Kia Sorento review & buyer's guide

 

This is the $64,000 question - literally - because that’s the top whack you'll pay for the Kia Sorento GT-Line, drive-away. So, for $64 grand, should you drop the big bucks on the fully-loaded Sorento? And how does the rest of the range measure up?

 
 
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Kia Sorento is one of my favourite seven-seat SUVs. It's a great package for families because it's refined and easy to drive for all the normal domestic running about the place, but it also extends your 'adventuring' envelope - a little. (In no way is it a hardcore off-road adventurer, but if you want to tow a moderate boat or camper-trailer, or drive down a dirt road, it will do that with ease.)

Kia has a solid commitment to customer support, and the vehicle is inherently reliable, featuring a proven range of engines that I never get complaints about. And the seven-year warranty with unlimited kilometres is the best in the business.

Its main competitor is the Hyundai Santa Fe >>, with which it shares many engineering fundamentals (but very different styling). You should certainly drive them both back to back at the same price=point and see which one you prefer.

Jump down to the full details on the 2018 Sorento upgrade >>

   Sorento GT-Line has a host of standard features that many competing SUVs offer only as high-priced factory options (see below)

Sorento GT-Line has a host of standard features that many competing SUVs offer only as high-priced factory options (see below)


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LOVE

  • Long wheelbase delivers excellent third row seating access - for an SUV
  • Strong diesel with excellent new 8-speed auto transmission
  • Much improved petrol V6 for 2018 (up from 3.3 to 3.5 litres)
  • Good comfort, refinement and dynamics (thanks to extensive Australian suspension tuning program)
  • 2000kg maximum towing capacity
  • Brilliant value across the range (but not cheap)
  • 7yr warranty (unlimited km) + 7yrs roadside assist
  • 7yr capped price service
  • 12mth/15,000km service interval
  • Full-size alloy spare wheel and tyre
  • Feels and looks 'Euro' - but not priced like a Euro SUV
  • Kia's customer support in Australia is excellent

HATE

  • V6 is 2WD only - and breaks traction at the front very easily (but it is a lot cheaper than the diesel)
  • No manual transmission - at any spec grade
  • Standard max. towball download limit is just 100kg - and no load assist kit is available to increase that limit (even though Hyundai offers one on Santa Fe)
  • Sorento still can't match the Kia Carnival people mover >> if you need to transport seven people frequently
  • See why Carnival beats an SUV >>
  • Side curtain airbags do not completely protect people who are sitting in row 3

Model grades

2018-Kia-Sorento-GT-extreme-landscape.jpg

Sorento Si standard features

Apple CarPlay.
Android Auto.
Dual-zon Climate A/C.
LED daytime running lamps.
GPS with live traffic.
Reversing camera.
Lane keeping assist.
Auto emergency brakes.
Forward collision warning.
Driver attention alert.
3 child restraint anchors (2 x ISOfix).
17-inch alloy wheels.
235/65R17 tyres.
Full-sized spare wheel & tyre.

Diesel AWD or V6 petrol powertrain options. 

Sorento Sport additional features

Drive mode select (Comfort, Sport, Eco, Smart).
Leather seats.
18-inch alloy wheels.
235/60R18 tyres
Adaptive cruise control.
DAB+ digital radio.
Parking sensors front & rear.


Diesel AWD or V6 petrol powertrain options.


Sorento SLi additional features

Automated tailgate (hands free function).
10-speaker premium audio.
Proximity key with pushbutton start.
Power adjustable driver's seat
LED rear lights.
Auto dimming rear view mirror.
Upgraded instrument cluster.
Alloy pedals.

Diesel AWD or V6 petrol powertrain options.

Sorento GT-Line additional features

Panoramic sunroof.
19-inch alloy wheels.
235/55R19 tyres.
360-degree camera.
Blind spot detection.
Rear cross traffic alert.
Side steps.
Red brake calipers.
Ventilated & heated seats.
LED headlamps with dynamic cornering function.
Power adjustment for driver and front passenger seat.
Heated steering wheel.
Paddle shifters.
LED interior lights.

Diesel AWD powertrain only.

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Mainstream luxury?

I’m a huge fan of Sorento generally - the whole range.

The main competitor here is the Hyundai Santa Fe >> which offers markedly different styling but is built on the same architecture and shares the same diesel powertrain.

(Santa Fe does not offer a petrol option in the middle and high grades, and in the base model the petrol offering is a four-cylinder, not the Kia's comparatively potent V6.)

