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Kia Sorento 2021 review

The Sorento can park itself without you even being in it... well, the top-of-the-range GT-Line can.
EXPERT RATING
8.4
Gone are the pudgy looks of the previous Kia Sorento - this new-generation SUV is a lean, mean, family machine

The Sorento is the mothership of Kia’s line-up. A big, seven-seater SUV which during the past decade has won over Aussie families for its spaciousness and practicality, its safety tech and the way it drives, while being great value for money.

Now the new-generation model has arrived looking leaner and meaner than the old Sorento. So, has it lost any of the charms which made it a winner, or has it only got better?

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   9/10

The new-generation Kia Sorento costs about $3K more than the previous model, but in return you’re given better features and the latest tech.

There are four grades in the Sorento range: the S, Sport, Sport + and top-of-the-range GT-Line. All grades can be had with a diesel or petrol engine. The catch is, only the diesel version is equipped with all-wheel drive, while the petrol variant is front-wheel drive only.

For the petrol line-up list prices start at $45,850 for the S, then steps up to $48,480 for the Sport, $52,850 for the Sport+, and $60,070 for the GT-Line. Want that in diesel? Just add $3000 to each price.

There are four grades in the Sorento range: the S, Sport, Sport + and top-of-the-range GT-Line. There are four grades in the Sorento range: the S, Sport, Sport + and top-of-the-range GT-Line.

Kia does drive-away pricing almost permanently, which will save you money on rego and other on-road costs. At the time this was published you could buy a GT-Line diesel for $63,070 drive-away.

What do you get for the money?

Coming standard on the S grade are 17-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, rain-sensing wipers, cloth seats, and an 8.0-inch display with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

  • The S grade wears 17-inch alloy wheels. (S variant shown) The S grade wears 17-inch alloy wheels. (S variant shown)
  • The Sport grade adds 18-inch alloy wheels. (Sport variant shown) The Sport grade adds 18-inch alloy wheels. (Sport variant shown)
  • The Sport+ gains 19-inch alloy wheels. (Sport+ variant shown) The Sport+ gains 19-inch alloy wheels. (Sport+ variant shown)
  • The GT-Line which adds 20-inch alloy wheels. (GT-line variant shown) The GT-Line which adds 20-inch alloy wheels. (GT-line variant shown)

The Sport grade adds 18-inch alloy wheels, a big 10.25-inch display, sat nav, dual-zone climate, and a power adjustable driver’s seat, but it still has cloth seats.

Things are getting pretty spesh with the Sport+ grade. There’s all of the Sport’s features plus 19-inch alloy wheels, leather seats (heated up front), proximity key with push-button start, power tailgate, privacy glass, LED tail-lights and remote engine start.

And at the top of the tree is the GT-Line which adds 20-inch alloy wheels, quilted Nappa leather seats, 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, mood lighting, 12-speaker Bose sound system, head-up display, a wireless phone charger, heated seats in the front and second row, and a panoramic sunroof. 

Inside, the GT-Line scores a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster. (GT-line variant shown) Inside, the GT-Line scores a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster. (GT-line variant shown)

By far the most impressive feature of the GT-Line is it's ability to park itself without anyone being in the car. Yup, you read that right. It's called 'Remote Smart Parking Assist' and it's for tight parking spaces.

It's astounding, and to see it work watch the video above where I demonstrate how easy to use and practical the feature is.

Is there anything interesting about its design?   9/10

The new-generation Sorento looks nothing like the last one… n-o-t-h-i-n-g like the last one. Well, apart from the rear, side window which has the same angle to it, which is an intentional nod to the previous model.

The outgoing version was premium and friendly looking, but its proportions seem bloated compared to the muscular, angular, new-generation Sorento.

It appears to have had an attitude change, too. Sure, this is a family SUV but there are muscle-car traits from the Camaro-style headlights flanking that cliff face of a grille, to the Mustang-esque tail-lights, with everything in between filled with sharp edges.

  • S variant shown. S variant shown.
  • S variant shown. S variant shown.
  • Sport variant shown. Sport variant shown.
  • Sport variant shown. Sport variant shown.
  • Sport+ variant shown. Sport+ variant shown.
  • Sport+ variant shown. Sport+ variant shown.
  • GT-Line variant shown. GT-Line variant shown.
  • GT-Line variant shown. GT-Line variant shown.

The cabin is even more striking with its cheese-grater textures in the dash and doors, the large centre console with chrome trim and rotary shifter.

