Kia Sorento Review & Road Test

Rating: 7.0
$37,490 Mrlp
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The old adage, "you get what you pay for" means nothing to Kia.

Model Tested:

  • 2009 Kia Sorento Platinum; 2.2-litre, four-cylinder, turbo diesel; six-speed automatic; SUV - $48,990*


  • Metallic Paint $450

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Despite its history of being cheap and cheerful, Kia has gone the way of Hyundai and transformed its offerings. First it was the Kia Cerato and then the Kia Soul, now the Kia Sorento has arrived and is following suit.

At first glance, you would never pick it as a Kia. It has grown by ten centimetres in length and seven and a half centimetres in width, allowing it to accommodate seven seats across the range.

In addition to the growth, it now actually looks good. The previous Sorento had that 'beaten with ugly stick' look about it; the new one is rather handsome and luxurious looking.

The stretched headlights and defining grille give the car a menacing edge, while the LED taillights make it stand out at night. Our Platinum test vehicle also featured xenon headlights, which include headlight washers.

It’s in the cabin where the Sorento really shines. Our test vehicle was fitted with a beige interior that included beige leather seats and trim on parts of the dashboard and centre console.

Having a poke at the materials around the cabin, it’s hard to understand how Kia can get away with making a car feel this luxurious for the meager price tag. The interior plastics feel sturdy and soft to the touch, likewise with all the controls.

The driver’s seating position is very commanding with fantastic forward visibility. Rearward and rear-¾ visibility is quite poor. The small rear window and sizeable blind spots make parking and reversing a touch and go task. Luckily the Platinum model being tested features reverse parking sensors and a reversing camera.

Kia does away with a large centre LCD screen for the reversing camera, instead fitting it to the rear vision mirror. Around ¼ of the rear vision mirror is dedicated to the LCD screen that displays the reversing camera. The ingenious system can’t be seen when the reverse gear isn’t engaged, allowing full use of the mirror.

With three rows of seats, head and leg room is crucial for a vehicle like the Sorento. I loaded the cabin with seven adults and found the results quite surprising. Front passenger leg room, and leg room in the second and third rows was exceptional with no complaints from the occupants. Head room was also impressive in all three rows.

The main issue was with the driver’s seat. I wasn’t able to move the seat far back enough to accommodate my legs, making leg room somewhat compromising. This seems to be a common trait between Kia vehicles, as we had the same issue with our long term Kia Cerato.

The third row of seats is easy to assemble, it’s a simple pull of a tab and they rise out of the floor into their position. They also fold flat to allow for extra storage space.

Cargo capacity is a respectable 1,047 litres with the second row up and 2,052 litres with the second row folded.

It’s not until you start driving the Sorento that you appreciate just how impressive Kia’s feat really is. Kia’s new 2.2-litre diesel is astonishing to say the least.

Producing 145kW and 436Nm of torque, the punchy four-cylinder engine sips through just 7.4L/100km. Drive is sent through a six-speed gearbox with sequential shift modes.

While it’s slightly noisy at idle, the diesel engine is quiet at speed and during acceleration, indicating an impressive level of noise dampening.

Once the turbocharger kicks in and unleashes peak torque, you are pinned to your seat until it runs out of puff and grabs the next gear. It’s an uncanny feeling, especially considering the engine’s 2.2-litre capacity.

The ride is very soft and mellow, making it great for country roads and smooth highways. The unfortunate downside to such a forgiving ride is the Sorento’s cornering ability – or lack thereof. Masses of body roll and occasional attempts to oversteer on liftoff during harder driving uncover the Sorento’s major flaw.

Steering feel is responsive and returns plenty of feedback. The package is let down by very soggy brakes that exhibit almost no feel and inspire no confidence in the drive.

As an SUV, the Sorento is fitted with an all wheel drive system. Integrated into the system is hill descent control and downhill brake control. While we didn’t take this vehicle off road, expect to see an off road review in due course with our new long termer.

Priced from $36,490* for the entry level petrol Si variant, the Platinum diesel tested is priced from $48,990*.

Standard features in the Platinum include: dual-zone climate control, key less entry, keyless start, six-disc CD player with MP3 compatibility, iPod and auxiliary inputs, reversing camera, auto-dimming rear vision mirror, central locking, cruise control, privacy glass, panoramic sunroof, electric windows, fog lights, electric mirrors, alloy wheels, leather seats, xenon headlights, automatic headlights, automatic windscreen wipers and electric driver’s seat.

Standard safety features include: ABS with EBA and EBD, ESC with Traction Control, engine immobiliser, driver and front passenger SRS airbags, front side SRS airbags, full length curtain SRS airbags and speed sensing auto door lock.

Although the handling could be improved slightly, Kia has produced a car that will go down in Kia’s history books as being the turning point in its reputation with the public.

The Sorento is great value for money and offers a superb engine with plenty of features to boot. Public perception is hard to win over, but a test drive will well and truly seal the deal for most. The Sorento is an offer too good to refuse for any aspiring SUV owner.

*Pricing is a guide as recommended to us by the manufacturer.

CarAdvice Overall Rating: How does it Drive: How does it Look: How does it Go: