This is the $64,000 question - literally - because that’s what you will pay for the Kia Sorento GT-Line, drive-away (if you are a crap negotiator, here in Australia). So, for $64 grand, should you drop the big bucks on the fully-loaded Sorento?
I’m a huge fan of Sorento generally - the whole range. They’ve made a bunch of tweaks for 2018, but like its predecessor, the thing that hits me in the face first about this car is the value - it’s outstanding.
Sorento has Apple and Android phone integration standard across the range. There’s the 10-speaker premium sound system and the see-it-from-space panoramic roof (that’s $2 grand more on the Land Rover) plus active LED headlamps and red brake calipers - that’s important.
Fully loaded - the only option is the premium paint. This SUV has everything - except the automated parking that’s in the Santa Fe Highlander. I really don’t know why they left that out.
Details of the full 2018 Kia Sorento range re-jig >>
VALUE COMPARISON @ $60k
Here’s a value exercise you can do for yourself online: if you’re in the market for a Sorento GT-Line - take a look at a seemingly equivalent $60-65,000 Land Rover Discovery Sport (a vehicle you’d need rocks in your head to own in my view). Apart from the crap support and poor reliability, which are pillars of Land Rover ownership, the Land Rover has less power and less torque, and everything you want is pretty much optional. When you price one up, it’s staggering.
You know, the premium paint in the Land Rover is more than $2 grand more than the premium paint in the Sorento. I don’t know how a Land Rover dealer could look you in the face and charge you that.
All the safety stuff Sorento has standard will cost you an arm and a leg on the Disco Sport. The third seating row is $3500 in the Land Rover.
Those cheapskates at Land Rover will even bend you over for $600 to fit a digital radio receiver. It just goes on and on, seemingly without end. (See comparison, right.)
So when I talk about value in relation to Sorento, I’m talking about that. An equivalent Disco Sport - and plenty of other allegedly premium competitors - is going to cost you least $20,000 more, and be less reliable, poorly supported and have less warranty. And cost you more to keep on the road. But apart from that, great idea.
GT-Line has a host of goodies, like a brilliant 360-degree camera system for added safety and also parking precision, and radar-based adaptive cruise control.
Disco. Sport Si4 SE
Engine: 110kW / 380Nm
3rd row seats: $3470
19-inch alloys: $2740
Heat/vented fr seats: $1210
Heated steering wheel: $330
Surround camera: $940
DAB+ radio: $580
Adaptive cruise: $1440
Front fog lamps: $330
Prem. paint: $2740
Sunroof (fixed): $1890
Adaptive headlamps: $2420
Premium sound system: 660
Scuff plates: $810
Engine: 147kW / 441Nm
ADAPTIVE CRUISE CONTROL is the next-generation of cruise control, which adapts to congestion ahead, using radar to sense traffic congestion. Once you set the cruise control, if you come up upon congestion, the system automatically slows and maintains a safe following distance, and once you pass any congestion, normal travelling speed is resumed. No driver intervention is required in this process, and the system functions very reliably.
RIDE, HANDLING & PERFORMANCE
Sorento is good to drive, and even on the GT-Line, with its 19-inch wheels and 55-series tyres, ride is excellent. It’s quiet and manages not to be boomy inside, and the handling is fine for a big seven-seater - it goes where you tell it to go. And this is largely a result of Kia’s local suspension tuning program here in Australia. The 2018 makeover let the suspension team loose to have another crack at it, and the ride and handling are even better now.
Sorento GT-line is diesel only - the 2.2 CRDi (diesel) engine is a brilliant performer, and it’s now mated to the new eight-speed auto transmission and all-wheel drive. It’s significantly more surefooted than the V6 petrol front-drive powertrain available in the lesser models of Sorento.
The relative merits of petrol versus diesel >>
Sorento is a Swiss Army knife of family transportation and logistical flexibility. The loadspace is very customisable in a variety of configurations from two to seven seats with cargo space for long, wide and tall items.
But enough gushing - time to tell you what I really didn’t like about the GT-Line so you can make an informed decision.
The 2018 Kia Sorento was awarded five stars on safety when it was evaluated in 2017. The vehicle scored 36.62 out of a possible 37 points overall in the test. Whiplash protection rated 'good', pedestrian protection rated 'acceptable', and full marks were awarded in the side impact and pole impact test.
Sorento GT-Line is a great SUV, but - like all vehicles - not perfect. And I reckon owning a car is like all other relationships you might enter into - except the pay-by-the-hour ones: You need to embrace the good aspects, and you need to tolerate the imperfections, lest in time they militate and overwhelm you.
So, here are those imperfections, which demand your tolerance: (PS - this is the bit where you can infer that Kia’s not paying me under that table for this review.)
The driver’s left footrest is way too flat - and this is possibly a design legacy from several generations back where the parking brake was the awful foot-operated kind that the Americans seem to like so much. It’s a kinda minor criticism.
LANE KEEPING ASSISTANT
Then there’s the hi-tech miracle of the so-called Lane Keeping Assistant - this system is awful. In fact, it’s beyond awful. When it is set to ‘Active’, Lane Keeping Assistant grabs the steering wheel, in a manner of speaking and (let’s be kind) ‘helps’ you steer around a bend. It’s like an intermittent autopilot on Valium. This is a system that the owners manual says is:
“Just a convenience function and the steering wheel is not always controlled.”
