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Kia Sorento SLi diesel 2016 review

EXPERT RATING
7
Peter Anderson road tests and reviews the 2016 Kia Sorento SLi diesel with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.

Peter Anderson road tests and reviews the 2016 Kia Sorento SLi diesel with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.

Forgot to stop breeding when you had your third child? Unintended twins? You’ll be looking for a big seven-seat SUV, then. And with all those mouths to feed you might well have a price ceiling of $50,000, yes? But you still want a strong diesel engine and a reasonable load of standard equipment, right?

The good news is that one thing about your life, at least, is now simple, because you’ve basically got one choice – the Kia Sorento SLi.

That means there’s just one question to answer – is a self-imposed lack of choice necessarily a bad thing?

Price and features

The SLi is the mid-spec Sorento, trading blows with its slightly more expensive cousin, the Hyundai Santa Fe Elite (okay, so that is your choice; spending slightly more).

The headline news here is that the Sorento has seven useable seats, which is almost unheard of.

At $48,490, the Sorento beats the $50k mark while the Santa Fe stumbles over it all the way to $50,990.

The Sorento comes standard with 18-inch alloys, dual-zone climate control with a controller for the third row, reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, sat nav, auto headlights and wipers, keyless entry and start, cruise control, electric driver’s seat, partial leather trim (some is real leather some most definitely is not), roof rails, smart electric tailgate and a full-size alloy spare wheel.

The 10-speaker stereo (you need at least that many in a car this big) goes without any fripperies such as CarPlay or Android Auto or any meaningful smartphone integration past USB or Bluetooth connectivity.

However, if you want to stay under $50,000, you’ll have to specify a white one or catch a salesperson in a weak moment – six of the seven available colours will set you back an extra $595, knocking you over by $85.

Practicality

The headline news here is that the Sorento has seven useable seats, which is almost unheard of. In fact, it’s the equivalent of a McDonald’s hamburger actually being as big as they look in the pictures.

You could honestly fit smaller adults in the third row if you had to, and if they were limber and didn’t mind a bit of climbing. Both rows of rear seats fold flat for a 1662-litre loadspace, or a whopping 2066 litres if you go right to the ceiling.

With both rows raised, you’ll have a useful, if small, area of 162 litres (which is always the problem, you can take seven people but you have to leave their luggage at home). In wagon mode, with the third row stowed, Kia says you’ll get 605 litres. If you cram it full, you’ll have just over 1000 litres.

There are cupholders everywhere – two in the front, two in the middle row and two outboard of each rear seat. One imagines the middle passenger will be compliant enough to hold everyone’s drinks, which is probably unlikely given they’ve drawn the short straw for elbow room already.

Back-row passengers also get a small, phone-sized tray to store, well, phones and lollies, and whatever else. All four doors have bottle holders that will store a 500ml bottle upright and larger bottles lying flat. Those bottle holders will also restrain cups in a pinch if the back seat is full and the holders folded away.

The middle row will slide fore and aft to help balance out the rear legroom or load space or, if you’re that way inclined, pull the children (or adults…) into striking range from the front seat.

The third row folds easily and there are handy clips for the seatbelts to stop them flapping about when there’s nobody in the back. The clips also stop the belt fouling the folding/unfolding process.

The ‘smart’ electric tailgate is also extremely useful. It’s fun to sidle up to the back of the car dressed as a magician and wait for the tailgate to pop itself open. You don’t even need to wave your foot in the air looking like you’re going for some kind of hokey-pokey world record.

The Sorento’s towing capacity is rated at 750kg unbraked and 2000kg braked.

Design

The Sorento looks a lot bigger than it is, although its 4.87 metre length is hardly small. Little has been done to reduce its visual size, with slabby sides and upright glass. Looks, clearly, aren’t much of an issue in this market segment. The impression of heft continues when you grasp a doorhandle and pull open the huge doors.

It’s not an especially adventurous design, almost van-like rather than out-and-out SUV, but that translates into a big, boxy interior. There are some nice highlights on the outside, like the 3D-effect Schreyer grille - named after star designer Peter Schreyer - but that’s as wild as it gets.

Inside is similarly workmanlike but overall the feel is well-built and it looks good. The chintzy fake wood isn’t very welcome, especially not on the 70s-look gear selector, and most certainly not on the top quarter of the steering wheel. It provides a distinctly American feel, and would be welcomed by The Griswolds if they were to take an Australian Vacation.

The dash is clothed in fake leather but it looks real, and the screen set into the dash is old-school, rather than plonked on the top in the German style.

