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Kia Sorento review

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    The Kia Sorento is available from $39,990 in petrol, diesel, manual or automatic (each six-speeds) and two-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive.

Stuart Inness road tests and reviews the Kia Sorento

If there was a turning point when Korean cars were not just thought of as cheap but started to earn respect as worthy in engineering and quality, I'd nominate the introduction of the Kia Sorento in February 2003.

Now, the latest edition Sorento advances that, to add style, comfort and space into the mix, to create an attractive proposition in the medium-large SUV wagon sector.

In these past seven years, other Korean cars have stood up, too. Kia's own Cerato sedan and Koup being a good look in any driveway, sister brand Hyundai becoming a valid big seller and its i30 a big force in the small-car segment, and brands such as Holden sourcing cars from Korea, such as Captiva and the popular Cruze.

The point being: don't dismiss something because it's Korean. The Kia Sorento is an excellent example of a good thing to own and drive if you can overcome any lingering badge snobbery.

Pricing and drivetrains

Sorento is available from $39,990 in petrol, diesel, manual or automatic (each six-speeds) and two-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive.  We've been driving the top of the tree, the Sorento Platinum. It comes only with automatic transmission, AWD and the diesel engine which outguns the petrol unit in power and certainly in torque while using less fuel. And at $48,990 (between the prices of a Holden Commodore Sportwagon V8 and SV6) it's pretty well equipped.

Interior and equipment

For starters (literally), you keep the key in pocket or purse, walk to the car and touch the doorhandle for it to unlock. Still without getting out the key, just push the dashboard start-stop button and you're ready to go.

Sorento Platinum has power front seats, a full seven seats, leather trim (though having a durable look and feel rather than soft luxury), a premium audio system of eight speakers, dual-zone airconditioning for driver and front passenger and headlight washers.

There's an electric sunroof (too much wind noise when open at highway speed). The second row passengers have a non-opening glass sunroof as part of the "panorama" roof. The wagon sits on big alloy wheels and tarmac road-biased hefty tyres, Happily, the spare is full size and kept under the rear of the vehicle. It has a foot-pedal park brake.

Centre-dashboard controls are easy to read and understand. Cruise control switches are on the steering wheel right-hand spoke.   The D-pillars are wide but those blind spots are helped overcome by large exterior mirrors, rear parking sensors and a reversing camera that has its almost-9cm colour screen appear in the left of the interior rear view mirror, a perfect spot for it.

Front occupants get good elbow room. Scond row passengers have improved leg room and a reclining back rest, the middle person getting a flat floor for their feet, and the pair of third row seats are just OK for average-sized adults if they keep their heads forward. The third row also gets variable-fan vents.

Luggage space is minimal with the third row seats up (no surprise) but those seats easily fold to a flat floor, as do the 40/60 second trow.  Even better for families, Kia Sorento has ESP, spread of airbags and a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating.


This latest Sorento is a complete re-design of the earlier model. First the good news: it is more car-like thanks to a monocoque body, it has lower entry and floor level, is sleeker, more modern looking and the new suspension MacPherson strut at front and independent multi-link at the rear gives a far better ride comfort. The lower centre of gravity helps handling.

Now the bad news, at least for 4WD adventurers: it no longer has low-range transmission, its lost 19mm in ground clearance and the front overhang is 105mm longer. It will still take to a bumpy dirt track in quite some comfort but is no longer an off-roader.

A dash button gives all-wheel-drive lock but otherwise it's front-drive and AWD on demand. Technology is some help with a feet-off downhill creep control and traction control, but a limiting factor will be the tyres designed for tarmac, not clay. For 4WD pundits who want to check, it has a 25 degree approach angle, 23 departure and 17 degree rampover with 184mm ground clearance.

The sump "guard" is merely plastic.  Exterior mirrors fold in electrically -- just as useful in parking by a bike lane as negotiating bushes and trees.

So consider this an all-wheel-drive SUV luxury wagon and not a bush-basher and it will do the job nicely.  The diesel engine is a beauty. A typical rattle on cold start but once warm, barely noticeable, unless 2500-plus rpm is used for sharp overtaking or hillclimbing, when there is a buzz. We did mostly urban driving yet still achieved 8.3 litres/100km economy, this in a 1960kg SUV. It's even better country cruising a whisker under 2000rpm at 110km/h in sixth gear.