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. 

Scroll down to a comparison between Sorento and Land Rover Discovery to see just how outstanding the Sorento value proposition is (and how poor Discovery's is.

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 value example below) plus active LED headlamps and red brake callipers - 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 >>

Specifications

Engine: 2.2-litre 4 cylinder turbocharged diesel or
3.5-litre petrol V6
Fuel: Diesel or regular unleaded
Power: 147 kW @ 3800 rpm (diesel)
206 kW @ 6300 rpm (V6 petrol)
Torque 441 Nm @ 1750-2750 rpm (diesel)
336 Nm @ 5000 rpm (petrol)
Transmission: 8 sp auto
Economy: 7.3 L/100km (diesel)
10 L/100km (petrol)

Preferred model: GT-Line diesels
or (on a budget) Si V6 petrol
Manufactured: South Korea
Length: 4780 mm
Width: 1890 mm
Height: 1690 mm
Kerb weight: 2036 kg
Maximum tow capacity: 2000 kg
Maximum towball download: 100 kg
Seating Capacity: Seven
Safety: Five-star ANCAP

Warranty: 7 years / unlimited kilometres
Service: capped price for 7 years
Service interval: 12mths/15,000 km (whichever comes first)
Roadside assist: 7 years
Spare wheel: Full-sized alloy spare wheel and tyre

Download the official specifications >>

Kia Australia has a decent features comparison tool >> on its website.

This tool is great for drilling down into the granular detail of this specification grade versus the next one up, etc. Simply click the link above, then tick the Kia Sorento model variant(s) that are of interest to you, and browse away.


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.

Land Rover
Discovery Sport Si4 SE

RRP: $59,990

LR Discovery Sport Winner Best AWD SUV image151913_c.jpg

Engine: 110kW / 380Nm
LxWxH: 4599 x 2069 x 1724

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
TPMS: $660
Prem. paint: $2740
Sunroof (fixed): $1890
Adaptive headlamps: $2420
Premium sound system: 660
Scuff plates: $810

TOTAL: $20,220

Kia Sorento
GT-Line

RRP: $58,990

GT-Line Thumb.jpg

Engine: 147kW / 441Nm
LxWxH: 4800 x 1890 x 1690

Standard
Standard
Standard
Standard
Standard
Standard
Standard
Standard
Standard
$595
Standard

Standard
Standard
Standard

TOTAL: $595

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.

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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.


Safety

   2018 Sorento is an elite five-star performer on safety

2018 Sorento is an elite five-star performer on safety

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.

More on ANCAP's 2018 Sorento evaluation >>


Criticisms

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.)

DRIVER FOOTREST

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 minor criticism.

   Sorento's interior offers an immense equipment level and great comfort - but remember to switch off the (awful) Lane Keeping Assistant

Sorento's interior offers an immense equipment level and great comfort - but remember to switch off the (awful) Lane Keeping Assistant

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

   Sorento offers excellent dynamics across the range, thanks to serious suspension tweaking done here in Australia, but the Lane Departure Warning system is not an asset

Sorento offers excellent dynamics across the range, thanks to serious suspension tweaking done here in Australia, but the Lane Departure Warning system is not an asset

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.

SIDESTEPS

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.

   Kia Carnival (at around the same price) is still the winner on moving people and their stuff. It's safer in the 3rd row,too ... but admittedly not as sexy

Kia Carnival (at around the same price) is still the winner on moving people and their stuff. It's safer in the 3rd row,too ... but admittedly not as sexy

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 AWD is comfortable and surefooted on dirt, and compatible with dead easy trails - but it's a long way from being a proper off-roader

Sorento AWD is comfortable and surefooted on dirt, and compatible with dead easy trails - but it's a long way from being a proper off-roader

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.

OFF-ROAD ENVELOPE

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.

TOWING

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 >>

   Sorento GT-Line is one of the best mainstream premium SUVs money can buy - and it puts some of the premium brands to shame when you evaluate it on objective criteria

Sorento GT-Line is one of the best mainstream premium SUVs money can buy - and it puts some of the premium brands to shame when you evaluate it on objective criteria


Conclusion

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. 


2018 Kia Sorento model upgrade - full details

 
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The 2018 Kia Sorento is a vehicle I get a lot of enquiry about. Sorento generally, and this upgrade in particular, lately.

