Kia Sorento 2020 s 7 seat

2021 Kia Sorento S diesel review

Rating: 8.2
$41,720 $49,610 Dealer
  • Fuel Economy
  • Engine Power
  • CO2 Emissions
  • ANCAP Rating
The new Kia Sorento S AWD diesel is the most affordable entry into the Korean brand's seven-seater range.
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The Kia Sorento has always been an impressive weapon in the South Korean brand’s arsenal. A practical, large SUV with room for the family, all combined with decent pulling power and a supple and comfortable ride.

That was the formula of the old Sorento, and now Kia has added some extra ingredients to not only stay true to its roots, but improve the breed.

It’s worth noting this new Sorento hasn’t undergone the surgeon’s knife. This is no facelift. Instead, there’s fresh metal galore and a host of add-ons to help lift Kia’s large-SUV offering.

Of course, nothing is free, so there have been price rises across the range, which gets underway with the car we have on test here, the 2021 Kia Sorento S in all-wheel-drive diesel trim, currently listed at $48,850 plus on-road costs, or with a $50,290 drive-away price.

There are a couple of V6 petrol variants that come in under that tip-in point, but they are front-wheel drive only. So if it’s all-wheel drive you want, then this diesel-fed Sorento is the most affordable option in a four-SUV range that tops out at $63,070 plus on-roads or $65,290 drive-away for the GT-Line, which we’ve already reviewed here.

While it might be around $15K cheaper than its top-of-the-line sibling, the Sorento S doesn’t feel entry-level, with a healthy list of inclusions that will please anyone considering a large family hauler in that $50K range.

2021 Kia Sorento S 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 test6.4L/100km
Boot volume (third row up / third row down / second row down)187L / 616L / 2011L
Turning circle11.6m
ANCAP safety ratingTBC
Warranty (years / km)7 years / unlimited km
Main competitorsHyundai Santa Fe, Mazda CX-9, Toyota Fortuner
Price as tested (excl. on-road costs)$48,850

Standard equipment at this entry point includes an 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a head-up display, LED headlights with auto high beam, fog lights, 17-inch alloy wheels plus a full-size spare wheel – something increasingly rare these days.

There are eight airbags to protect occupants including, in an Australian first for the segment, a centre airbag between the front seats, but still no full-coverage third row for the curtain airbags. Active safety smarts include rear cross-traffic alert, lane-keeping assist, autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, and adaptive cruise control.

It’s a comprehensive suite for a car lower down in the range. It does miss out on blind-spot monitoring, rear occupant alert, and parking collision avoidance assist – that tech only available in the top-of-the-range GT-Line.

The Sorento S also misses out on native satellite navigation, meaning you’ll be needing to rely on smartphone mirroring via CarPlay or Android Auto for route guidance, but not a deal-breaker by any stretch.

It does get DAB+ radio played through its six-speaker sound system, and while it’s not the last word in audio clarity, it’s decent enough. Only the GT-Line scores a premium Bose sound system.

Externally, the new Sorento has grown some muscle, with sharp chiselled lines giving it a visual edge. The new grille lends it an imposing presence, while out back the vertical tail-light treatment has an air of Ford Mustang about it. No doubt Kia’s designers keeping an eye on America – a key market for the Korean brand.

Inside, the Sorento S comes with cloth-trimmed seats that look and feel durable. There are some nice textured trim elements and a healthy spattering of piano-black accents. The central storage bin is large, while the door pockets are generously proportioned and able to swallow bottles.

Also generous are the three USB charging points up front to complement the single USB port and 12V outlet in the second row. Not so generous is the lack of keyless entry, and the fact you need to turn your key in a traditional barrel to start the Sorento. It’s a mild annoyance at best, though.

The second row is generously proportioned with plenty of room in all key areas – foot, knee, leg and head. There are air vents back there, although no separate climate controls, while heavy coffee drinkers are catered to with four cupholders – two in the fold-down armrest and one in each of the doors. Those second-row doors also have generous bottle holders.

The second row slides fore and aft to free up room for either those consigned to the third row or provide more generous leg room for those in the second. The seatbacks recline, too.

