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Kia Sorento 2021 review: GT-Line petrol

The new Sorento GT-Line petrol is one of the best examples of how far Kia has come.

Daily driver score

4.2/5

Urban score

4.1/5

Kia is making moves at the moment, with the new Sorento large SUV one of the best examples of how far the South Korean brand has come.

Before you even get behind the wheel, the fourth-generation Sorento makes a strong impression. So much so that it alone is changing plenty of minds.

But is the latest Sorento another case of style over substance? We’ve put its GT-Line petrol variant to the test to find out. Read on.

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

Priced from $61,070, plus on-road costs, the GT-Line petrol sits second from the top of the Sorento range, with only its diesel counterpart going $3000 higher.

Priced from $61,070, plus on-road costs, the GT-Line petrol sits second from the top of the Sorento range. Priced from $61,070, plus on-road costs, the GT-Line petrol sits second from the top of the Sorento range.

The GT-Line's generous standard equipment list includes, four drive modes ('Eco', 'Comfort', 'Sport' and 'Smart'), dusk-sensing LED headlights, rain-sensing wipers, 'Dark Chrome' 20-inch alloy wheels (with a full-size spare), auto-folding side mirrors with heating, roof rails, keyless entry, rear privacy glass, and a hands-free power-operated tailgate.

Inside, add push-button start, a 10.25-inch touchscreen multimedia system, satellite navigation, (wired) Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support, digital radio, a 12-speaker Bose sound system, a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, a windshield-projected head-up display, a wireless smartphone charger and a panoramic sunroof feature.

The 10.25-inch touchscreen multimedia system supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The 10.25-inch touchscreen multimedia system supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

And then there’s the heated steering wheel, dual-zone climate control, heated and cooled front seats, heated outboard middle seats, 14-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, 10-way power-adjustable front passenger seat, auto-dimming rearview mirror, black quilted Nappa leather-appointed upholstery, ambient lighting and second-row sunshade blinds.

Seven paintwork options are available, with our test vehicle finished in 'Snow White Pearl', which costs $695 extra, bringing the price as tested to $61,765.

For reference, the Sorento GT-Line petrol’s direct rival is the related Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander petrol ($61,700), while it also faces competition from the Mazda CX-9 Azami FWD ($66,190) and Volkswagen Tiguan Allspace 162TSI Highline ($53,190).

Is there anything interesting about its design?

When was the last time a new Kia model turned this many heads? The Stinger? Probably, but the Sorento is a different beast because it’s a vehicle most people would actually buy.

This car draws attention for all the right reasons. This car draws attention for all the right reasons.

Yep, the Sorento is out to make a statement from the get-go. Where its predecessor was close to anonymous, this car draws attention for all the right reasons.

This all starts up front, where an enlarged version of Kia’s signature ‘tiger nose’ grille sits loud and proud with a black mesh insert.

The striking look is made all the more attractive courtesy of daytime running lights, which trail into the bottom corners of the grille while underscoring the headlights.

An enlarged version of Kia’s signature ‘tiger nose’ grille sits loud and proud with a black mesh insert. An enlarged version of Kia’s signature ‘tiger nose’ grille sits loud and proud with a black mesh insert.

Then the bumper adds a bit of aggro with its large air intake, which is flanked by black U-shaped trim. Even the bonnet is nicely creased!

Around the side, the GT-Line petrol tested here ups the visual ante with an appealing set of Dark Chrome 20-inch alloy wheels.

Chrome accents also add intrigue below the A-pillars, while the wedge-like glasshouse dials up the sportiness.

At the rear, things get quite daring, with the split, horizontal tail-lights guaranteed to stand out from the crowd.

The tailgate is also intricately ‘folded’, while the spaced-out, centred ‘Sorento’ lettering below the number plate points out the bleeding obvious.

Chrome accents also add intrigue below the A-pillars, while the wedge-like glasshouse dials up the sportiness. Chrome accents also add intrigue below the A-pillars, while the wedge-like glasshouse dials up the sportiness.

Inside, the Sorento GT-Line petrol continues to delight, with it feeling far, far more premium than you’d expect. No, seriously.

First, black quilted Nappa leather-appointed upholstery lovingly covers the seats, armrests and door inserts, while soft-touch plastics are deployed on the upper and middle dashboard, and door shoulders.

Then there’s the cool crosshatch metallic trim, which combines with the prevalent silver and gloss-black accents, with the latter attracting fingerprints and scratching, very easily.

There’s cool crosshatch metallic trim, which combines with the prevalent silver and gloss-black accents. There’s cool crosshatch metallic trim, which combines with the prevalent silver and gloss-black accents.

