Kia Sorento long-term test: the six-month verdict

Published: 07 January 2022 Updated: 07 January 2022

► CAR lives with a hybrid Kia Sorento
► Smooth powertrain, balloon tyres
► The perfect car for our intrepid snapper?

It’s not a cliched sump guard ‘n’ snorkel kind of 4×4, but the Kia Sorento really does have genuine all-road ability. It feels so strong and secure, and has decent ground clearance and suspension travel, so if the road surface turns from tarmac to gravel to grass to mud, the Sorento just takes it all in its amiable, competent stride. It has a choice of drive modes and chassis settings primed for all sorts of surface, but the defaults are fine.

The same ‘sure, why not?’ feel applies to its on-road vibe, too. It’s comfortable, so it’s never nagging you to take the direct route home. It has an easy 500-mile range between fills, thanks to a combination of 67-litre tank and reasonable fuel consumption, so you don’t worry about heading into unknown territory in search of a fine sunset for some photography.

And the (non-plug-in) hybrid petrol engine plays a part here too. It’s not particularly powerful at 226bhp, but the torque is decent at 258lb ft, and the delivery – aided by the turbocharger and the e-motor, driving all four wheels through a six-speed auto – is seamless. You just don’t need to think about it.

Ditto the ride quality and handling. Sure, you can’t throw it around, but on most roads it just flows along very nicely, soaking up any bumps. That’s true however heavily or lightly it’s loaded. I’ve done a lot of work trips with the big boot and back seats carrying heaps of camera gear. Whenever I have taken the family anywhere in the Sorento, it’s been eminently accommodating. And little ‘uns love going in the third row, even if there’s nobody in the second row.

sorento ltt rear static

In terms of design and tech, the Sorento isn’t even trying to match the keenest German and Scandinavian rivals. Instead we get a wise mix of screen-based and physical-switch controls; most adjustments that need making on the move can be done without taking your eyes off the road, which is surely pretty important.

The ‘2’ trim level doesn’t have a sat-nav, which suits me fine as I always end up using my phone, and the upholstery is cloth rather than leather. Over the months the seats got a bit grubby – the cumulative grubbiness you only really notice when you give a car its final clean; maybe leather would have been quicker to wipe clean. But cloth is better suited to the unshowy approach that works so well in this good-value, family-friendly, work-ready, all-round package.

By Alex Tapley

Logbook: Kia Sorento 2 Hybrid

Price £38,845 (£39,505 as tested)
Engine 1598cc turbo four-cyl plus e-motor, 1.49kWh battery, 226bhp
Performance 8.7sec 0-60mph, 119mph Efficiency 40.9mpg (official), 36.8mpg (tested), 158g/km CO2
Energy cost 16.1p per mile
Miles this month 5261
Total miles 14,570

Month 5 living with a Kia Sorento: great at what it does

To be clear, this is not a twin test. A £40k SUV and a half-mil fettled Porsche have little in common beyond four wheels and a virtual tax disc. It’s classic apples and oranges, or pears versus bananas, not nectarines or peaches.

Both cars are, however, very good at certain things, and each barely even tries to do what the other excels at. In the case of the Kia, it’s all about the luggage and the seats and the floating-above-it-all cruising ability. Whereas the Singer’s exquisite agility, its responsiveness, its extreme rapidity, its hand-crafted sensuality… they’re just not on the Sorento’s radar.

Just how useful the Sorento is really came home to me recently when, because we were having some work done at our house, I was essentially living in the car and had all my camera gear, not to mention some hygiene essentials and spare trousers, in the boot.

Oh the boot. The glorious, cavernous boot. The stats say its capacity is 608 litres with five seats in use, or 1996 litres with only the front two upright. This latter figure is way above average – more than a VW Touareg, for instance, or even the king of estates, the Skoda Octavia. The stats barely do it justice, though, as this is space that’s easily accessible and easy to see into, meaning it’s relatively quick and easy to retrieve stuff that I’ve slung in.

One thing, though. Considering this seems to be a super-reliable, tough, well-made car, I was surprised to notice the other day that one of the minor controls has become slightly dislodged. It’s a temperature adjuster for the third row of seats, and it still works, but it must have been walloped by something or something (almost certainly me and my camera gear) and has sunk slightly into its surround. When you’ve got used to a car feeling so robust that you can do pretty much what you like to it, this is a reminder that, like all of us, it does actually benefit from a bit of tender loving care.

