Despite being an all-wheel-drive SUV, and having that alluring ‘4x4 Lock’ button near the gearstick, buyers of this Kia Sorento will more than likely spend 99 (or more) per cent of their time in the city. That's certainly been the case for our long-term Sorento, which has been getting shared around the CarAdvice office on a variety of urban assaults.
The vehicle in question is the range-topping 2019 Kia Sorento GT-Line diesel, which has an asking price of $58,990 plus on-road costs.
While specifications and standard inclusions vary, a quick price-check on other top-speccing large SUVs are: CX-9 Azami ($62,760), Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander ($60,500), warmed-up Skoda Kodiaq RS ($65,990), Holden Acadia LTZ-V ($63,490), Toyota Kluger Grande ($65,519) and Nissan Pathfinder Ti ($63,390) at list price, before special offers and drive-away deals.
When you consider the Kia is the only top-spec option to keep a '5' as the starting number, and it has the best warranty offering of all (seven years, unlimited kilometres), the Korean gets a leg-up in the value stakes.
However, it’s not just a numbers game. We need to dig a bit deeper for a verdict, and that’s exactly why we have this Sorento in as a long-term tester. And this month, we’re looking closely at city driving.
Having the 2.2-litre diesel engine under the bonnet represents a $3500 premium over the petrol-powered option. Along with getting 147kW at 3800rpm and 441Nm at 1750–2750rpm, you also score four driven wheels from a part-time AWD system.
Fuel economy on the diesel Sorento is naturally a strong point. After long-term running that combined all sorts of driving and conditions, we weren’t able to get the litres per hundred kilometres figure into the 10s. Most of the time, it was closer to 9.0L/100km and sometimes in the high 8s.
I’ve yet to come across a diesel engine that feels as svelte and refined as a petrol motor, and that includes this Sorento oiler. It’s not a rough motor, but you do feel and hear slight vibrations and clatters as it goes about its business. It's not to the point of intrusive discomfort, but it's just noticeable.
On the plus side, that 441Nm available not far off idle lets you get moving quickly enough, especially considering this Sorento has a tare mass of 1985kg.
The gearbox does a good job of keeping the driveline in that happy place of torque, only revving out to redline when you really press the throttle down. All in all, the driveline is good, without being overly impressive.
The turning circle is an important point for a town vehicle, and the Sorento’s 11.4m radius is impressive for a vehicle of this size. Electric assistance through the steering lightens up resistance at low speeds, and the 360-degree camera system has a variety of modes that help you squeeze into spots or past obstructions easily.
Steering response is neither boatlike nor sharp. It’s tuned in that happy middle ground, where there’s enough response and feedback to let you know what’s going on, without feeling tenuous.
The suspension tuning, another product of Kia’s local tuning program, feels well dialled in, too. It’s similar to the steering set-up, sitting happily in that middle ground of the spectrum. Bumps are handled well, without any excessive body roll. For those wanting a sporty edge to their family SUV, you’ll be left disappointed in the Sorento. Maybe have a look at something like a Ford Endura, if that’s your jam.
I’ve mentioned the good 360-degree camera system already, which is part of the GT-Line specification. That also comes with a 10-speaker sound system, integrated sun shades, smart key and push-button start.
Some of the Sorento’s competitors are stronger in certain areas. There are better interiors to be had, better drivelines, smoother rides and more interior space. However, the Sorento’s strength is that it performs well across the board, and doesn’t have any real weakness that becomes a chink in the armour.
It’s kind of like the race car that never manages to win outright all year, but still wins the championship through consistent podium places.