The 10.25-inch media display, standard on the Sport grade and above, is the most interesting I’ve seen on any car I’ve tested.

The level of detail, thought and styling which has gone into it is obvious with its neon people, fonts and icons, incandescent light bulb effect for radio frequencies, and even the ‘streetlight’ mode for the navigation is intriguing. At the same time, it’s one of the easiest to use systems I’ve encountered.

  • S variant shown. S variant shown.
  • Sport variant shown. Sport variant shown.
  • Sport+ variant shown. Sport+ variant shown.
  • GT-Line variant shown. GT-Line variant shown.

The top-grade GT-Line steps up the premium look with its fully-digital instrument cluster and Nappa leather seats.

The materials feel high quality, while the fit and finish is superb.

The Sorento’s dimensions have changed slightly with the SUV now measuring 4810mm long (+10mm), 1900mm wide and 1700mm tall.

There are seven colours to pick from but only clear white doesn’t demand the $695 cost of the rest which include 'Silky Silver', 'Steel Grey', 'Mineral Blue', 'Aurora Black', 'Gravity Blue' or the 'Snow White Pearl' of the Sorento in my video above.  

How practical is the space inside?   9/10

The new Sorento has more space inside, a bigger boot and more charging outlets for devices.

Climbing into the third row is also easier now thanks to a wheelbase that’s been stretched by 35mm to 2815mm and a second row which slides further forward.

Even somebody my height (191cm/6'3") and with my impressive lack of co-ordination can get in. Watch the video to see how elegant I look doing it.

  • The new Sorento has more space inside. (GT-Line variant shown) The new Sorento has more space inside. (GT-Line variant shown)
  • Legroom is excellent in the second row. (GT-Line variant shown) Legroom is excellent in the second row. (GT-Line variant shown)
  • Climbing into the third row is also easier now thanks to a wheelbase that’s been stretched by 35mm. (GT-Line variant shown) Climbing into the third row is also easier now thanks to a wheelbase that’s been stretched by 35mm. (GT-Line variant shown)

Legroom is excellent throughout and I can sit behind my driving position in the second row, and behind that in the third row without my knees touching any of the seatbacks.

You now have more boot space, too. With the third row in place there’s 187 litres (up by 45 litres), and with third row flat there’s 616 liters (up by 11 litres).

  • With the third row in place there’s 187 litres. (GT-Line variant shown) With the third row in place there’s 187 litres. (GT-Line variant shown)
  • With the third row seats folded flat, boot space is rated at 616 liters. (GT-Line variant shown) With the third row seats folded flat, boot space is rated at 616 liters. (GT-Line variant shown)
  • With the third row seats folded flat, boot space is rated at 616 liters. (GT-Line variant shown) With the third row seats folded flat, boot space is rated at 616 liters. (GT-Line variant shown)

Cabin storage is also excellent. There are eight cupholders, plus, four bottle holders in the doors up front and back. You can have 12 drinks on the go and it only fits seven people.

Then there are the charging points. The GT Line and the Sport+ have USB ports in the third and second row, and all grades have three USBs up front and two 12V outlets.

The GT Line and the Sport+ have USB ports in the third row. (GT-Line variant shown) The GT Line and the Sport+ have USB ports in the third row. (GT-Line variant shown)

The GT-Line also includes wireless charging. There are directional air vents in all three rows. Nobody is going thirsty, or airless, or chargeless.

A special shout out needs to go to the Remote Smart Parking Assist feature of the GT-Line, too. The system makes the Sorento even more practical.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   7/10

As with the previous Sorento there’s a choice of a 3.5-litre petrol V6 or a turbo-diesel four-cylinder.

Essentially, they are the same engines from the previous model and the outputs are almost unchanged with the diesel making 148kW/440Nm, while the petrol produces 206kW/336Nm.

The transmission in the diesel variant is properly new. It’s an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic. The eight-speed that comes in the petrol is an old-school traditional automatic transmission. 

The 2.2-litre turbo-diesel makes 148kW/440Nm. (GT-Line variant) The 2.2-litre turbo-diesel makes 148kW/440Nm. (GT-Line variant)

As mentioned earlier, if you want all-wheel drive then only the diesel version has it, while petrol Sorentos are front-wheel drive only.

The braked towing capacity for the petrol is 1898kg while the diesel can pull 1908kg.