I’m booked into the new V6 and the diesel for a week each, mid-November. I’ll have a full road test for you shortly thereafter. For now though - here’s the update on the new model.

My number one piece of advice here is: Do not get stiffed into buying the 2017 model. That’s old stock and unless the price is absurdly right, don’t do this to yourself. The new one is absurdly better.

2018-Kia-Sorento-7180.jpg

The 2018 Sorento gets a host of upgrades and it is only a small additional cost over and above the model it replaces. Especially on the GT-Line, which is the Sorento I get the most enquiry about.

It’s not just a ‘hair and makeup’ upgrade - although it is fundamentally still the same vehicle - there are substantial improvements that would be of benefit to most owners. So here they are - the top 10 things you need to know about the 2018 Kia Sorento.

Click here for my full Kia Sorento Buyer's Guide >>
See also: Kia Australia's Sorento pages >>


Here are the top 10 highlights

1. PHONE INTEGRATION

There’s a new eight-inch multimedia cluster the headline act of which is Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. That’s going to overcome a lot of previous Sorento buyer objections right there. We love our phones. And we love some steamy app-based integration. I know I do.

And we hate our carmaker phone integrations - understandably on this last point. And the screen on which those phone emulations exist is up from seven inches previously. So that’s a bit Ron Jeremy, right there.


2. AUDIO UPGRADES

Hand in hand with the Apple and Android goodness is: Better sound quality - at least, in the higher grades of Sorento. The existing Infinity premium sound system in Sorento has been replaced with a high-end Harman/Kardon sound system in SLi and GT-Line. 640 watts, 10 speakers, surround-sound.

It comes with a fat beat-enhancing, digital sound processing doo-hickey called QuantumLogic, which some marketing ninjas, doubtless high on crack cocaine, claim "...extracts signals from the original recording, and redistributes them into an authentic, multi-dimensional soundstage…"

Where do I sign? Multi-dimensional sound stage. (That’s a quote from the press kit. Really.) Which, they say, results in "...clear, refined and detailed playback of a driver’s favourite tunes". But still - probably - insufficient to make listening to Celine Dion a palatable aural experience, I’d suggest. (That’s not a quote.)


3. EIGHT-SPEED AUTO

There’s a new eight-speed auto, down there. 2018 Sorento is the first Kia SUV available with this particular new transmission toy of multi-ratio madness. It was designed in-house by Kia and launched in 2016.

Apparently there are an incredible 143 newly-patented technologies in that transmission. Who knew?

So - eight gears across the Sorento range henceforth. Plus reverse. They throw that in, free. It’s a conventional auto, too, not a new-fangled CVT or DCT - and I know how some of you feel about those gear-shifting instruments of the devil. 

Kia claims the new octo-shifter (that’s not what they call it - but they should) has fewer control valves than other autos and thus (Kia continues to claim) it facilitates a more direct mechanical link to the engine and delivers quicker shifts than the outgoing six-speed automatic transmission.

Kia also says it's responsible for about seven per cent less CO2 emission, plus it has four different drive modes - four! - (Eco, Comfort, Sport and Smart.) Or ‘Dopey’ if you’re the Prime Minister.


4. NEW PETROL V6

The petrol V6 is upgraded to 3.5 litres from 3.3 with a longer stroke, which (all other things being equal) will also mean more torque at normal driving revs. In other words - more low rpm and mid-rpm power, because kilowatts equals Newton-metres times rpm divided by 9549 if you are livin la vie d’metrication. So that’s excellent.

The 2.2 diesel - a crackingly good engine - one of the best diesels on the market - carries over from the old model.

Bear in mind the V6 is a front-driver and the diesel has on-demand all-wheel drive. Wheelspin off the mark can be a thing in the V6 if you routinely channel your inner Madamme Lash via the accelerator.


5. RANGE RE-JIG

The model range is now Si, Sport, SLi and GT-Line - in ascending order of throwing hundred-dollar bills all over the showroom floor. So basically the marketing ninjas took this facelift as an opportunity to can the Platinum and replace the old Si Limited with Sport.

Because the deckchairs needed rearranging, apparently. And there’s nothing a marketing ninja hates more than deck chairs overdosed on entropy.

2018-Kia-Sorento-Sport-7237.jpg

6. PETROL PRICING

Pricing for the petrol variants is now: Si $42,990 (that’s up $2000); Sport $44,990 (that’s up $1000); SLi $46,990 (that’s a hike of $1000).  This is all before on-road costs, here in the post-convict paradise we call ‘Straya. Mate. Ballpark for the on-roads: about $5000.