The front seats are big, cushy units wrapped in surprisingly soft leather (or fake leather, but who cares when it’s this comfy?) and you’ve got a great view out front. You can’t see much out the back, however, so the reversing camera is most appreciated.

Vision is a bit iffy around the front wheels, so placing it in narrow lanes or parking spaces can be a bit tricky, so again, the park-assist feature is useful.

We did find the plastics marked easily, with anything from shoe scuffs to scrapes from loading up the rear doing the damage.

Engine and transmission

The Sorento’s CRDi 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel churns out 147kW and 441Nm, which is 52 fewer kilowatts than the 3.3-litre V6 petrol optoin, but a handy 51Nm more. If you want all-wheel drive, you’re in luck, because you can’t get the diesel without it. All four wheels are driven by Hyundai/Kia’s six-speed automatic.

There’s also a diff lock for when things get sandy or slippy, but don’t go thinking you’re the Leyland Brothers.

Fuel consumption

Kia claims a combined cycle figure of 7.8L/100km, which is a middling effort when combined with the more sophisticated units found in similarly chunky Euro SUVs (of course, they’re not similarly priced… or even close, in fact). In the real world, which was mostly city driving with some short bursts to 80km/h, we saw just over 10L/100km.

Driving

The Sorento driving experience is solid, if completely unspectacular. The ride is excellent, but you never really shake off the size and weight (2046kg) of the thing, especially when cornering. The torquey diesel certainly knocks the edge off, with the six speeder handing out sensible, smooth shifts and rarely caught off guard.

The best thing to do in the Sorento is settle back and enjoy things as they come and not get too ambitious in the corners. The big body will start to float a bit if you get too excited, so you can expect some pretty upset passengers if you try anything silly.

The diesel is a particularly smooth and strong unit, almost European in its power delivery. The six-speeder is a slick shifter that only gets caught out if you’re getting over-enthusiastic with the throttle pedal.

As long as you know the car’s limits, you’ll be perfectly happy behind the wheel, gender non-specific monarch of all you survey. One irritant is the clipped, mumsy tone that comes over the stereo to tell you, “You are over the speed limit.” Seems useful at first, particularly if you live in Victoria, but it gets annoying after a while and there isn’t a simple switch to turn it off.

Safety

In the SLi, you get six airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls for a maximum five-star ANCAP rating.

Frustratingly, SLi buyers are unable to access rear cross traffic alert, lane-departure warning or blind-spot detection as they are only available on the Platinum ($55,990) and aren’t even offered as an option here. There’s also no autonomous emergency braking in any model, which is a sizeable oversight.

It’s also worth noting that there are two ISOFIX points in the middle row along with three top-tether anchor points. The curtain airbags go all the way to the rear row and everyone has a three-point seatbelt. Comforting.

Ownership

Kia offers an unmatched seven-year warranty with roadside assist for the duration and a free first service at three months. It’s a huge, huge selling point for the brand, and puts minds at ease.

Kia’s fixed-price servicing regime runs for the first seven years/105,000km. Services range from $400 for the first year, climbing to $661 for the four year/60,000km service before yo-yoing between $451 and $567 for a seven-year total of $3487. The average service price is $498.

Verdict

What you’re getting with the Sorento is an unapologetic suburban workhorse with a dash of off-road ability. As far as the seven-seat diesel crowd goes, your only other option is the markedly cheaper (in every sense of the word) Mitsubishi Outlander or lower-spec Santa Fe.

It may not be as stylish as its own little sibling, the Sportage, or its Santa Fe counterpart, but what it lacks in style it more than makes up for with substance, and space.

Could the Sorento SLi be your suburban workhorse? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

Click here to see more 2016 Kia Sorento SLi diesel pricing and spec info.

Pricing Guides

$35,880
Based on 105 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$26,955
Highest Price
$42,990

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
GT-LINE (4x4) 2.2L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO $38,390 – 45,210 2016 Kia Sorento 2016 GT-LINE (4x4) Pricing and Specs
Platinum (4x4) 2.2L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO $32,999 – 42,990 2016 Kia Sorento 2016 Platinum (4x4) Pricing and Specs
Si (4x2) 3.3L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $26,955 – 29,790 2016 Kia Sorento 2016 Si (4x2) Pricing and Specs
Si (4x4) 2.2L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO $29,850 – 35,990 2016 Kia Sorento 2016 Si (4x4) Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7
Peter Anderson
Contributing journalist

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