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Kia Sorento 2.2 CRDI KX-3

Click to view picture gallery“Kias seven-seat Sorento SUV
  is big and bold and, as you
d expect
  of a brand
s flagship, an imposing-
  looking and very polished machine

good enough, in fact, to be named
  the winner of the
Large Crossover
  category in The Sunday Times
  Top 100 Cars of 2016

NOW IN ITS THIRD GENERATION, the latest Sorento sports a 2.2-litre turbodiesel under its bonnet and comes with a new, 'intelligent' all-wheel drive system. And, of course, like its Kia kin, it's guaranteed by Kia's much-praised warranty that covers it for seven years and 100,000 miles.

Four trim levels fit into the Sorento line-up and all use the same powerplant a 197bhp 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel with intercooler that serves up a muscular 325lb ft of torque from 1,750rpm. Top speed is 124mph and the benchmark 60mph takes just 9 seconds from standstill pretty good for a large two-tonne SUV.

You’ll need less money
than you think to put a
Sorento on your drive —
as little as 28,795.
And while the
equipped range-topping
KX-4 model costs
41,575, that’s still
several thousand less
than an
entry-level X5...”
You'll need less money than you think to put a Sorento on your drive as little as 28,795, although the range-topping KX-4 model costs 41,575. While that might sound a lot to some, bear in mind that even at 41K the very comprehensively equipped top trim Sorento will still cost you several thousand pounds less than an entry-level X5 from BMW.

Reflecting this, sales are already ahead of projections with the Sorento now expected to sell almost double of what was originally forecast. And, not really so surprisingly, it's the higher-spec versions that are proving to be the most popular.

For your money you get a handsome SUV. Fronting the Sorento is a more upright version of Kia's trademark 'tiger-nose' grille finished in a distinctive dark metallic with a 3D diamond pattern and flanked by stretched wraparound Xenon headlamps and underscored by a silver skid plate beneath the lower air intake.

At the end of the bonnet its swept-back profile subtly disguises the Sorento's increased size while at the sides a high belt-line and deeply sculpted door panels lead to pronounced rear shoulders and sweeping D-pillars. Privacy glass on the rear side windows and tailgate enhance the glasshouse while a wide rear skid plate, LED tail lamps, an integrated tailgate spoiler and a 'shark-fin' antenna finish off the tail.

The new Sorento is 95mm longer, a tad wider and a smidgen lower (by 15mm) than its second-generation predecessor; it now measures 4,780mm from nose-to-tail and its wheelbase is 80mm longer (now 2,780mm) to inject more passenger space.

There's now more headroom and legroom for passengers in all three rows; plus there's an extra 90 litres in the large, square boot. With the seats in their conventional five-seat configuration there's room behind for a substantial 605 litres of luggage. Even in seven-seat mode there's 142 litres for some squashy bags. With the second row being split 40:20:40 and the third row 50:50, there's plenty of versatility when it comes to who or what goes where.

For the whole kit and caboodle, fold down both the third row (the two individual seats fold flat into the floor) and middle row seating (conveniently this can also be done from the boot) and you'll have a long, totally flat cargo bay with 1,662 litres at your disposal. Loading is easy-peasy a huge tailgate gives easy access to the hold and the loading sill is level with the loadbay floor so cargo can just be slid in or out.

Fold down the third and
middle row seating
and you’ll have a long,
totally flat cargo hold
with 1,662 litres at your
A huge tailgate gives
easy access and
the loading sill
is level with the loadbay
floor so cargo can just
be slid in or out...”
Making sure you don't get your hands dirty is a power-operated (opening and closing) tailgate. More good news: beneath the boot floor is a large undertray as well as a full-size spare alloy wheel, and the luggage cover stores neatly out of the way in its own dedicated compartment.

Finally, and more than handy if your passenger rota is maxed-out, is the 2,500kg braked trailer or caravan that manual versions can haul. Trailer Stability Assist helps keep it all shipshape and safe.

The really good news is that whatever you stuff your Sorento with bodies or boxes it remains responsive to drive thanks to the hearty torque which also keeps the gear-changing to a minimum. The turbodiesel is lighter, more powerful, more fuel-efficient and cleaner it's a refined and willing engine and pulls strongly in the midrange and when accelerating.

In addition to a particulate filter, an NOx trap is also fitted to reduce harmful nitrogen emissions to negligible levels. Intelligent Stop & Go engine stop/start is also standard and not only makes sure no fuel is used but, more importantly, that no emissions are created whenever the car comes to a halt.

Over 500 test miles on mixed roads and in some pretty rum weather our six-speed manual version averaged 37.7mpg. Bearing in mind it's a seven-seating 4x4, few would quibble with that and Forty+ (the official combined cycle figure is 46.3mpg) should be achievable for real-life John and Jane Doe.

Before checking out the cabin architecture it's worth noting all the kit you get. Go for the penultimate KX-3 and it's a long list that includes intelligent all-wheel drive, black leather upholstery, heated front seats, heated steering wheel, dual-zone automatic AirCon with ioniser, 8-way powered driver's seat (including lumbar), heated outer rear seats in row two, multifunction leather-trimmed steering wheel, cruise control and speed limiter, and engine Start/Stop button and keyless entry.

The list continues with tinted glass, panoramic sunroof, privacy glass (rear side windows and tailgate), 10-speaker Infinity premium hi-fi system with DAB RDS radio (MP3 compatible), USB and AUX ports, Bluetooth with voice recognition and music streaming, reversing camera system plus front and rear parking sensors, an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment and SatNav screen, a 7-inch TFT instrument display, heated powerfold door mirrors, all one-shot auto up/down windows, auto-dimming rearview mirror, ambient lighting, auto lights and wipes, driver's trip computer, Flex steer (Normal, Comfort and Sport steering modes), drive-away automatic door locking, alloy pedal set, roof rails and 18-inch alloy wheels.