But the main event is a side-by-side digital screen tag team - a 10.25-inch multimedia touchscreen and 12.3-inch instrument cluster.

Alongside the windshield-projected head-up display, this set-up is powered by Kia’s latest software, which is a pleasure to use, even with the myriad of capacitive buttons around the place. You still get some physical controls, though.

It’s also worth mentioning the gear selection, which is a rotary dial instead of a traditional lever. There’s a learning curve, but it works well enough when you get your head around it.

How practical is the space inside?

Measuring 4.8mm long (with a 2815mm wheelbase), 1.9m wide, and 1.7m tall, the Sorento GT-Line petrol is on the smaller side for a large SUV, but that doesn’t mean bad things for practicality.

For example, the boot’s cargo capacity is a useful 187L (VDA), but stow the 50/50 split-fold third row (via handy pull tabs) and it increases to a competitive 616L, while shelving the 60/40 split-fold second row (via two latches) will grow it to a cavernous 2011L.

There's a wireless smartphone charger, three USB ports and a 12V power outlet in the first row. There's a wireless smartphone charger, three USB ports and a 12V power outlet in the first row.

Better yet, four tie-down points and two bag hooks are on hand to secure loose items, while the load lip is tiny and the floor flat, making bulkier loads easier to deal with.

And yes, a 12V power outlet is also in tow, while the load cover can be stowed underfloor when not in use.

The third row is accessed via one-touch buttons, which mercifully tumble the second row forward. With the latter in its rearmost position, a 184cm (6'0") frame like mine needs to split its legs, with knees pressed against the backrest in front, but a centimetre of legroom is on offer.

The central tunnel is small, so three adults can sit in the middle row with no complaints. The central tunnel is small, so three adults can sit in the middle row with no complaints.

Amenities-wise, each of the two seats gets its own USB-A port, cupholder and rectangular cubby, which are located to the sides. Not too shabby.

Things get even better in the second row, where the bench manually slides and reclines. Behind my driving position, I have a massive eight centimetres of legroom as well as roughly four centimetres of headroom. And the central tunnel is small, so three adults can sit abreast with no complaints.

The third row is accessed via one-touch buttons, which mercifully tumble the second row forward. The third row is accessed via one-touch buttons, which mercifully tumble the second row forward.

Better yet, there are two USB-A ports are in the front seat backrests, plus another at the rear of the centre console, right next to a 12V power outlet. Map pockets are also on hand alongside storage nets. You don’t see that every day.

Then there’s the second-row cupholder overload, with the fold-down armrest featuring two, while another two are incorporated into the door armrests. And yes, the rear door bins can also accommodate two regular bottles.

The boot’s cargo capacity is a useful 187L (VDA). The boot’s cargo capacity is a useful 187L (VDA).

And when it comes to fitting child seats, five top-tether and four ISOFIX anchorage points are split between the second and third rows. Yep, it’s pretty easy being a parent here.

In the first row, a wireless smartphone charger, three USB ports and a 12V power outlet take up most of the centre stack’s cubby, while two cupholders and a small cubby are located behind.

Stow the 50/50 split-fold third row (via handy pull tabs) and the boot increases to a competitive 616L. Stow the 50/50 split-fold third row (via handy pull tabs) and the boot increases to a competitive 616L.

And the central bin is not only large, but features a removeable tray, while the glove box is also on the larger side.

Finally, the front door bins can also take one regular bottle each and still have enough space for other paraphernalia.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

As its name suggests, the Sorento GT-Line petrol is motivated by a 3.5-litre naturally aspirated V6 petrol engine.

This 'new' 'Smartstream' unit produces a hearty 200kW of power at 6300rpm and 332Nm of torque at 5000rpm.

And in tow is a dependable eight-speed torque-converter automatic transmission (with paddle-shifters) and a basic front-wheel-drive system.

The Sorento GT-Line petrol is motivated by a 3.5-litre naturally aspirated V6 petrol engine. The Sorento GT-Line petrol is motivated by a 3.5-litre naturally aspirated V6 petrol engine.

But if you’d prefer a 148kW/440Nm 2.2-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder engine, an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission and all-wheel-drive instead, the GT-Line diesel will do the trick for $3000 more.

The Sorento line-up will add eco-friendly Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid petrol-electric powertrain options later this year, but it remains to be seen if they will be available in the GT-Line grade.

For reference, both versions of the Sorento GT-Line have a braked towing capacity of 2000kg (750kg unbraked).

How much fuel does it consume?

