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It is no secret Australians love SUVs, and their popularity has risen substantially in the last 10 years. In fact, there are now over 100 more seven-seat SUV grades on the market than there were back in 2009. That’s a lot of choice. Seven-seaters are becoming the popular option for large families, for the school run, or for those who think it’s handy to have those two extra seats in the third row ‘just in case’.
The 2019 Kia Sorento is the biggest SUV in Kia’s line-up, and with seven seats it’s a model that is often shortlisted by prospective buyers. The car we have on test is the 2.2-litre diesel GT-Line, which is the flagship model of the Sorento range.
At $58,990 before on-road costs, the GT-Line scores a stack of equipment. Adding to the standard features across the range – like dual-zone climate control, front and rear parking sensors, adaptive cruise control, AEB with forward-collision warning, and lane-keep assist – the top-of-the-range Sorento gets blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, a 360-degree camera, 19-inch alloy wheels, and auto-levelling LED headlights with dynamic bending.
Inside, the Sorento features a panoramic sunroof, GT-Line seat logos, an eight-way power-adjustable driver's seat (and passenger seat) with four-way lumbar support, thigh extender, two-position memory, ventilated front seats and heated outer rear seats. Plus, a GT-Line styling package that adds side steps, red brake calipers and chrome dual exhaust tips.
Just when you thought the features ended there, add in a perforated heated leather steering wheel with paddle shifters, gloss-black console trim, LED interior lighting, sunshade blinds for the second row, and a luggage net in the boot compartment. Plenty of kit, then.
The cabin quality feels and looks quite premium, with most of the door trim and console covered in hard rubber, but it can show dirt and finger marks easily. The dash layout is simple with all controls within easy reach, and is sprinkled with brushed aluminium-look plastics.
Kia’s 8.0-inch infotainment system is a cinch to use and includes satellite navigation, but if you prefer to stay connected to your phone at all times, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come standard.
The enclosed centre console compartment is huge and hides a USB point, auxiliary, and two 12-volt outlets. Phone charging via USB took an impressive 10 minutes to charge 18 per cent.
And the features continue in the second row. Although the doors are heavy to open and close, once inside the features begin to shine through, with sliding and reclining seats that make it more comfortable to get some shut-eye. Oh, and gone are the days of pulling over and wrestling with a sheet to block the sun – window blinds are here to stay!
The seats have three top tethers and two ISOFIX points. Without a central floor hump, the leg room is ample and head room is perfectly fine, but toe room is tight. A fold-down armrest with cupholders, and USB and 12-volt connections round out a well-equipped second row.
If you think the third row won’t get much attention, you’re wrong. There is ventilation with fan speed adjustment, two cupholders, speakers, and storage bins. Even though leg room is okay, head room is tight and the seat base is low to the floor, so it is definitely a place reserved for children.
Under the floor is room for the cargo blind to be stored, while a full-size 19-inch spare wheel is found underneath the car. Pro tip: keep a mat or blanket handy in the car to save getting your favourite jeans dirty should you need to access that spare wheel.
The Sorento feels big and heavy on the road, which can be a positive for some, but for this reviewer it feels a little intimidating.
There is a bit of diesel rattle, but it’s easily looked over as the 2.2-litre is pretty punchy with its 147kW of power and 441Nm of torque. Maybe once the family has vacated the car, you can make use of the shift paddles with Kia’s new eight-speed torque-converter automatic transmission, but really you wouldn’t think they would get much use in a large SUV.
There's a Sport driving mode available, and even though the throttle response is sharper, it doesn’t make the Sorento any sportier or any more fun to drive. We bettered the claimed fuel reading of 7.2L/100km with a combined 6.9L/100km. Impressive stuff for such a large car.
In our last seven-seat SUV mega test, the Sorento’s all-wheel drive stood up well when driving up a grassy slope with three adults on board, and did a better job than the new Hyundai Santa Fe. It rides on 19-inch alloy wheels, and with its local suspension tuning it’s a comfortable ride. There is some noticeable wind noise from the base of the windscreen; however, road noise was the best of the rest in our mega test, perhaps on par with the Skoda Kodiaq.
The quality of the rear-view camera with its 360-degree view is very good and is also clear at night. Speed camera alert is a handy feature and can be easily switched off. For longer family journeys, driver-attention alert is always welcome, and features like a digital speedometer and active lane assist are great for the daily commute.
The Kia Sorento was last tested by ANCAP in 2017 and received a five-star safety rating. It comes with Kia’s famous seven-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty. Servicing intervals are every 12 months or 15,000km, with costs ranging from the first service of $307 to $664 for the fourth service.
The Sorento is a smart-looking SUV that is comfortable, spacious, and can fit seven people. If your budget can stretch an extra $8500 from the SLi to the GT-Line, you’ll get the added reassurance of more standard safety equipment and luxuries to get your family home safe and sound.