Access to the third row is easy via one-touch buttons that slide and tilt the second row, and once settled in there’s a surprising amount of room back there. It’s not the last word in comfort for adults, but kids will be fine, and it’s a better space than many we’ve sampled in the seven-seater arena. There are cupholders for the third-row occupants and a single 12V charging point.

Boot space is up over the older model, with 187L of space with all three rows of seats being used by people. That’s a gain of 45L over the outgoing Sorento. Fold the third row away and the cargo area grows to 616L, while folding the second row liberates 2011L – a massive 349L more the previous generation. Access to the cargo space is via a manual tailgate, while a full-size spare hides under the car.

The overall cabin presentation belies the Sorento S’s status as an entry-level combatant. It’s solidly executed, with plenty of nice flourishes and a decent level of standard inclusions.

That solidity extends to the drivetrain, which has received a makeover for this generation. At first glance, the 2.2-litre turbo diesel under the bonnet appears the same as that found in the outgoing Sorento. But it is new, and it’s lost some weight thanks to alloy replacing cast iron (Kia claims it’s 19.5kg lighter than previously), while fuel injection pressure has been given a boost, no doubt to improve fuel consumption.

The new unit makes 148kW at 3800rpm and 440Nm between a very usable 1750–2750rpm, with those outputs sent to all four wheels via a new eight-speed dual-clutch auto.

It’s a willing combination, punchy from standstill and effortless on the move, the turbo diesel offering plenty of pep in most cases. Around town, the Sorento is smooth and predictable, with a quiet demeanour and a refinement beyond its diesel underpinnings.

The new DCT is a gem, too, with none of the hesitation sometimes associated with twin-clutch transmissions. It offers sharp and smooth transitions between ratios, whether taking off from standstill or while on the move.

Thanks to that smooth DCT, spending time in the urban jungle is pleasurable, while highway cruising is equally as effortless. A dab of the throttle for a burst of acceleration doesn’t trouble the drivetrain combo, both the turbo diesel and transmission responding as expected.

The adaptive cruise control is worth mentioning here, its razor-sharp accuracy and the way in which it maintains speed both commendable. Some systems can creep over the set speed, particularly when navigating downhill sections. Not so the system in the Sorento, which never strayed more than 1km/h. Impressive.

Kia pioneered local suspension tuning, committing time and money to ensure its product is suited to our local conditions. It’s a commitment palpable on the road, the Sorento offering a level of ride and comfort we’ve come to expect.

MacPherson struts up front and a multi-link set-up at rear, combined with Sachs damper technology, ensure the big SUV remains composed and comfortable in almost all situations.

Navigating Sydney’s network of pockmarked roads is done with ease, the Sorento doing a great job of isolating the cabin from bumps and lumps. Those 17-inch alloys shod with Continental rubber with nice fat sidewalls no doubt play their part, too.

Larger hits like speed bumps or larger potholes are absorbed nicely, the Sorento settling back quickly without any signs of boat-like wallowing. It’s solid, composed and near unflappable, in other words.

Kia claims the turbo-diesel Sorento S will get by on 6.1L per 100km on the combined cycle. After our week with the entry-level family lugger, we saw an indicated 6.4L/100km. That week included plenty of driving around town, including tight inner-city enclaves littered with traffic snarls, and long loping highway runs.

That’s an impressive return, not just against Kia’s claim, but also for a near two-tonne (tare) SUV. The fuel tank measures in at 67L, which means a range in excess of 1000km per refill is not out of the question.

Of course, hitching a trailer or caravan on the back will see fuel consumption rise. The Sorento S is rated to 750kg unbraked, or 2000kg braked with a downball rating of 200kg, about par for the segment. It’ll tow your jet ski or small boat comfortably.

Kia covers the Sorento with its standard seven-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty, an industry-leading surety that some brands are only just now creeping up on. Servicing intervals are every 12 months or 15,000km, and will set you back $3463 for the first seven years or 105,000km. That averages out to a smidge under $500 per year.

The new Kia Sorento has improved on what was already an excellent vehicle, and cements its place at, or near, the top of the seven-seat SUV segment.

Measurably bigger inside, and with a level of refinement – both in the cabin and importantly on the road – that’s difficult to fault, the new Sorento remains a smart-money choice in the segment.