The Sorento GT-Line petrol’s fuel consumption on the combined-cycle test (ADR 81/02) is 9.7L/100km, while its carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are 222g/km.

Reasonable numbers, but in the real world we averaged a higher 11.7L/100km over 209km of driving, and I'm not sure how much better anyone else could do in mixed conditions.

For that reason alone, the Sorento’s upcoming ‘self-charging’ hybrid version is shaping up as the go-to option for family buyers, particularly in and around the city.

In good news, though, the Sorento GT-Line petrol’s 67L fuel tank takes more affordable 91RON petrol at minimum, which is always a win for the budget-conscious.

And for what it’s worth, the alternative Sorento GT-Line diesel uses 6.1L/100km and emits 159g/km, although it will take years to recoup the $3000 difference in cost and make the initial investment worthwhile.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

ANCAP awarded the entire Sorento line-up its maximum five-star safety rating under its 2020 standard.

Advanced driver-assist systems in the GT-Line petrol extend to front autonomous emergency braking (with intersection assist and pedestrian and cyclist detection), lane-keep and steering assist, adaptive cruise control, high-beam assist, active blind-spot monitoring (with cameras) and rear cross-traffic alert, remote park assist, rear AEB, surround-view cameras, front and rear parking sensors, 'Rear Occupant Alert' and 'Safe Exit Assist.'

ANCAP awarded the entire Sorento line-up its maximum five-star safety rating under its 2020 standard. ANCAP awarded the entire Sorento line-up its maximum five-star safety rating under its 2020 standard.

Other standard safety equipment includes seven airbags (dual front, front-side and curtain, plus front-centre), anti-lock brakes (ABS), electronic brakeforce distribution, brake assist and the usual electronic and traction control systems.

But it's important to call out that the curtain airbags don’t extend to the third row, which is extremely disappointing for a family-focused seven-seater. Buyer beware.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?

What's it like to drive around town?

As far as family-focused seven-seaters go, the Sorento GT-Line petrol is nice to drive around town, although it is a little unrefined in some areas.

For example, off the line and at low speed, the engine-transmission combination isn’t as smooth as you’d expect it to be. It just feels a bit lazy and clunky.

This is a shame, because once you're up and running, the naturally aspirated V6 delivers pleasing performance, even if it doesn’t feel quite as quick as its outputs suggest.

And the torque-converter automatic behaves just the way you’d want it to, eventually proving to be responsive when required, while also being subtle with its gear changes.

Once you're up and running, the naturally aspirated V6 delivers pleasing performance. Once you're up and running, the naturally aspirated V6 delivers pleasing performance.

Better yet, the suspension (MacPherson strut front/multi-link rear) lacks adaptive dampers but is no worse off for it, with it being more than comfortable in its own right, despite the obvious threat posed by the 20-inch alloy wheels.

Indeed, this set-up deals with speed humps and road imperfections really well. And with ride quality almost always flawless, children will have few complaints to make, including in the third row.

Parents will also have a good time when driving thanks to the electric power steering, which is on the lighter side, making low-speed manoeuvres, including parking, easier to perform.

This system is also quite direct, but not sports-car quick, so you certainly won’t be fooled into thinking you’re driving something very different. That said, its balanced nature is well suited here.

There's a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster. There's a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster.

And when it comes to handling, the effects of the local tuning program are once again apparent, with relatively strong body control demonstrated in spite of a 1835kg tare mass.

Again, we’re not talking about a sports car here, but cornering can be enjoyable so long as understeer and traction can be managed.

Yep, the front wheels can be spun quite easily in the wet and dry, and not just off the line…

Much like the wider Sorento range, the GT-Line petrol is an absolute knockout and therefore should be on top of the shopping list of any family looking for a seven-seater.

In fact, the Sorento GT-Line petrol’s brilliant combination of good looks, cutting-edge technology, seven-seat versatility and overall driving comfort is worthy of Olympic gold.

While it might be hard to look past the lack of third-row curtain airbags, families that don’t need seven seats full-time should be able to, and they’ll be rewarded for doing so.

$60,070

Based on new car retail price

VIEW PRICING & SPECS

Daily driver score

4.2/5

Urban score

4.1/5
Disclaimer: The pricing information shown in the editorial content (Review Prices) is to be used as a guide only and is based on information provided to Carsguide Autotrader Media Solutions Pty Ltd (Carsguide) both by third party sources and the car manufacturer at the time of publication. The Review Prices were correct at the time of publication.  Carsguide does not warrant or represent that the information is accurate, reliable, complete, current or suitable for any particular purpose. You should not use or rely upon this information without conducting an independent assessment and valuation of the vehicle.