Kia Sorento Platinum

Price: $48,990
Engine: Four-cylinder, diesel, variable geometry turbocharger, 2199cc
Power: 145kW@ @ 3800rpm
Torque: 436Nm @ 1800-2500rpm
Fuel: official 7.4 litres/100km; on test 8.3 litres/100km; tank 70 litres.
Emissions: 194g/km C02
Brakes: Front 231mm ventilated disc, rear 302mm solid disc; ABS.
Transmission: Six-speed automatic, sequential shift mode; on-demand all-wheel-drive, AWD lock button.
Wheels/tyres: 18in diameter alloy; 235/60; full-size spare
Dimensions: 4685mm long, 1885mm wide, 1755mm high, 2700mm wheelbase; 1959kg; luggage space (five seats up) 1047 litres
Tows: unbraked 750kg; braked 2000kg


Mitsubishi Challenger LS seven-seat (diesel) $48,890;
Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander (diesel) $48,490;
Toyota Kluger KX-R (4x4 petrol) seven-seat, $48,490.

Comments on this story

Displaying 3 of 15 comments

  • We have a 2010 Kia SorentoSLI - Basically I can confirm this car is brilliant - tows the boat like a dream fits all the kids in comfortably using all 7 seats (only whinge would be can’t fit a pram in with all 7 seats in use), drives like a dream and is a stylish car inside- HOWEVER!!!! Be warned - KIA SERVICE IS ABSOLUTELY ABYSMAL- we had an accident in ours (hit a kangaroo) on the 14th of December and it is now April 5th and we still do not have our car back!! No kidding - nearly 4 months and still not repaired - every part required has had to be shipped from Korea & taken as much as 4 weeks to arrive, and when they get the part it hasn’t fixed the problem. So almost 4 months on we do not have our car back.  Complaints don’t work… I contacted head office (Silverwater) to complain about the issue and had a smartarse reply back correcting me on the name of the part I wrote to them about and basically telling me if I don’t like the service take it to another dealer. PATHETIC! Honestly, we really loved this car, but after seeing what happens when something goes wrong (and accidents are not an unusual occurance) and how badly Kia deal with it - We will NEVER buy a KIA again.

    Bianca KC of Melbourne Posted on 05 April 2012 8:59am
  • Test drove the Platinum today, what a luxury vehicle, we nearly fell over at how good they are in the flesh, TV or photo’s do not do this car justice.  Signed up for a beautiful metallic white and beige leather interior model (second to the Platinum (SLi i think). Was Looking at a Territory (Really just the new Falcon Wagon) or a Kluger which are nice before we were recommended a Kia Sorento - Go and check it out, fantastic value and luxury, 5 years warranty and $1000 for 7 years if you want extra piece of mind. We got h/duty towbar, tint, sidesteps, mats and exterior/interior protection added.

    Nathan Jenkins of Adelaide Posted on 05 June 2011 12:38am
  • I do not own a boat or have need to fit a tow bar so i can’t judge the Kia Sorento on this. However, i’m making a move to the Sorento from H-Captiva simply for space, style and design. In technical terms, the Kia Sorento has good inner and outer doubles that appeals to the soul for style and quality. In safety terms, it drives with confidence and maneuverability beyond our Captiva. Whilst we’ve only test drove this new mascule-full beauty, i hope i’m not disappointed when it becomes part of our family for the next couple of years. Well done so far Kia!!!

    Ernest Richard of Kalgoorlie WA Posted on 04 May 2011 6:38am
  • My partner & I have just purchased a Black Kia Sorento Si in Diesel. As we now have added a dog to the family, with 3 little kids, the Sedan we had was becoming a tight squeeze. We liked the well appointed Sli but couldnt justify the extra 3-4 grand.  We have added front and rear parking sensors though ($900). We have only owned the vehicle for a week, so we took it for a decent drive through the windy and hilly back roads of the Mornington Peninsula. We are very happy with how it handles and the seats are supportive and comfortable. The engine is smooth & eager to please. The one niggle we have so far is that our iphone cord was faulty and doesn’t work. The dealership have ordered us a new one and it should be here in a week. We are delighted with our purchase, The Sorento is so much better value than a Ford Territory or Toyota Kluger, of which we test drove both and we kept coming back to the Kia. The Holden Captiva (although cheaper) couldnt match the Sorento for internal Space. We traded in a 16 month old Ford Falcon G6 and we have not regretted moving into a Korean built car. I would happily recommend anyone who is looking at a Family vehicle thats flexible and well equipped.

    Peter King of Melbourne VIC Posted on 02 May 2011 1:57pm
  • I’m just going to look for a sub 100,000km UR, US, UT or UZ Ford Explorer V8, install 50mm lift kit and I’ll have better long term value that this thing can provide, and at half the price. New is not better.