How much fuel does it consume?   7/10

Fuel consumption is down slightly in both diesel and petrol engines. Kia says the petrol engine should use 9.7L/100km after a combination of open and urban roads.

As for the diesel, Kia says it should use 6.1/100km. I drove the GT-Line diesel for a week, living with it like you will – school drop offs, shopping centres, city streets, motorways, you name it.

I put 195.1km on the clock and used 18.6 litres – that’s come out to be a very real-world 9.5L/100km.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   9/10

The Kia Sorento has yet to be crash tested, but it would be shocking if this new-gen SUV doesn't score the maximum five-star ANCAP rating, when the results come out.

All grades come with AEB with pedestrian and cyclist detection, rear cross-traffic alert and blind spot collision avoidance.

Then the GT-Line also has blind spot view monitor, which shows the view behind you on whichever side you’re indicating towards.

All Sorento also have seven airbags including one which pops up between the driver and front passenger.

Curtain airbags extend to the third row, but don’t completely cover the windows of those very back seats. This may make you reconsider whether you want to have children back there.

If you do, there are ISOFIX points and top tether mounts for the third-row seats, plus two more ISOFIX points and three top tethers mounts across the second row.

It’s good to see the Sorento has kept its full-sized spare wheel, which is under the car.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

7 years / unlimited km warranty

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   9/10

The Sorento is covered by Kia’s seven-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty.

Servicing is recommended at 12 month/15,000km intervals and pricing is capped. You’re looking at about $3100 for the diesel and petrol variants over the seven years.

What's it like to drive?   8/10

We’ve test driven the diesel version of the Sorento in the GT-Line grade, as the diesel is likely to be the more popular choice. And once we get our hands on the petrol version, we’ll let you know what that’s like to pilot, too.

You definitely won’t forget what's powering the diesel. It’s fairly noisy on the outside, but the cabin is well insulated so not much clatter finds its way in.

That’s just the start of what feels like a plush and premium driving experience.

Months before the Sorento came out in January 2020 Kia’s local engineers were driving it all over Australia. (GT-Line variant shown) Months before the Sorento came out in January 2020 Kia’s local engineers were driving it all over Australia. (GT-Line variant shown)

The ride is excellent, comfortable and composed even on the crumbling city roads around where I live. The same roads I’ve driven Benz and BMW SUVs on and some of those don’t feel as good as the Sorento.

I’m serious. The Sorento’s body control is outstanding. It doesn’t wobble, doesn’t feel too bouncy, and provides a superb connection between the driver and the road. I can’t say the same for some much more expensive SUVs.

Only the diesel Sorento is all-wheel drive, so this is the pick if you’re planning to head on to dirt roads regularly. (GT-Line variant shown) Only the diesel Sorento is all-wheel drive, so this is the pick if you’re planning to head on to dirt roads regularly. (GT-Line variant shown)

It’s down to the hard work Kia puts into getting its suspension right for Australia. Months before the Sorento came out in January 2020 Kia’s local engineers were driving it all over Australia, and through a process of trial and error found the right suspension that felt as good as they could get it. And they have nailed it.

So, along with the Sorento being comfortable on Aussie roads, it handles better than you’d expect something this large to.

The Sorento's ride is excellent, comfortable and composed. (GT-Line variant shown) The Sorento's ride is excellent, comfortable and composed. (GT-Line variant shown)

I pushed it hard into corners I take all my test cars though, without the major lean or roll you’d experience in some large SUVS.

Steering is also a highlight. It’s accurate, smooth, and gave me a good feeling of connection with the road.

The diesel engine, while a bit noisy, is instantly responsive with no turbo lag and provides good acceleration. Only the diesel Sorento is all-wheel drive, so this is the pick if you’re planning to head on to dirt roads regularly.

Verdict

Kia has done it again. The new-gen Sorento will be an instant family hit with its super-cool styling, modern cabin tech, practicality and space, while being great value for money. For such a modern SUV, there should have been a high-output four-cylinder petrol offered, as Mazda does with its CX-9. A superb engine like that, is what an SUV this great deserves.

The sweet spot in the range is the Sport+. Sure it doesn't have the remote parking feature of the GT-Line but it comes with a proximity key, privacy glass and leather seats.

EXPERT RATING
8.4
Price and features9
Design9
Practicality9
Engine & trans7
Fuel consumption7
Safety9
Ownership9
Driving8
Richard Berry
Senior Journalist

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