What is it?
It’s no surprise that the new Kia Sorento has been launched as a trendy petrol-electric hybrid, nor that it will soon become available as a plug-in hybrid too. What might raise an eyebrow, though, is that the diesel option has survived into the model’s fourth generation.
Sales of diesels won't stop plummeting, not just due to the bad taste left in the public’s mouth from the Volkswagen scandal but also because company car tax rules now make hybrids, particularly PHEVs, the obvious choice. However, if diesel survives anywhere, surely it will be in repmobiles, for long-distance economy, and large SUVs, favoured as they are by those who tow caravans, horseboxes and suchlike.
And the new Sorento is certainly a large SUV, being even longer and wider than its predecessor, at 4810mm and 1900mm. Thankfully, that extra metal is compensated for by a new, lighter engine 2.2-litre four-cylinder diesel engine, which produces 199bhp and a healthy 325lb ft of torque. Both the hybrid and PHEV, meanwhile, make just 258lb ft.
That extra torque you trade for CO2 emissions, with the diesel falling into the top benefit-in-kind tax band of 37%. The PHEV’s WLTP figures have yet to be confirmed, but we know how ridiculous these usually are. For instance, you pay just 10% for the P300e plug-in hybrid version of the Land Rover Discovery Sport – which is probably the Sorento’s biggest rival.
Like the Korean car, it’s a large, luxurious, seven-seater that costs from around £40,000 and offers both hybrid and diesel power. If you still think of the 2002 original when picturing the Sorento – a gawky, body-on-frame 4x4 – you couldn’t be further from the truth. The Kia badge is steadily gaining prestige and respect, and products like this show exactly why.
Even compared with that of the old Sorento, the interior is serious business. The materials in all the key places feel of high quality, touches such as a stylish light motif on the front doors make it feel special and the seats are comfortable – but it’s probably the technology that impresses the most.
In front of you is a clear, configurable 12.3in digital instrument display, and in the centre of the massive dashboard is a 10.25 touchscreen. It will take a while to get used to, but the functionality is thereafter simple and comprehensive; it certainly doesn’t feel like it has been just lifted out of a Ceed or something, and it never once lagged or crashed during our test.
Also, while we would normally dismiss the ‘ambient soundscape’ options as a gimmick, sitting in a big, warm leather chair with your eyes closed and having the car fool you into thinking you’re in a coffee shop or summer forest suddenly sounds very appealing as we enter a winter lockdown.