By Alex Tapley

Logbook: Kia Sorento 2 Hybrid

Price £38,845 (£39,505 as tested)
Engine 1598cc four-cyl plus e-motor, 1.49kWh battery, 226bhp
Performance 8.7sec 0-60mph, 119mph
Efficiency 40.9mpg (official), 36.9mpg (tested), 158g/km CO2
Energy cost 16.1p per mile
Miles this month 1011
Total miles 9309

Month 4 living with a Kia Sorento: who saw this coming?

sorento ltt side pan

During the four months I’ve had the Sorento so far, it’s slowly dawned on me that I love it. Don’t just admire it, don’t just find it useful, actually love it.

Partly it’s because my expectations were reasonably low, and it’s handsomely exceeded them. It’s an unpretentious car that doesn’t ask to be loved, but it does the job very well.

Partly it’s because – as a freelance photographer who needs to turn up when he says he’s going to turn up – I value very highly the Sorento’s reliability. Seven-year warranty, you say? Entirely unnecessary when a car is so well made.

And mostly it’s because it feels right. It feels like I belong in here. I’m a tall bloke, and it’s plenty roomy enough. I carry a lot of camera gear, and it swallows that up easily. And I enjoy a car that’s comfortable and easygoing, but which also gives you a bit of driving pleasure now and again. The Sorento is most agreeable on single- and dual-carriageway A-roads and some B-roads. But tighter back roads, and stop-start town traffic, reveal its limitations. It’s heavy and not very powerful, so doesn’t excel at slowing down and speeding up again.

By Alex Tapley

Logbook: Kia Sorento 2 Hybrid

Price £38,845 (£39,505 as tested)
Engine 1598cc four-cyl plus e-motor, 1.49kWh battery, 226bhp
Performance 8.7sec 0-60mph, 119mph
Efficiency 40.9mpg (official), 36.7mpg (tested), 158g/km CO2
Energy cost 16.2p per mile
Miles this month 983
Total miles 8298

Month 3 living with a Kia Sorento: a day in a snapper’s life

sorento ltt front pan

Room for everything
As well as CAR duties, the Sorento takes me the width and breadth of the country on a whole host of other photographic assignments, usually requiring heaps of equipment. The enormous boot space is filled but the rear seats are free and rear view is unobstructed – that’s rare.

Cubbies everywhere
There are copious cabin pockets, all of which I manage to fill with junk, as I practically live in my car. The door pocket and centre cubby offer useful space as well as the two central cupholders – one in and one out for drive-thru coffee – but annoyingly the door bin doesn’t quite take a big water bottle.

Steady on
Blakey Ridge in the North Yorkshire Moors is a fantastic road to drive. It’s fast, flowing, well sighted and with a few hidden surprises to keep you alert – and it shows that the Sorento can be good fun to drive despite its lack of dynamic character. I have to rein myself in, though, to stop all my expensive equipment sloshing around in the back.

sorento ltt boot food

Caffe niro
The Kia also doubles up as an artisan coffee station, as long as your artisan coffee expectations are extremely low. The amount of space available in the Sorento means we can easily pack a week’s provisions for a team of three along with all my photography gear.

A real 4×4
It might look stuck, but it’s in fact carefully parked off-road so it doesn’t get in the way of the photo shoot. With decent ground clearance and drive modes for mud and ruts I have faith that we won’t be flagging down a tractor for assistance.

sorento ltt jaguars

Take it easy
That’s a wrap; as the light starts to fall it’s time to head home. This is as comfortable a cabin as any I’ve spent time in recently.

By Alex Tapley

Logbook: Kia Sorento 2 Hybrid

Price £38,845 (£39,505 as tested)
Engine 1598cc four-cyl plus e-motor, 1.49kWh battery, 226bhp
Performance 8.7sec 0-60mph, 119mph Efficiency 40.9mpg (official), 31.7mpg (tested), 158g/km CO2
Energy cost 19.9p per mile
Miles this month 3469
Total miles 7315

Month 2 living with a Kia Sorento: aaaaaaaand relax…

sorento ltt wheel

Check out my chunky tyres. Look at the length of my loadbay. Marvel at my modes. The Sorento is about being big, comfortable and well equipped. The sort of thing we often think of as being a bit American, although if you were to actually put this car – the biggest Kia sold in Europe – next to the Telluride and Carnival offered in the US it would look very modest.

