What stands out?
The Kia Sorento is a comfortable seven-seat SUV that’s beautifully finished inside, well equipped, and enjoyable to drive, with a reversing camera in all versions. The optional diesel engine is refined and powerful, and the Sorento is covered by Kia’s seven-year warranty. Auto braking is available.
This review covers third-generation Sorentos on sale prior to the mid-life upgrade of October 2017. You can also read our review of the current Sorento.
What might bug me?
Admitting to friends that you’ve spent this much on a Kia. But don’t let that get to you: it’s a great car. The Sorento was the first Kia to be named by motoring magazine Wheels as the winner of a comparison review.
That people riding in the rearmost (third) seat-row are not protected by airbags. The curtain airbags on a Sorento, which protect you at head level from side impacts, cover only the first and second seat rows.
Otherwise, what you see is pretty much what you get with the Sorento – it’s not likely you’ll be ambushed by annoying surprises. The Sorento even has a full-sized spare wheel and tyre, and the wheel is aluminium alloy like the others on the car.
What body styles are there?
Five-door SUV-style wagon only.
The Kia Sorento drives either its front wheels or all four wheels. It is classed as a large SUV, lower priced.
What features do all Sorentos have?
Cruise control. Satellite navigation. Dual zone climate control, which lets you set different temperatures for each side of the cabin.
A 7.0-inch colour touchscreen, from which you can control the MP3-compatible audio system. Sound sources include an AM/FM radio, iPod compatible aux and USB inputs, and Bluetooth connectivity for phone calls and audio streaming. There are controls on the steering wheel for sound and Bluetooth.
Headlights that turn on automatically when it’s getting dark. Cornering lights, which shine into bends when you turn the wheel. Daytime running lights, illuminated by long-lasting LEDs.
A reversing camera, and parking sensors front and rear (these help you judge how far the bumpers are from obstacles).
Hill-launch assist, which operates the brakes automatically to make take-offs on steep hills easier.
Wheels made from aluminium alloy, which are usually lighter and better looking than steel wheels with plastic covers. A full-size spare tyre, on an alloy wheel.
Tyre pressure monitors, which warn you if a tyre has lost air (this can give you extra time to get a slow puncture seen to).
Six airbags. Electronic stability control, which can help you control a skidding car. (For the placement of airbags, and more on Kia Sorento safety features, please open the Safety section below.)
Every Kia Sorento carries a seven-year, unlimited kilometre warranty.
Which engine uses least fuel, and why wouldn't I choose it?
All front-drive Sorentos use a petrol engine, and every all-wheel drive Sorento is powered by a diesel.
Even with AWD, it is the 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel that uses least fuel, consuming 7.8L/100km on the official test (city and country combined).
In a real-world comparison conducted for the September 2015 edition of Wheels magazine, a diesel Sorento Platinum averaged 9.3 litres/100km, using about as much fuel as an accompanying Hyundai Santa Fe diesel and 25 per cent less than the Toyota Kluger and Nissan Pathfinder (each powered by a petrol V6).
In many respects, an AWD diesel Sorento is preferable to its front-wheel drive petrol alternative. The diesel accelerates the car with powerful ease from low speeds, offering about 40 per cent more urge than the petrol engine in most driving conditions. And AWD is nice to have for its extra traction on slippery surfaces.
The main reason you might not choose a diesel is that you want to pay less for a Sorento.
The petrol engine, a 3.3-litre V6, drinks substantially more fuel than the diesel, at 9.9 litres/100km on the same official test (and 13.2 litres/100km in an October 2016 Wheels comparison). However it does produce more power if you work it really hard.
You can have either engine in a Sorento Si or SLi. The Sorento Platinum is diesel only.
Every Sorento has a six-speed conventional automatic gearbox.
(Power outputs and all other Kia Sorento specifications are available from the Cars Covered menu, under the main image on this page.)
What key features do I get if I spend more?
The least costly Sorento is the Sorento Si, which has cloth-covered seats, 17-inch wheels, and the features common to all Sorentos.
For about the same price, you can have an Si Limited, which has seats trimmed in a mix of real and fake leather, and a nicer steering wheel. Wheels are an inch bigger at 18 inches and mount lower profile tyres, which slightly sharpen the steering and look sportier.
