Our Kia Sorento has been a fine long term drive, performing impeccably over its time and helping us understand why big seven seaters are increasingly popular.
Our time with the long term Kia Sorento is now done. Its final mission; the annual Christmas holiday ritual of road trips and beach sorties. This is the forte of the large modern crossover; pile everyone in, load up the boot and get gone. Packing for the big holiday doesn’t require much in the way of thought with the Sorento. You just keep heaving the stuff in and it’s quite astounding just how much you can squeeze in the hold.
The Sorento is a good all-round package from behind the wheel, and it appeals to all sorts of drivers. My wife likes the light steering and smooth ride, and also the amount of height adjustment on the seat. She appreciates the easy connectivity of the Bluetooth system for audio play. The Sorento’s progress is sorted both at a town and country pace, though the road noise can be a tad loud when the surface is particularly coarse. It can be a sporty bus in the bends, however, when the passenger count is low. At this point push the Sport mode to ensure a better response from the auto, and a bit more weight to the steering. The diesel kicks on from 2000rpm, giving the Sorento enough pull for effective overtakes.
Plying main highways with the active cruise online helps ease the traffic frustration of the busy holiday period, both in slow moving queues and where speed enforcement is strict. With another high holiday road toll, you could argue the crackdown on velocity is a waste of resource. You’d prefer the authorities policed poor driving; those who tailgate or the ones who find it impossible to keep left on winding roads. Or perhaps those who are intent on holding everyone up as they cruise at 70km/h, only to speed up at passing lanes, where invariably, predictable Mr Plod is sat waiting to nab those overtaking at 104km/h.
Why can’t people merge when it comes time to form one lane from two without bringing the traffic flow to a standstill? We cannot wait until the powers that be sort out the mess along the Kapiti Coast, especially at Otaki, and the same goes for the serious foul up that is Warkworth. The time spent stopped in snarl ups serves as a reminder that it’s always best to take alternative routes when you can. In vehicles like Sorento the extra distance doesn’t much matter as the fuel consumption average ended up at 9.2L/100km, with some longer highway cruises returning low 6s. A 70L tank gives a good range too and so fill ups are infrequent.
The AWD system hasn’t had much of a rugged test. It handled the odd beach foray easily, but the Sorento isn’t the rig to go off road in. You’re better off looking to something like the Everest to fill that brief. But as we’ve mentioned in other reports the AWD makes full use of the grunt, particularly on wet roads. And for an on-demand type set-up, it’s quick and proactive, never allowing the front wheels to chirp.
What would we want to see improved? It would be good if the rear doors also had a touch pad for the keyless entry. It was something that was a surprise to find on the Holden Barina last year and we found this small addition handy. The infotainment system does the job, though the function of smartphone mirroring is lacking. Sorento is due for a mild update imminently, and it’s expected that CarPlay and Android Auto will make the list, along with the fitment of autonomous emergency braking.
The sat nav is easy enough to programme, and while occasionally giving a few weird commands, the main beef is that it’s not easy to scroll around on the map to see whereabouts you might be heading. The resolution also needs to be much brighter; it can be especially hard to see the screen if it’s sunny. While the Premium model has many items on its specification list, the least used feature was the panoramic roof with the shade remaining in place much of the time, though it might get more use in the gloomier months of the year.
The general practicality of the Sorento is sound, like the storage for instance. It’s plentiful and sensible; the cupholders are big enough and sited to the side of the gear lever so whatever is loaded into them won’t get in your way. The bins under the centre stack and in the centre armrest are well considered, and everything has a neat lid to keep it all looking tidy when they are filled with junk. Its air con is effective on hot days and is complemented by the ventilation function of the seats up front, keeping you more comfortable in the summer heat, though you do feel the effects of the idle stop/start on the A/C operation when it’s hot out. The kids appreciated the rear window blinds too on sunny days.
As feared, bits of unidentified matter seeped into the perforations of the leather seat trim, and proved hard to dislodge. And a small rip in the back seat appeared, the perforations making the leather less hardy it would seem. The surface of the driver’s seat is already getting that shiny appearance too, though a good leather treatment would probably sort that. There are still no cabin squeaks apparent however, and the rest of the interior is holding up fine. General build quality and materials used impressed most passengers, particularly those not expecting so much from the Kia brand. The only other minor gremlin that has surfaced concerned the memory function for the electric seat, which occasionally failed to work, only to operate fine again on the next start-up.
Have we actually found the seven-seater layout useful? Most definitely. While it’s not always easy to get in the rearmost seats with the Recaro child restraints latched in place, adults can clamber in through the tailgate, and on a few occasions it meant just one car was needed for an outing rather than two. There’s hardly any luggage space left with all seats in play, but with one up and one stowed, it allows for a few bags and other essentials to be hauled while another passenger is seated comfortably in the back. The tow bar saw no real use, though it will be missed; having to haul the wheelie bin up our steep and long driveway is never a task one looks forward to on rubbish day.
We’ve been genuinely impressed with the way the Sorento has handled life. It does everything with ease thanks to a good mix of quality and convenience in a versatile and good looking package. It’s also a satisfying drive in most facets of everyday use. The only other one to consider in this busy, large seven-seater market would be the new Mazda CX-9. When comparing top models, the Sorento Premium is more expensive while the CX-9 Limited is better specified, but with limited supply of the Mazda and strong demand, you’ll be more likely to strike up a good deal on Sorento, and it would be a sound purchase.