2021 Kia Sorento Sport+ AWD review

Does the diesel-powered Sorento Sport+ represent best bang for buck when it comes to Kia's classy seven-seat SUV?

Kia Sorento Sport+
Gallery25
8.5/10Score
Score breakdown
9.0
Safety, value and features
9.0
Comfort and space
8.0
Engine and gearbox
8.0
Ride and handling
8.0
Technology

Things we like

  • Smooth and powerful diesel powertrain
  • Active-safety tech
  • Space and practicality
  • Cabin fit and finish

Not so much

  • No third-row airbag protection
  • Third row isn't adult friendly

This is the Kia Sorento seven-seat SUV, or more specifically the Sorento Sport+ diesel AWD, that on paper looks like being the sweet spot of the range. But of course, the best way to see if the Sorento's penultimate spec really does strike the balance between price and equipment is to take it for a drive.

But first an overview: The Sorento range features S, Sport, Sport+ and GT-Line variants that are each available with a 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine that drives the front wheels, or a torquey 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel with all-wheel drive.

Pricing starts at $46,850 before on-road costs for the petrol Sorento S, with the diesel AWD drivetrain attracting a $3000 premium.

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Kia Sorento Sport+

For another $2600, you can upgrade to the Sorento Sport that brings a host of extras over the already generous standard features list, including a bigger panoramic 10.25-inch touchscreen with built-in satellite navigation for when you’re unable to use Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.

It also has dual-zone climate control air-conditioning, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, 10-way powered settings for the cloth driver’s seat and bigger 19-inch alloys wheels.

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"To me, opting for the turbo-diesel is a bit of a no-brainer."

Spending another $4400 on the Sport+ – priced at $53,850 and $56,850 for the petrol and diesel versions respectively – brings creature comforts such as leather-appointed seats, heated front seats, heated steering wheel, smart keyless entry, push-button and remote engine start, heated door mirrors, hands-free powered tailgate and USB sockets in both the second and third row.

Incredibly, you can spend an additional $7200 on the GT-Line spec that brings a metric tonne of extras and is an excellent choice if you can afford more than $61,000.

But I reckon most buyers would be tossing between the Sport and Sport+.

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Choosing either brings a spacious interior. There is plenty of elbow room up front, evident by the broad centre console with ample storage space including a deep tub and a spot to plug in and place mobile devices, and the door bins will carry all manner of items too.

Soft surfaces abound and while you’ll find hard plastics on the doors below the armrests, they don’t really feel cheap or brittle.

The second row is also quite roomy and offers plenty of leg and headroom. The seats are comfortable and can slide back and forth while the backrests recline up to about 30 degrees.

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Fitting three adults would be a bit of a squeeze, particularly on longer trips, but there is heaps of space for three children and a nice wide door opening to make strapping them in easier.

The middle row is serviced with air vents, map pockets behind the front seats, smallish door bins, cup holders cleverly installed in the door armrests, a fold-down centre armrest with additional cup holders, a 12-volt power socket and USB sockets mounted in the side of each front seat for easy reach.

The 60:40 split seats slide forward and fold down to provide third-row access with a single touch of a button, though climbing into the very back isn’t exactly an elegant exercise for anyone older than 12.

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Indeed, the third row is best utilised by kids. Legroom is very tight for bigger people, even the with second-row seats pushed forward a couple of inches. There is nowhere to slide your feet and the seat is quite low, meaning taller people’s knees will almost be touching their chin.

Another third-row downside is the lack of curtain airbag protection that's enjoyed by the first and second rows.

On the plus side, the Sport+ brings third-row passengers their own USB ports, cup holders, a small storage tub and a dial to control airflow through the rearmost vents.

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Boot space with all three rows in use is 187 litres, which is enough to hold a stroller, the weekly shopping or a set of golf clubs. The third row seats easily fold flat to bring a big 616-litre boot, and folding the middle-row seats down allows you to carry up to 2011 litres of stuff.

The boot blind and wheel jack are neatly stored under the boot floor, while the full size spare wheel is stored underneath the Sorento so you can change a wheel without having to unload the kids or baggage. Unlike the Sorento Sport, the Sport+ has a hands-free powered tailgate.

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If you need to carry more, the Sorento has roof rails onto which you can install roof racks, and all variants have a braked towing capacity of 2000kg or 750kg with an unbraked trailer. The maximum towball down-weight is 200kg.

The Kia Sorento is covered by a seven-year warranty and all variants require servicing every 15,000km or 12 months, with capped-priced maintenance available. Respective service costs for diesel variants during the first seven years are $335, $544, $408, $729, $377, $670 and $400,

What is the Kia Sorento AWD like to drive?

The first decision one has to make when looking at any Sorento variant is whether to go with the front-driving petrol powertrain or turbo-diesel AWD.  