Paying more for a Sorento SLi gets you a smart key and pushbutton start (which let you unlock and start the car with your key kept safely in a pocket or bag). Like the Si Premium, the SLi has 18-inch wheels and leather on the seats – but in addition the driver’s seat is power adjustable. You get a hands-free power-operated tailgate, the sound system is better, and taillights use very long-lived LEDs.
Spending more again on the Sorento Platinum adds power adjustment to the front passenger seat, and a memory for adjustments to the driver’s seat (which makes it easy to restore your settings after a companion has driven the car). The front and second-row seats are heated, as is the steering wheel, and the front seats are ventilated. There is a big, power operated sunroof that opens above the first two seat-rows. Very bright HID headlights abet the cornering lights by shining into turns as you enter them. Wheel size increases a further inch, to 19 inches.
The Platinum also brings you an active safety suite that includes automatic emergency braking, a blind spot monitor, lane change assist, lane departure warning, rear cross-traffic alert, and smart cruise control.
The most expensive Sorento is the GT-Line, essentially a Sorento Platinum with more flamboyant styling. The key functional change is the addition of paddle shifters, which allow you to control the auto gearbox from the steering wheel. Aesthetic changes include red brake calipers and red leather interior trim.
Does any upgrade have a down side?
The Sorento Si rides more comfortably on its 17-inch wheels than the Si Limited, SLi, Platinum and GT ride on their 18s and 19s. The lower profile tyres on the bigger wheels have less rubber and air cushioning the wheels from the road. The difference is most pronounced at city speeds.
Of seven colours available, only one, Clear White, comes without extra cost. Other colours cost about $600.
How comfortable is the Sorento?
As soon as you ease into the driver’s seat, shut the door with a substantial thud and grip the sculpted steering wheel, you get a feeling that the Sorento will be very nice to drive and ride in.
This sense continues with the lovely design of the dashboard. Cabin presentation is clean, simple and smart, and could be mistaken for that of a more costly European car.
The Sorento’s steering wheel buttons make it easy to work the audio system, a paired phone and the cruise control. The graphics on the central touchscreen are crisp, and the satellite navigation is easily programmed.
The overwhelming impression inside is that as well as being beautifully finished, the Sorento is strong and quiet. You don’t hear rattles or creaks from the interior trim, and you’re well insulated from noises and harshness from the engine, suspension and tyres.
The front seats offer great support and you can settle back in them for a long drive.
Controls such as the steering, accelerator and brakes are smoothly responsive, and easy to operate.
The engines are refined, and the diesel is quiet most of the time because it doesn’t have to work hard to push the Sorento along.
The suspension gives a supple ride and is good at absorbing both sharp imperfections in the road and big bumps. The extra weight of turbo-diesel Sorentos helps them feel a bit plusher than the petrol versions.
What about safety in a Kia Sorento?
Anti-lock brakes, stability control, a strong body structure, six airbags, LED running lights, a reversing camera, and seatbelt warnings for all positions, are fine safety fundamentals in all Sorentos.
There are two airbags directly in front of the driver and front passenger; one alongside each front occupant to protect the upper body; and a curtain airbag down each side protecting the heads of those riding in the front and middle seat rows.
The curtain airbags in a Sorento do not extend protection to those in the rearmost (third) seat row, however.
Platinum and GT line Sorentos on sale since about December 2016 for the 2017 model year add active safety that includes autonomous emergency braking – which will brake the car automatically to prevent or mitigate an impact with an obstacle in front (typically another car that has slowed suddenly).
These vehicles (and previous Sorento Platinums) also have a blind spot monitor, which warns you when a vehicle is alongside out of view. Their lane change assist alerts you if you are about to change lanes into the path of a vehicle approaching quickly from behind. And their lane departure warning lets you know that you are drifting distractedly – and possibly dangerously – into the lane alongside.
In addition, their smart cruise control automatically maintains a safe distance from vehicles ahead on the highway. And a rear cross-traffic alert warns you, when reversing, that something is crossing your path.
The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) has rated the Sorento at five stars for safety, its maximum. The Sorento gained perfect scores in the pole and side-impact parts of the crash safety test, on the way to an excellent total score of 36.62 out of 37.
I like driving - will I enjoy this car?