Whatever you stuff your
Sorento with — bodies
or boxes — it remains
responsive to drive
thanks to the hearty
torque which also keeps
the gear-changing
to a minimum.
The turbodiesel is refined
and willing and pulls
strongly in the
midrange and when
Safety features (active and passive) are also comprehensive with twin front airbags, twin side airbags and twin curtain airbags with a roll-over sensor, height adjustable front seatbelts and active front headrests, Isofix child seat top tethers and anchor fixings, child safety rear door locks, Xenon headlights with automatic levelling, LED daytime running lights, cornering lights, self-dimming adaptive front lighting (automatically directs the low-beam lighting according to the amount of lock applied to the steering to improve visibility during turning and cornering), front wiper de-icer and a tyre pressure monitoring system.

Also standard-fit are Trailer Assist, Hill Start Assist, Speed Limit Information (not only does this display the maximum speed permitted in both the instrument cluster and the navigation screen but if that limit has been reduced say because of roadworks or smart motorway gantries the onboard camera overrules it and shows the lower limit), Lane Departure Warning, Electronic Stability Control, an active bonnet to protect pedestrians and a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating.

The doors open wide for easy entry into a 'clubby' cabin with well-padded black leather chairs. The driver enjoys a commanding driving position and A1 visibility made better by the powered seat and a smart-looking, satin black, multifunction three-spoke wheel with a meaty leather rim that's good to grip. A left foot rest is provided alongside the non-slip alloy pedals for 'the cruise'. It's a very amenable cabin enhanced by a panoramic glass roof incorporating a sliding sunroof in the front section with one-touch operation 'blackout' sunblinds.

Both front seats have cosy 3-stage heating and the big chairs are both supportive and accommodating and great to travel in. There's loads of room in all directions with plentiful leg and headroom and a big gap between the front seats so no elbow clashes with your front passenger over the centre armrest; wide well-placed outer armrests are fitted on the doors and help make you feel immediately at home.

The ergonomics are fine and the switchgear logically placed and fit and finish is to high levels with plush soft-touch plastics, piano black trim and satin chrome accents boosting the ambiance. The 3D mapping on the 8-inch infotainment touchscreen is crystal clear; its large foolproof-to-use icons are easy to finger-tap on the move while 'hard' shortcut keys either side of the screen allow for no-messing major menu jumps. And it's a quiet and restful place to be in heavy traffic or when taking the 'tedious' out of long motorway journeys.

The rear cabin is an equally relaxing place to travel. Headroom is fine and there's good rear air ventilation. It's a wide cabin and three adults can sit side-by-side with no border incursions and plentiful foot room; two will travel hedonistically either side of the big, wide cup-holding central armrest. The reclineable seatbacks offer multi-adjustable backrest angles and the two outer chairs are heated.

“Take a trip in the
Sorento and you won’t be
disappointed —
you feel
palpably cocooned as
though it
s been hewn
from solid rock, its road
manners are ve
acceptable and it corners
well, all the time riding
compliantly with the
permanent reassurance
of all-wheel drive...”
The third row is home to equal-sized seats 6 and 7 and access is good through the wide-opening rear doors the second row seats slide forwards by 270mm and they have enough head and leg room to be used by adults; not always the case with some seven-seat SUVs. Another plus: they also get their own AirCon controls.

Kia have pitched their comprehensively improved Sorento (a huge amount of engineering work under the skin and totally revised running gear has made it virtually an all-new car) against some far more expensive competition: it beat serious competition such as the Land Rover Discovery Sport, Mazda CX-5 and Renault's Kadjar to take top spot in The Sunday Times Top 100 Cars of 2016 and so you'd expect handling and ride comfort to be more than satisfactory.

Take a trip in the Sorento and you won't be disappointed its road manners are very acceptable, straight-line stability is fine, body lean is well controlled and it corners accurately, all the time riding compliantly with the permanent reassurance of the Dynamax all-wheel drive system. First seen on Kia's compact SUV, the Sportage, Dynamax continuously monitors driving conditions and anticipates when all-wheel drive will be needed, then sends drive to the wheels with most grip as and when necessary ensuring the Sorento is always in the correct drive mode for the prevailing circumstances.

Sitting inside the Sorento you feel palpably cocooned as though it's been hewn from solid rock and not put together on a production line hardly surprising because the bodyshell now contains twice the amount of high-strength steel with torsional rigidity up by 14%.

Under normal driving condition the all-wheel drive system delivers 100 per cent of engine torque to the front wheels but it will automatically redistribute the drive to a maximum of 60:40 front-to-rear to enhance cornering stability or if road conditions deteriorate. For speeds of up to 25mph the driver can manually select Lock mode which gives an off-road suitable 50:50 torque split to help take advantage of the Sorento's 185mm ground clearance.

The motor-driven power steering offers three modes (Normal, Comfort and Sport) and the Sorento always feels connected to the road while ventilated all-disc brakes deliver smooth slowing and drama-free emergency stopping.

Kia have really nailed it with their Sorento SUV its serves up gentrified saloon-like travel for seven in its smart and roomy cabin while being equally adept at workhorse duties such as towing, and wholly deserves its Sunday Times award.

Kia Sorento 2.2 CRDI KX-3 | 35,845
Maximum speed: 124mph | 0-60mph: 9 seconds | Test Average: 37.7mpg
Power: 197bhp | Torque: 325lb ft | CO2: 161g/km