Big Kias are good Kias. From the Sportage to the Carnival, there isn't a dud in the range, an idea that for some reason still raises eyebrows. Between those two machines, of course, is a third; the Sorento.
Quite why Kia is missing an R I'm not sure (the place name is definitely Sorrento, I've checked), but every time I've driven the big fella, I've come away wondering why more of these don't make their way onto Australia driveways.
In 2017, Kia added a new top-of-the-range spec above the Platinum called the GT-Line, perhaps hoping that a bit of sporting flair will help move a few more.
And so, with a mildly surprising price tag clanging around in my head, I spent a week in what I've always thought to be one of the best-priced seven-seaters in the market.
Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with? 7/10
That mildly surprising price tag is $58,990, which is a lot of money, especially when you can have a Toyota with a meaty V6 in the nose for that kind of cash, along with its bulletproof reputation. The difference being that the Toyota has almost nothing in it, while the GT-Line Kia has quite a bit.
For your hard-earned you will score 19-inch alloys, a 10-speaker stereo, dual-zone climate control, side window blinds, a substantial safety package, keyless entry and start, active cruise control, front and rear parking sensors, reversing camera, around-view camera, electric front seats with heating and cooling, heated second row seats, sat nav, active LED headlights, fake leather everywhere, power tailgate, heated folding power mirrors, aluminium side steps (a bit useless, I'm afraid), a heated steering wheel, sunroof and a full-size alloy spare.
The GT-Line scores 19-inch alloy wheels. (image credit: Peter Anderson)
Is there anything interesting about its design? 7/10
The Sorento isn't exactly a looker but nor is it offensive. (image credit: Peter Anderson)
The Sorento isn't exactly a looker but nor is it offensive. One or two other Korean SUVs can't claim that. Big and boxy, there are some nice details but it's not one for the fashionistas. The GT-Line picks up some irritating side steps that bend alarmingly if you step on them and get covered in grime and water when it's wet, meaning you have to leap over them when you're getting out.
The interior is super-conservative and probably the one thing that could do with some real work. Even the Kluger has a more adventurous dash design and the automatic shifter comes straight from the 2006 parts bin. Conservative it might be, but everything works out of the box and, as its rivals will attest, simplicity works in this segment.
The interior is super-conservative and probably the one thing that could do with some real work. (image credit: Peter Anderson)
How practical is the space inside? 9/10
The Sorento kicks off proceedings by having vents in all three rows, which is a big sell for those who actually need seven seats - most other makers neglect the third row because few people (in my experience) actually use it more than once a year, if ever. The Sorento's cabin is a monster, with plenty of leg and headroom for the first and second rows. It feels big when you're a passenger, like the Kluger, and delivers a more comfortable space.
The third row is tight and a bit tricky to reach without a tumble function for 60/40 split of the middle row, a tumble function would be most welcome.
The Sorento's cabin is a monster, with plenty of leg and headroom for the first and second rows. (image credit: Peter Anderson)
All three rows score two cupholders to take the total to six. (image credit: Peter Anderson)
The third row is tight and a bit tricky to reach without a tumble function for 60/40 split of the middle row. (image credit: Peter Anderson)
All three rows score two cupholders to take the total to six, while there are cupholders in each door for a total of four. The third-row cupholder is joined to a tray that is good for phones but isn't lined, so things will slide around noisily.
The power tailgate is activated from the key, the handle or hands-free. There isn't a foot-wavey gesture action, which is a shame, particularly if you like attacking your car after a strenuous Ikea visit, but you just have to walk towards it and it will open. Amuse the kids (the first time at least) by saying, “Open Sorento” or something. I’m not sure if I Iike that idea and Kia is kind of enough to let you disable it in the settings menu.
There are storage pockets and bins everywhere, with a sensible place for your phone either under the climate control or in the generous bin under the front armrest.
Cargo capacity is very generous indeed. Fold down the third row (with just 142 litres behind it) and you have 605 litres of sensible square space. Drop the second row and that figure rises to an impressive 1662 litres.
With the third row up there's 142 litres behind the seats. (image credit: Peter Anderson)
Drop the second row and boot spaces rises to an impressive 1662 litres. (image credit: Peter Anderson)
Fold down the third row and you have 605 litres of sensible square space. (image credit: Peter Anderson)
Kia quotes 7.2L/100km on the combined cycle for the 2.2-litre, which is significantly lower than the V6's figures. I got 10.2L/100km combined, which is a solid miss but I was unable to escape the burbs, so in that light, it's not a bad figure. We know from past experience the figures drop when you spend decent time on freeways.
What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating? 8/10
The GT-Line is loaded with safety gear - six airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls, cameras front, rear and side, brake assist, forward collision warning, forward AEB, front and rear parking sensors, driver-fatigue warning and reverse cross traffic alert.
The Sorento scored the maximum five-star ANCAP rating in October 2017.
Warranty & Safety Rating
7 years / unlimited km
ANCAP Safety Rating
What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered? 8/10
Kia offers the best warranty in the business - seven years and unlimited kilometres. I think the only manufacturer to match the length is Ferrari, which is a slightly more expensive proposition, along with far fewer seats. For the same length of time you also get roadside assist as long as you service the car with Kia.
Speaking of servicing, seven years of capped-price servicing costs $3319. That's an average of $474 per year, or about $50 more per year than the V6 front-wheel-drive petrol.
What's it like to drive? 7/10
There are two things about the Sorento you must know. First, it's quite heavy at just over two tonnes. Second, the diesel engine appears, at first, not to be able to haul all that weight, and then feels like, actually, it really, really can.
Despite the sportier look, there's nothing new under the skin to make the GT-Line anything other than a spec-and-badge exercise. It's hugely unlikely anyone would want to hustle a Sorento, so it's probably for the best. Once you're underway and over the initial turbo lag, the Sorento is as fine as ever. Wafting along on its cushy suspension, it reveals little of its heft in the cruise.
Body control is good despite the Sorento's height, weight and soft springs, meaning none of that chuck-inducing heaving of a couple of its Japanese rivals (hint: not the Mazda CX-9). It doesn't always feel as big as it is, and the all-wheel drive does provide security when it's chucking it down.
The second thing you need to know is that it's hugely comfortable. The trade-off for the soft springs and the need to keep things relaxed means everyone will enjoy the ride. The GT-Line would waft along in town if the engine was a bit less laggy, but it definitely wafts when you're cruising.
The Sorento is a dead-set bargain for all the gear you get and takes the comfort and practicality route followed by the Toyota Kluger. Where it diverges from the Toyota is in adding a better ownership experience, with the surety of a long warranty, and by stacking the car with gear and safety equipment.
While the GT-Line might be the most expensive in the range, the spec is right for the price and, looking at the numbers, the diesel is the one to go for. The GT-Line also demonstrates that the fundamentals of the Sorento are so good that there's no point in fiddling with them.
Is the Sorento as underrated as Peter says? What does Kia need to do to win your wallet?