The former comes in the form of 200kW/332Nm naturally aspirated V6 that’s coupled with an eight-speed automatic transmission. It’s a little gutsier than the previous model Sorento’s but somewhat on the greedy side with an official combined fuel economy rating of 9.7L/100km.

The petrol car isn’t exactly potent from a standing start or at low engine speeds, but with peak torque and power respectively kicking in at 5000rpm and 6300rpm, it does have decent shove in reserve for when you need to overtake.

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To me, opting for the turbo-diesel (pictured above) is a bit of a no-brainer. Coupled with a more advanced eight-speed dual-clutch automatic, it produces 149kW of power and 440Nm of torque to better move the Sorento’s 1.9-tonne heft while consuming just 6.1/100km.

It feels lively from the get-go, which helps with towing and doesn’t have the lag you expect from dual-clutch transmissions. It also has drive modes to suit different road conditions including Comfort that sees it respond instantly to a light foot, and Sport that grabs gears up or down to accelerate quicker with near-perfect precision. 

It’s pretty quiet too, with obvious improvements to NVH levels compared to the previous model.

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Other drive modes include Eco, which keeps the revs down by gearing up sooner and Smart, which automatically selects the best options based on how you’re driving.

While not a true four-wheel-drive vehicle, the AWD variants let you choose between Sand, Snow and Mud terrain settings that alter the traction control and throttle response accordingly.

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Like most Kia models introduced in Australia, the suspension, which includes a multi-link rear setup, has been recalibrated to suit rougher Aussie roads and the result is a better ride with less body roll in corners.

Even on the 19-inch wheels fitted to a Sport+, it glides limousine like over smooth roads and feels composed on rougher surfaces as well, which is good news for third-row occupants sitting directly above the rear axle.

The electric power steering feels direct and selecting Sport mode adds additional weight to the tiller for more precise cornering that makes you forget you’re driving a 4.8-metre three-row SUV.

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What about safety in the Kia Sorento Sport+?

The Sorento’s driving experience is aided by a host of advanced driver assistance features including autonomous emergency braking (AEB) that can detect pedestrians and cyclists. The AEB also has junction detection, which can sense a vehicle entering an intersection from the side and apply the brakes if necessary.

Other advanced driver-assist features include lane-keeping assist, rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot collision avoidance, driver attention alert, smart adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go function, and speed sign recognition

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The Sorento has eight airbags: two directly in front of the driver and front passenger; one alongside each front occupant to protect the upper body and two more that pop up between the front seats to prevent occupants colliding with each other during impact.

As mentioned above, the curtain airbags, which protect the heads of those riding in the front two rows do not extend to the third row. 

The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) awarded the diesel Sorento its five-star rating in December 2020 based on its excellent Euro-NCAP results. The ANCAP rating initially applied only to the diesel variant but now includes the petrol and soon-to-be-introduced hybrid versions.

The verdict

Regardless of what engine you choose, deciding between the Sport and Sport+ comes down to whether you want leather seats and a warm bum.

Do you need leather heated seats?  Well, there’s no shame in wanting them. And they really add a sense of luxury to the Sorento+ that makes it feel more expensive than it is.

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To that end, I reckon the Sport Plus+ does live up to the Sorento sweet-spot mantle and is well worth a look if considering similarly priced seven-seat rivals such as the diesel Hyundai Santa Fe Elite, Mazda CX-8 Touring SP, and the turbo-petrol CX-9 Touring.

Kia Sorento Sport+ specifications

  • Body: 5-door, 5-seat SUV
  • Drive: AWD
  • Engine: 2151cc 4-cyl, 16v turbo-diesel
  • Transmission: 8-speed DCT
  • Power: 148kW @ 3800rpm
  • Torque: 440Nm @ 1750-2750rpm
  • Bore stroke (mm): 83.0 x 99.4
  • Compression ratio: 16.0:1
  • 0-100km/h: 9.2sec (claimed)
  • Fuel consumption: 6.1L/100km (combined)
  • Weight: 1908kg
  • Suspension: MacPherson strut front / multi-link rear
  • L/W/H: 4810/1900/1700mm
  • Wheelbase: 2815mm
  • Brakes: 325mm front and rear ventilated discs
  • Tyres: 235/55 R19 Continental Premium Contact 6
  • Wheels: Alloy 19-inch (including spare)
  • Price: $56,850
8.5/10Score
Score breakdown
9.0
Safety, value and features
9.0
Comfort and space
8.0
Engine and gearbox
8.0
Ride and handling
8.0
Technology

Things we like

  • Smooth and powerful diesel powertrain
  • Active-safety tech
  • Space and practicality
  • Cabin fit and finish

Not so much

  • No third-row airbag protection
  • Third row isn't adult friendly

 

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