Kia Sorento 2020 sport 7 seat
review

2020 Kia Sorento Sport diesel review

Rating: 8.2
$51,470 Mrlp
  • Fuel Economy
    6.1L
  • Engine Power
    148kW
  • CO2 Emissions
    159g
  • ANCAP Rating
    5Stars
What's on offer one step up from the entry point in Kia's new seven-seat SUV range?
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The Kia Sorento is fast becoming a family favourite. This new, fourth-generation product clearly demonstrates the brand's maturity in the seven-seat SUV space.

The new Sorento range consists of four trim levels: S, Sport, Sport+, and GT-Line.

All trims are offered with either a four-cylinder diesel all-wheel-drive powertrain, or a front-wheel-drive petrol V6. Petrol cars are expected to arrive in Australia before the end of 2020, and come with a $3000 price reduction versus their respective same-grade diesel all-wheel-drive alternative.

On test today we have the 2020 Kia Sorento Sport diesel, which is priced from $51,470 before on-road costs. That's not the price to pay the most attention to, though, as Kia being Kia there's a more customer-relevant $53,290 drive-away price nationally.

The only option is a smattering of metallic paints, which all cost $695. Our test car was wearing steel grey, which is code word for a dark silver – likely to be the conservative's top pick.

Despite the concept of seven-seat vehicles having daggy origins, the new Kia Sorento has an aura of style about it. The front is elegantly executed, with a highly textural, wide-format grille that houses a set of slim LED headlights. The integration of LED daytime running lights into the grille's frame is just one of many clever touches that all help reduce exterior fussiness.

On the other side, a stacked tail-light arrangement creates a unique look, as do sharp, diagonal design lines on the tailgate. Again, another clever touch is the tucking of the rear wiper up underneath the spoiler, becoming seemingly invisible until you switch it on.

All of these tricks come as standard across the range, however. Stepping up from a base-model version into the Sport gets you a set of 18-inch alloy wheels with a bright machined finish. They are a welcome addition, as the entry-level 'S' version does suffer from small-wheel syndrome.

As a mid-$50K drive-away proposition, it demonstrates the right level of visual appeal. More important for this SUV, however, is the cabin experience.

2020 Kia Sorento Sport diesel
Engine2.2-litre turbocharged four-cylinder diesel
Power and torque148kW at 3800rpm, 440Nm at 1750–2750rpm
TransmissionEight-speed dual-clutch automatic
Drive typeAll-wheel drive
Tare weight1908kg
Fuel claim combined6.1L/100km
Fuel use on test7.1L/100km
Boot volume (3rd row up / 3rd row down / 2nd row down)187L / 616L / 2011L
Turning circle11.6m
ANCAP safety rating (year tested)TBC
Warranty (years / km)7 years / unlimited km
Main competitorsVolkswagen Tiguan Allspace, Hyundai Santa Fe, Mazda CX-9
Price as tested (excl. on-road costs)$52,165

The first row feels truly spacious. A vehicle's centre armrest is a good barometer as to the amount of width offered, and the Sorento's is decently proportioned. You'll never butt elbows with your passenger on a quest for armrest real estate.

The driver takes a commanding position, with its elevated seating laying the foundations for good visibility. Its front A-pillars don't obscure slightly aft vision either, which can be the case with other large SUVs. Rear quarter vision is also well sorted thanks to a third large piece of glass at the rear.

The majority of the $3000 premium this Sport version wears over the entry model can be found inside. A digital climate-control system replaces the rather low-rent-feeling manual system as found in the 'S' version, and a 10.25-inch infotainment system, with native navigation, has been exchanged for an 8.0-inch version. If you're looking for wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, you'll have to wait until early 2021, as the Sorento is set to receive such technology in a forthcoming update.

The final interior up-spec you get with a Sorento Sport is a 10-way electrically adjustable driver's seat complete with two-way lumbar adjustment. The seats are still cloth, and there's no option of leather trim on this model, which will upset an odd parent or two.

Another miss, also from the perspective of a parent, is the lack of keyless entry and start. I can't think of anything worse than doing the old pocket tap, in the rain, holding groceries or a sleeping child. A family SUV like this should offer keyless entry considering the other mod-cons it manages to cram in.

The amount of space offered through the Sorento is refreshing, however, and families of four and beyond will gravitate to such a proposition. You'll find acres of room for kids, adults, or even pets in the second row. Those entering the wild unknown of parenthood, listen up – this car suits your needs extremely well.

The high hip point of the second row means that loading a capsule, from waist height, is a zero-lift affair – just a horizontal movement to latch it onto its base. Handy if you're trying to keep bub asleep.

For those who prefer a rearward-facing convertible seat, a similar story applies. Given the huge door aperture, slotting in your newborn is a simple task, even if they're a light sleeper. With a capsule or rearward-facing seat installed in the second row, there remains stacks of room for the first-row passenger, too.

Another good point about the spacious second row is that you could manage three across. For those older kids, in booster seats, there's enough space for them to climb out themselves, under adult supervision, which helps this theory pass the practical.

As for adults, again, placed behind my own driving position, I found there to be ample head, knee and toe room. As expected for a large family SUV, there are rear air vents, a 12-volt power outlet, and USB port for second-row occupants.

Like a mother's handbag, storage is well thought out. A nifty pair of dual storage pockets can be found on the back of each seat, as well as a bottle holder integrated into the upper part of the rear doors. Again, consider this Kia's design maturity showing – this is not its first rodeo.