    Steve of Perth Posted on 16 March 2011 8:04pm
  • In 2005 we went hunting for a veicle to replace our Honda CRV. My wife had her ‘shopping list’ and I had mine. Both were very different and I was disspairing of being able to find a car in the market that would meet even the major criteria on both lists. But the 2005 Kia Sorento had it all! It not only ticked all my boxes, it ticked my wife’s as well - amazing! It need to tow our new 1.8 ton boat, have serious off road/sand/clearance credentials, be easy to drive and well fitted out. With a 2.5 ton towing capacity, leather trim, sun roof,4WD, a ladder frame chasis, transfer case, ‘switch on the fly’ hi/low range, and plenty of space aft (without the horrible ‘wheel on the back’ or half wheel it was, and has been perfect and flawless! The Sorrento’s PREVIOUS serious off road capabilities and unique 2.5 ton towing market position made it devoid of competition and the only contender for filling that 4WD 1.8 ton - 3.0 ton towing capacity gap - and the price showed excellent value for money to boot. Sadly, the new Sorrento offering, whilst all dressed up for the road (along with millions of outher SUVs) has lost us and we dispair at finding a replacement! Bye Bye Mr KIa - bad move!

    Colin MOLLOY of Southern Western Australia Posted on 05 March 2011 4:17pm
  • Gotta agree with you there brain - the XLS Challenger looks a lot better than the Tribeca. Subaru are pretty ordinary in the looks dept especially the Outback and Liberty. The new Forrester is probably the best looker.

    Brett of Pascoe Vale Posted on 04 March 2011 1:18pm
  • Mish, you bought a Yribeca and you’re calling the Challenger ugly?

    brain of perth Posted on 27 February 2011 6:15pm
  • Our search started for a vehicle wide enough to take 2 child seats and an adult accross the centre rear seat. After reveiwing all available vehicles we bought the SLI Sorento. A beautiful vehicle with more than adequate performance overall. Brilliant on mountains with the excellent torque allowing hills to disappear with ease. Fuel 6.8l/100 on a trip & 8.3 around town. As testimony I sold my beloved 6 year old Honda Euro and have absolutely no regrets and the Sorento stands up equally well against such marques. Build quality, finish, performance and value for money is the current Sorento.

    Alan Reeve of Gold Coast Posted on 07 July 2010 11:53am
  • We did a lot of SUV searching and have just bought the Platinum for my wife. I drive a Territory Ghia which is a bit bigger. This Sorento is so better built than the Territory. Its almost a second quicker from 0-100kms than the Territory. After 5,000kms the econ is reading 8.1/100kms vrs 12/100kms for the territory. We have found that the Sorento does not need to drop down gears on hills that the territory drops from 6th down to fourth. I have found that it pulls our 1400kg boat better than the territory as well. It is a 2.2lts pulling machine. When towing our boat the territory runs out to about 19lts/100km - the Sorento about 12/100km. You just can not compare the finish. In comparison to Territory’s dash and interior finish is chunky and a bit rugged. The Sorento feels so much to drive. I guess the difference is Kia is producing hundreds of thousands, rather than just thousands. I do like my territory - but this car is a real surprise

    Gazza Posted on 23 June 2010 2:48pm
  • Yes CarlMc you could if you wanted something that sounds like a truck and didn’t want leather, two sunroofs,bluetooth,reverse parking sensors, fuel economy, more torque etc. The reviewer said this wasn’t for real offroading which the Challenger is. I test drove both and for our situation being 90% city driving with occasional camping trips it was a no-brainer, we get so much more for our money with the Platinum at $47,500 (with tow package). The Koreans have caught the Japanese in car making ability I feel and may well soon pass them!

    BM Posted on 16 June 2010 2:32pm
  • The Challenger is ugly, I’d rather the Sorento not that I bought one, instead I got a Subaru Tribeca & I have no regrets!

    Mish of Melbourne Posted on 11 June 2010 9:51pm
  • Purchased the SLI DIESEL AUTO - Great in all aspects particulary the engine power & transmission shift quality. Economy provides 800klm + out of the tank after 12,000klm travelled.
    The wife loves the thing. Viewed other rivals prior to purchase & not disapointed with choice. Suggest reverse camera or park sensor fittment.

    Paul Willett of Bella Vista Posted on 21 May 2010 6:55pm
  • No can do. I have just ordered a Kia SLI Sorrento after much market testing. The Challenger is only a 5 seater at that price with no leather. Looking at around 60k for the same.

    Scott T of Canberra Posted on 09 May 2010 11:11am
  • For the same price you could buy a Challenger 4WD(real) instead of no AWD

    CarlMc of Taree Hinterland Posted on 12 April 2010 11:19pm
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