Kia wants to take on the best of the SUV market with its third-gen Sorento, and a big lift in quality and driving refinement means it's off to a good start

What is it?

This is the third-generation model of Kia’s big Kia Sorento SUV.  It’s heading for UK early next year, with a 2.2-litre diesel engine under the bonnet, all-wheel drive and seven-seats.

The Mk3 Sorento is effectively all-new, with a new, stiffer, body shell, updated running gear and transmission and a completely fresh interior. 

The car is 95mm longer, measuring 4.78m long, 5mm wider and has been reduced height by 15mm. The ride height has been dropped by 20mm and the driver’s hip-point is 38mm lower, making getting in and out much easier for a wider range of drivers.

Kia says that even thought the roof is lower, lower seat cushions mean more headroom for all three rows of passengers, and there’s an increase in legroom. With the third row of seats folded, the boot capacity is up from a useful 515-litres to a significant 615-litres.

Kia engineers say this new bodyshell is ‘significantly’ stronger. 53 per cent of the structure is made up from ultra-high-strength steels (compared to 24 per cent on the outgoing model). 10 per cent of the structure – mostly in the A- and B-Pillars – is made from ultra-strong hot-stamped high tensile steel. 

‘Stronger’ steel has been used around the wheel arches, tailgate and rear wheel surrounds to further stiffen this big body shell. All in all the new Sorento shell is 14 per cent stiffer than the old model.

In parallel, there’s been a concerted effort on improving refinement, with tweaks including 30 percent thicker dashboard soundproofing and larger engine and transmission mounts. 

The 2.2-litre engine (set to be the only one sold in the UK) has seen power edged up from 194bhp to 197bhp and torque is up very slightly. Early figures suggest that fuel economy is marginally down, probably a consequence of the new motors meeting Euro 6 pollution standards.

Under the skin, the Sorento rolls on the same MacPherson strut and independent rear suspension. A bigger rear subframe bushes and vertically mounted shock absorbers are designed to improve body control.

What's it like?

Really rather good. This is a big and roomy vehicle, which makes an immediate case for itself in terms of sheer space and interior utility. 

The boot is huge in five-seat form and the human space in the third row impressive. With the second row of seats folded, the (flat) loadbay is really vast. 

The version we drove in Korea was upmarket and leather trimmed, but the front seats were excellent with a good headrest design that has them right up against the back of the driver’s head. The driving position in this left-hand drive car was also top-notch.

The new-generation Sorento shows Kia’s new efforts in interior quality well, with a cabin that not too many notches below the perceived quality of the latest VWs (especially in the flat-black finish used on much of the plastics) while being likely to match VW in real-world usage quality over time. 

Overall, it feels very well made and well screwed together, and Kia’s engineers have done a good job of refining the diesel engine, which, even at lower speeds and wide throttle openings, remains decently subdued. 

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At high speeds it is pretty hushed and the 6-speed automatic ‘box manages to meld well with the turbodiesel, something that’s not always guaranteed with this combination.

On the road, the Sorento benefits from the improved ride. A combination of slightly softer springs and more aggressive damping control worked very well on the undulating roads of Jeju Island. The restrained body roll and quite positive steering feel (the electric assistance motor is now on the rack, rather than the column) in long bends were also welcome. 

Indeed, if the driver is prepared to look ahead and make sensible use of the motor’s reasonable urge, the Sorento can be hustled along with unexpected competence. 

The only real chassis downside was some town-speed bump-thump and shudders from the rear wheels over imperfections. Although the test car was on 19-inch wheels, we suspect minor rigidity issues thanks to the vast rear cabin and huge panoramic sunroof.

Should I buy one?

You should absolutely audition one. The size, utility and all-weather versatility mark it out as genuine upmarket family hauler: one car that can do nearly anything. 

It’s very nicely put together, refined and is the first new model overseen by Kia’s all-powerful and independent quality control division.

This is, by a margin, the most thoroughly developed Kia yet, knocking squarely on VW’s door and offering a significant discount over premium badge rivals, such as Land Rover’s new Discovery Sport. You might even see it as a budget Volvo XC90

Kia Sorento 2.2 CRDi auto

Price £28,000 (est); 0-62mph 9.6sec; Top speed 126mph; Economy 41.5mpg; CO2 178g/km; Kerb weight 1849kg; Engine 4 cyls, 2199cc, turbodiesel; Power 197bhp at 3800rpm; Torque 325lb ft at 1750-2750rpm; Gearbox 6-speed automatic

Add a comment…
stanjackos 3 November 2014


It is indeed a strange world we live in. Poor old Kia, banished to the "Naughty Step" because of a useless dealer.
optima 31 October 2014

On my test drive list

This is on my test drive list next year as I will be replacing my Optima 3, I'm so converted to KIA, I just hope they will think of releasing a hydrogen car too.
si73 1 November 2014

optima wrote:This is on my

optima wrote:

This is on my test drive list next year as I will be replacing my Optima 3, I'm so converted to KIA, I just hope they will think of releasing a hydrogen car too.

I too highly rate the cars and Kia themselves but will never buy another as my local dealer is useless, Kia customer services sorted the problem we had after I wrote to complain about the garages dealings with an out of warranty fault, Kia replied the garage didnt, Kia sorted it, and we changed to toyota.

Citytiger 31 October 2014

At that price I can also see

At that price I can also see it giving Freelander 3 (sorry Discovery Sport) a run for its money, its certainly a nice looking vehicle and easily on par with the Ford Kuga, but with 7 seats. Its only main problem will be that some will not be able to see beyond the badge and will still buy overpriced German equivalents.