And we arrive at the third row – a trivial point for some large SUVs. Overall exterior dimensions don't matter here, as I've found some supremely more expensive, larger European SUVs to fall down in this regard, especially in terms of ingress and egress.

The Kia Sorento is off to a cracking start thanks to a one-touch electronic latch system. With the press of either button located on the lower seat squab or top of the seat back, its seat folds and then slides forward by itself. There's no shoving, pulling or pressing anything heavy, as is the case with some competitors.

Other brands should look to copy this simple joy, as it not only makes entry easy, but also exiting. No longer will you need to prompt your kids to stop playing games as they hold their sibling captive in the third row.

Entry into the third row is more of a step-up-into rather than climb-in-over affair. I genuinely believe adults could use this space, too, as there are satisfactory amounts of knee and toe room for any occupants around 180cm tall.

Another bonus received for buying the Sport over the 'S' model is the inclusion of third-row air vents alongside dedicated air-conditioning controls. If you're planning on using the third row frequently, but are considering an entry-level version, think long and hard about upgrading to the Sport.

Adding the maraschino cherry on top for the third row is the inclusion of ISOFIX. That means you can go four-up in total across both rows, or simply move a child seat or two into the back if you're planning on ferrying more senior members of the family around. It offers great levels of flexibility in terms of using space, and is well suited to those who travel frequently with their in-laws.

And travel you will in a Kia Sorento, as your every-occasion family hauler. Runs to school, the beach, with friends, or family, at sport, to parties – all generic life affairs that'll be gobbled up by your new large SUV. Boot space in seven-seat mode in 187L, which is enough room to throw in a stroller or a set of golf clubs alongside a small bag or two. In five-seat mode that rises to 616L, and in two-seat mode all the way out to 2011L.

In terms of safety, the usual suite of features are standard: autonomous emergency braking with cyclist and pedestrian detection, blind-spot avoidance assist, lane-keeping assist and safe-exit assist (helping prevent a door being opened into an oncoming car) to name some.

There are eight airbags in the interior, including one between the front seats and one for the driver's knees, but curtain airbags only cover the first and second rows of seats. We're still waiting for ANCAP to publish its results, but expectations are that the Kia Sorento will score a five-star rating.

Another question we can answer today, however, is what Kia's new dual-clutch automatic is like to live with. In short, brilliant, but let me provide rationale.

It's smooth. Those dual-clutch tendencies of snatchiness, lurching, lag, or even the opposite, of forceful grabbiness, are not found here. The only time you'll possibly catch it out is at low speeds, in reverse, going backward, up a steep hill. That was the only time I was caught out by what felt like an inconsistency in accelerator pedal sensitivity.

I'd go as far as to say it's one of the best mainstream dual-clutch calibrations I've experienced. Sure enough, European sports cars are usually calibrated supremely well. However, it's usually the smaller engined, heavier mainstream cars like we have here that are hardest to get right. Kia is late to this party, but excusably so.

If you've had a poor experience with one, give this a go. I'm sure you'll first mistake it for a regular, torque-converter automatic. On a side note, its clutches are bathed in oil, which is also referred to as a 'wet clutch'-type transmission. This means thermal properties are better managed in higher-stress situations, such as towing. Speaking of which, towball download weight is 200kg, and braked/unbraked towing capacity is 2000/750kg.

The 2.2-litre diesel is similar to the outgoing engine found in the previous UM-generation Sorento, but it has undergone a step-change here. The block is now made from a lighter alloy material as opposed to cast iron. This means there's less weight over the front end, which assists its handling and dynamics.

It's punchy in nature, featuring 148kW of power and 440Nm of torque from 1750–2750rpm. As expected from those figures, initial pick-up and mid-range performance are good, but past that torque threshold, there's not much else going on other than rife diesel clatter.

The diesel is a good pairing with the dual-clutch, with gearing being discerningly chosen to best suit the engine's torque delivery. On test, it used 7.1L/100km, which is respectably just one litre over the official combined claim of 6.1L/100km.

It rides well, too, despite an inability to manage its heft at speed. You'll find faster left-right switchbacks throwing the Sorento off its game, but if you're slow and smooth with input, you can prevent it from feeling wobbly. After all, it wears a two-tonne-and-some kerb weight, so you'd not be expecting much else.

On the flip-side, it's incredibly comfortable. I found it genuinely hard to find a road surface that would upset the Sorento at a more realistic, genuine pace. Bumps and divots are flattened, and there's a gentle sense of floatiness that's actually quite soothing. It never feels disconnected or vague, just tuned in favour of lushness as opposed to sharpness.

I had a chat with the head ride and handling engineer at Kia Australia, who said his team did many, many thousands of kilometres in both Australia and Namyang in Korea to get the set-up right. The team dials in as much firmness and ability as they can initially, and then tones it down from there in order to meet expectations.

Even taking that approach with the Sorento, they've managed to steer away from unnecessary firmness. Modern suspension technology, when fiddled with correctly, has enough breadth of ability to be comfortable yet satisfactory dynamically.

At the start of this review, I made mention of Kia's maturity in this segment. It's had its coming-of-age period, and is now showing the way for other, more established brands to follow.

Maturity in a sense of design, cabin ergonomics and design, plus powertrain calibration, are just some of the areas where this car excels beyond others in the class.

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