What is it?
It’s always so tempting, whenever Kia launches a new model, to contemplate just how far this manufacturer of cheap and occasionally not-so-cheerful cars has come over the years.
From a design and general appeal point of view, it’s light years ahead of where it once was and, with the launch of its fourth-generation Sorento SUV, things are getting better still.
This handsome new brute represents quite a step-change from the previous Kia Sorento. Not only is it the first model to sit on Kia’s latest mid-size SUV platform, but also it’s now available with a hybridised petrol engine and there will be a plug-in hybrid launched later this year.
The standard hybrid tested here mates Kia’s 1.6-litre T-GDi four-pot engine with a 59bhp electric motor that draws its drive energy from a 1.49kWh lithium ion battery housed beneath the front seats. A combined system output of 226bhp and 258lb ft is sent to all four wheels via a six-speed automatic gearbox.
What's it like?
Climb into the cabin and you’re greeted by an eye-catching environment that’s a far cry even from that of its immediate predecessor. There’s a slick new digital instrument binnacle and a smart 8.0in infotainment touchscreen perched atop the stepped dashboard. Soft-touch materials and silver and glossy-black plastic trim finishers may not quite lift the Sorento to truly Audi or Land Rover-baiting levels of material quality, but they look smart enough and feel like they’ve been solidly assembled.
Practicality is good, too. There’s acres of space in the second row, and a sliding bench means that adults can fit in the third row for shorter hops, too. Just be mindful of the slightly mean head room way back there and the fact that you’ll shrink the boot from 813 litres to 179 litres by having those seats in place.
Performance is solid, if not overtly brisk. The hybrid system provides decent enough initial punch when pulling away, but the engine tends to do the majority of the heavy lifting. In such instances, you certainly hear the 1.6-litre unit churning away, but it’s certainly quieter than the normally aspirated engines Kia fits to some of its plug-in hybrids.
EV mode only really kicks in when you’re maintaining a consistent speed, and so on a brief test route that mixed 30, 40, and 50mph zones, we saw an average economy figure that flitted between 37 and 38mpg.