For a long time large SUVs – and Kias – were not much chop to drive. But the Sorento proved good enough to emerge the surprise winner from a Wheels magazine comparison in September 2015, against four prime seven-seat alternatives. The Wheels win was a first for the model, and for the Kia brand.
One of the best parts of driving the Sorento is steering that helps you feel nicely connected to the car. The Sorento responds eagerly when you turn the wheel and flows responsively through corners – much more so than you might expect for such a tall, heavy wagon. (Not unexpectedly, the body does lean over noticeably in tight corners if you tackle them quickly).
The Platinum’s 19-inch wheels with low profile tyres give it more direct steering and the most immediate handling of all the versions.
On the Platinum and GT-Line, 19-inch wheels with low profile tyres give more direct steering and more immediately responsive handling than you experience in the less costly versions.
The turbo-diesel Sorento surges forward when you press the accelerator. You will love the effortless oomph the engine provides – it’s a big part of what makes the Sorento satisfying.
The petrol car isn’t quite so potent at low engine speeds but offers similar shove at medium engine speeds. And on a matching tyre package it’s a bit sharper to steer: the petrol engine is lighter than the diesel, which means there is less weight over the front wheels and less weight overall.
How is life in the rear seats?
Second row passengers have it good in the Sorento. The seat is supportive and the rear compartment is roomy. And they get a centre armrest, and 12-volt and USB sockets for charging electronic devices. In SLi, Platinum and GT-Line versions, the outer seats are heated. There are twin cup holders in the centre armrest, and a bottle holder in each door.
Importantly for long trips, they also get dedicated second-row air-conditioning vents, and handy roll-up sunshade blinds.
The third row is too cramped to be comfortable for adults, but it’s roomy enough for children aged in the single digits. They get a pair of cup holders, their own air-conditioning vents and fan controls, and a good view forward and out of the side windows.
How is it for carrying stuff?
With the third row seats folded flat (50/50), the cargo bay swallows a substantial 605 litres of stuff.
Folded the second row (60/40) as well, and cargo capacity opens out to a van-like 1662 litres.
There’s room for a folded pram and a couple of small bags in the back with both the second and third rows erected, but probably not enough for a family’s luggage for a week away.
The hands-free powered tailgate in SLi, Platinum and GT-Line versions opens when you walk up to it with the car’s key in your pocket. That eases loading when you have your hands full.
Where does Kia make the Sorento?
The Kia Sorento is made in South Korea.
What might I miss that similar cars have?
Compatibility with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, which would allow you to control apps on your smartphone from the car’s touchscreen. The similar Hyundai Santa Fe has this, for example.
Extended curtain airbags that protect your rearmost – third-row – passengers from side impacts. The Mazda CX-9, Toyota Kluger, and Nissan Pathfinder come with these, for example.
If comfortable travel for seven is more important than getting off the beaten track, perhaps consider the Kia Carnival, which has more room in the third row, easier access, and airbag protection for all.
When did Kia update this Sorento?
The current third-generation Kia Sorento arrived in 2015. About December 2016 the cosmetically enhanced Sorento GT-Line was added, and both it and the Sorento Platinum gained autonomous emergency braking. In May 2017 Kia extended the range further, adding the Si Limited – a leather-trimmed version of the least costly Sorento.
The Sorento underwent a mid-life upgrade which arrived in October 2017 for the 2018 model year (which is featured in a separate review)
It added active safety, including automatic emergency braking as standard, smartphone mirroring via Apple CarPlay and improved cabin quality. Performance was also enhanced by adding a more efficient, eight-speed auto gearbox in place of the six-speeder, and the V6 petrol engine received a slight power increase. Suspension and steering were also revised for noticeably improved ride and handling.
The 2017 facelift also brought changes to the Sorento range, with the Sport replacing the Si Limited, and the upper-spec Platinum withdrawn.
I like this car, but I can't choose which version. Can you help?
We like the Sorento SLi, because it strikes a pleasing balance of price and equipment. Ultimately, the diesel is a better bet than the petrol, because it has more grunt and uses less fuel. But the petrol is less costly and steers a bit more satisfyingly. If the extra fuel use and lack of AWD are not drawbacks for you, it’s worth a look, too.
If you don’t need all the SLi features, you could have some leather on the seats for less money with an Si Limited.