I’m feeling the benefit of its comfort, size and kit. Together, they make the car fit well with my working life and family life. More bags? Sling them in the back! Need to unwind after a tough assignment? Its insulating ride will soon soak away any stress. Want to catch up on what’s been happening? The phone connects readily, and the audio is good.

This is all playing to the Sorento’s strengths. I’m well aware that it’s not a car that’s been designed with dynamic entertainment in mind, so I’m not even trying to get it to provide any back-road thrills. Will that get frustrating? We’ll see. But for now, I’m enjoying decent fuel consumption courtesy (at least in part) of the laid-back driving style that the car encourages.

By Alex Tapley

Logbook: Kia Sorento 2 Hybrid

Price £38,845 (£39,505 as tested)
Engine 1598cc four-cylinder plus e-motor, 1.49kWh battery, 226bhp
Performance 8.7sec 0-60mph, 119mph
Efficiency 40.9mpg (official), 33.5mpg (tested), 158g/km CO2
Energy cost 19.7p per mile
Miles this month 931
Total miles 3846

Month 1 living with a Kia Sorento hybrid: hello and welcome

sorento ltt static rear

Here’s how unpretentious and no-nonsense the Kia Sorento is: the most over-egged aspect of this big, straightforward seven-seat SUV is that the entry-level version is badged 2, rather than 1. And that’s your lot. Everything else about it is in the spirit of Ronseal – it does what it says on the tin – or Barry Scott, the no-BS voice of Cillit Bang cleaning products.

Need a quick refresher on what exactly the Sorento is? Yup, me too. Now in its fourth generation, it’s the biggest SUV sold in the UK by Kia. It’s roughly the same size as the Skoda Kodiaq, Peugeot 5008 and Nissan X-Trail. It’s a seven-seater, with a choice of three engines: this petrol-electric hybrid, a plug-in hybrid, and a diesel. They’re all four-wheel-drive autos. There are three spec levels: our 2, plus (go on, have a guess…) 3 and 4.

Our model is the cheapest Sorento available. At just shy of £40k, including £660 worth of red paint, it’s not a steal, but then it does come well equipped as standard. The things you’re missing out on by choosing 2 rather than 3 or 4 include bigger alloys, electric adjustment for the front seats, a bigger infotainment screen and upgraded headlights.

The list of what you do get is long and reassuring, with its mix of safety, connectivity and comfort: tinted windows, air-con for the third row, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, a heated steering wheel and much more. There’s a rotary drive mode selector that includes three off-road modes: Snow, Mud and Sand. Uphill and downhill traction assistance are included too – not because it’s a car aimed at serious off-roading, but because it’s designed to look after your family if things take an unexpected turn.

You’ll notice I’ve not mentioned what it’s like to drive, even though I’ve clocked up the best part of 2000 miles in my first month. Let’s see how things develop, but first impressions are that it’s a car that’s not really about driving. It’s about all those safety systems, about the seven-year warranty, and about the roominess – which is considerable. It’s usually not difficult for me as a photographer and a family man to fill any car to the brim, but the Sorento always has space to spare.

It weighs a fraction over 2000kg, and its 226bhp (aided by the modest 1.49kWh battery under the front seats) is never going to offer rocketship performance. Nor is the chassis set up for haring around bends. It does, however, seem to be very happy to chug along quietly, smoothly and calmly, making light work of heavy loads.

By Alex Tapley

Logbook: Kia Sorento 2 Hybrid

Price £38,845 (£39,505 as tested)
Engine 1598cc four-cyl plus e-motor, 1.49kWh battery, 226bhp
Performance 8.7sec 0-60mph, 119mph
Efficiency 40.9mpg (official), 33.8mpg (tested), 158g/km CO2
Energy cost 16.0p per mile
Miles this month 1793
Total miles 2915