyers may need to consider is that there’s not a lot of boot space with all the seats in use – sure you can fit a couple of small suitcases, but not a whole lot else. The Carnival people mover is easily the better option for big families who regularly go on holidays.
In long-term update two we indicated that it was our intent to go off-road in the Kia, and we did. Well, we tried.
There’s no other way of saying this – the Sorento isn’t a serious off-roader. There are two main issues: the tyres (Hankook Dynapro) and the ground clearance (185mm).
The road-biased Hankooks offer little in the way of grip over questionable surfaces, and while the centre differential lock and all-wheel-drive system ensure that dewy grass or gravel roads are dealt with fine, anything more serious - such as a craggy, rocky hill like we found on a recent trip to the Blue Mountains - is too big of an ask.
The ground clearance is far less than the more serious off-roaders in the segment - the Toyota Fortuner, for example, has more space between it and the surface below (
- previously Toyota had stated the Fortuner had 279mm of clearance: instead, it has been clarified the correct figure is 225mm).
So, it’s not a serious off-roader. But back on the highway, it really comes into its own.
There was clearly a focus on comfort when Kia’s Australian engineers got their hands on the car to tune it for our roads, because it feels assured and confident, yet still with a family-friendly ride.
We had people in the office commend the comfortable nature of the Kia, and while a few people said they thought the steering was very light, that makes it easy work around town.
So while it isn’t the most involving car to drive, the suspension deals with bumps well, though sharp edges can be felt in the cabin, particularly at the rear. But on good surfaces, it glides nicely.
All the drivers have commended the diesel engine, too, which seems to strike a balance between performance and economy quite well. We didn’t quite achieve the claimed 7.8 litres per 100 kilometres over our three month loan, with the Sorento sipping about 10.3L/100km around town and settling to 8.9L/100km over a mix of driving scenarios.
The six-speed automatic is good, too, shifting cleverly to try and save fuel but also smartly allowing the engine’s torque to do the hard work.
The Kia Sorento SLi isn’t a hardcore off-roader, and nor is it a driver’s tool of choice.
But it is a car that will appeal to the pragmatist, the sort of buyer who wants a lot of stuff for their money, and a strong ownership program to boot. With seven years of capped-price servicing (averaging $499 per visit – every 12 months or 15,000km), a seven-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, and the same period of roadside cover, it really can’t be beaten.
So, based on our time with the car, we would struggle not to suggest this to buyers who are in the market for a family SUV. As such, our score has jumped up half a point, and we weighed up even adding a full point. It’s that good.
Kia Sorento SLi diesel
Date acquired – September 2015
Odometer reading – 8165km
Travel since previous update – 3214km
Consumption since previous update – 8.9 litres per 100km
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