OMFG - what were they thinking? How utterly useless. Lane Keeping Assistant is both extremely disconcerting and wholly unhelpful on the open road. My advice - buy this car, drive it, but first, dive into the menus, and turn off Lane Keeping Assistant for ever. Yes - you can turn it off, otherwise I would not recommend buying this car.
LANE DEPARTURE WARNING
Which brings me to Lane Departure Warning - an allied, but different system. The one that beeps when you get near the lane markings. People tell me they want all the safety stuff, but - trust me - you do not want this. And I’m not singling the Sorento out here - lane departure systems in many other vehicles are unilaterally retarded.
For starters, there are too many false positives - warnings when you don’t need them. And that leads to you ignoring them - because that’s what false positives do. And then there are the false negatives - no warning when you actually require one. In fact the Sorento owner’s manual identifies no less than 21 different conditions in which the lane departure warning system might fail to warn you that you are incipiently running off the road, or into the oncoming traffic. Which is also (let’s again be kind) somewhat flawed.
So - my strong advice there: turn off Lane Departure Warning as well (also easy to do) and consider the hi-tech miracle of: instead of relying on this kind of technology, actually pay attention to the dynamic driving environment unfolding in real time before you. Not very sexy, I know, but a good idea if you don’t want to arrive at your destination dead.
Next: The stainless steel sidesteps - a uniquely GT-Line styling upgrade - they certainly look good but they’re an abomination in practice. A) You don’t need them, B) Sorento is insufficiently high to demand an intermediate step on the way in. Trust me: If you need that step, your feet will not reach the pedals. C) It’s actually very hard to put more than a third of a human foot on them. They’re just garnish.
And D) they actually make it harder to step out of the vehicle, because you have to step way out past them. I laddered a perfectly serviceable pair of fishnet stockings on them, collecting that chook shit.
3rd SEATING ROW
The third seating row: quite OK - even for adults on short trips. There is even air conditioning back there - so hardly Abu Ghraib. But the curtain airbags do not extend to offer complete protection in row 3 - making third row occupants something of a second-class traveller on safety. Many seven-seater SUVs are like this.
And, if you have child restraints installed in the two outboard seating spaces in Row 2, access to Row 3 is severely compromised. It’s a Cirque du Soleil performance - or you could unmount one of the Row 2 restraints - which in itself is often a Cirque du Soleil performance.
If you want to use row 3 often, and you value the safety of the occupants back there, and you’ve got a young tribe in child restraints - check out my latest report on the Kia Carnival >> which I think you’ll find a lot more practical in terms of access - and it has full-length curtains plus more loadspace when all the seats are occupied. Not as sexy, though.
OWNING A GT-LINE
There’s no robotic reverse parking system like Santa Fe Highlander, but the 360-degree camera system in GT-Line leaves you with no excuses about why this might be a spatial perception challenge. Everyone smarter than Donald Trump could probably reverse park the Sorento GT-Line, and let’s face it, that’s statistically everyone.
Sorento GT-Line is a great SUV - it has some flaws, but in context, you can turn two of them off, and live with the others, depending on your priorities. Big families who need versatility should definitely put this SUV on the short list.
However, Sorento GT-Line will be wrong for you if you want to do proper off-road adventuring. You can certainly poke the Sorento GT down endless dirt roads, and easy tracks - and the all-wheel drive with lockable centre diff will extend the envelope for you, especially in slippery conditions - but this vehicle is not a hardcore off-roader.
Sorento is the wrong vehicle for you if you want to spend hours slogging through soft sand and otherwise whipping the wilderness into blue singlet submission.
And towing - a bit of moderate towing: fine. Sorento will tow up to two tonnes - with brakes - but the towball download limit is 100 kilos. And it’s that limit which might screw you over if your trailer is approaching two tonnes.
Sorento is set up this way because the rest of the world generally applies a five per cent static towball download on trailers, for dynamic stability. Here in ‘Straya, we are somewhat out of step and that’s why we use 10 per cent download in the design of many trailers. Hyundai offers a Genuine Load Assist Kit on Santa Fe, and that increases its standard 100-kilo download limit to 150 kilos. Kia, however, offers no such comparable upgrade kit.
You could also have a look at the Mitsubishi Outlander, on this, which has a bog-standard 160-kilo download limit complementing its two-tonne tow capacity - but the Outlander is not half the vehicle Sorento is, in most other respects.
More information on the basics of towing >>
I’m a big fan of Sorento GT-Line - it’s great value but it’s not cheap. After testing it for a week, I can tell you the Sorento GT-Line one of the best mainstream seven-seat SUVs you can buy. It’s like ‘mainstream luxury’ - maybe that’s an emerging category in this infinitely fractured market.
You might have noticed, I do my reviews a bit differently. They’re not about advertising delivery. They’re not about keeping some carmaker sweet. We’ve got more than enough journos already doing that. This review is about you - if you’re that person who might buy this car.
And if you are that person, my strong recommendation is: You can buy a Sorento and be confident in its reliability, and if there is a problem, down the track, Kia is one of the best carmakers in terms of being a wholly ethical operator when it comes to customer support. (Some dealers are of course hopeless, but I have never seen Kia Australia brush a customer who deserved support.)
This latest 2018 Sorento is a great evolution of what was already one of the market’s leaders. You could own one of these and be really happy with it for several years. If you’ve got any questions, or if you want to buy one but dread going face-to-face with a dealer - hit me up via the red link just below. It’s what I do.