7. DIESEL PRICING

Diesel pricing is: Si $45,490 (up $1000); Sport $48,490 (up $1000); SLi $50,490 (up $1000); GT-Line $58,990 (Up $500).

Remember, you cannot have a V6 petrol GT-Line no matter how hard you beg. GT-Line is diesel-only because … product planning.


8. SAFETY UPGRADES

There’s big safety on 2018 Sorento. Auto Emergency braking and (quote) ‘advanced cruise control’ (which I think means ‘adaptive cruise’ is now standard across the range. Plus, on GT-Line you get Lane Keeping Assist, Driver Attention Alert, a 360-degree camera, and bendy Wendy’s ‘follow you around a corner’ headlamps that turn with the steering. I don’t think they call it that in the brochure.

Unfortunately, and you need to be across this - the third seating row in Sorento - way up the back - does not get side-impact head-protecting curtain airbags. Plenty of other seven-seat SUVs are like this. Seems like a notable omission to me. If you want that - buy a Mazda CX-9, or a Kia Carnival.

See more on Kia Sorento safety via ANCAP's crash test results >> and read the full Kia Sorento crashworthiness technical report >>


9. GT-LINE FEATURES

Trainspotter’s guide to the GT-Line: You get four-lamp LED fog lights, red brake callipers, a more prominent sill step, (I friggin’ hate those shrinking violet sill steps - if you’re going to have a sill step, see it from space, I say). As a counterpoint, there’s subtle GT Line badging designed to tell lesser Sorento owners that yours is superior, but without overtly gloating. Because … self respect.

There are new chrome twin exhaust tips as well - that’s very important. Plus: What Kia describes as (quote) “unique” gear shift paddles. I’d hate them to be just, you know, regular, off-the-rack paddles. And - glace cherry time - a series of satin chrome interior highlights.

Because: who didn’t lie awake as an adolescent dreaming about a series of satin chrome interior highlights? I know I did.


10. TOO FUNNY...

My favourite thing about the 2018 Sorento is not any of that stuff. I actually think its a terrific SUV for average Aussie family transport. The outgoing one was excellent. This is incrementally better.

But my favourite thing about it, in point of fact, is this quote from Damien Meredith, the Chief Operating Officer of Kia Australia. A man with, in my view, superhuman self-control. Who said:

“We always knew that the Sorento was an exceptional car, a belief that was verified by the experts within the media.”
- Damien Meredith, Chief Operating Officer, Kia Australia

He actually did say that. With a straight face (at least that’s what I am led to believe). I don’t know if I could do that. Imagine even needing the verification of these “experts” within the media. A very grim situation.

Where would one even look, with a view to finding these alleged ‘experts within the media’. I wouldn’t know where to look. Perhaps the CSIRO could help. They’ve got a scanning electron microscope. Even so, the search could take many years.


Critisisms

Sorento is certainly not perfect. No vehicle is. As noted above, the V6 (which is available in all grades except GT-Line) is not available with all-wheel drive, and it easily overwhelms available grip at the front if you get too enthusiastic with your right foot. It’s always chirping/spinning the front wheels if you're not careful.

The diesel seems expensive, at $3500 extra, and it's copped a share of criticism for this - but it's unfounded criticism. You have to put in perspective that this price also includes stepping up from front-drive to all-wheel drive - but it's still a lot more money.

The head-protecting curtain airbags do not extend to the third seating row, effectively limiting the protection to the two passengers in the back, in a crash. Hyundai Santa Fe is like this as well, but the Mazda CX-9 and Kia Carnival offer the protection of full curtain airbags in row 3. This is certainly something to consider if those third row seats are to be occupied often.


Competitor analysis

Mazda CX-9

Mazda CX-9 Touring will set you back about the same price as the Sorento GT-Line and comes with on-demand AWD and a brilliant turbo petrol 2.5 engine with direct injection. The powertrain is brilliant - delivering diesel-like mid-rpm power and superb peak power at manageable revs as well. Peak power (think: overtaking) is 170kW at 5000rpm while peak torque is amazing: 420Nm at just 2000rpm.

2018+Mazda+CX-9.jpg

Fuel economy is tremendous as well (8.8 L/100km combined cycle) and the vehicle is even bigger than the Sorento - so passenger space is superb. Of course, the range-topping Azami is $69,000, drive-away (recommended price), and for that cash you could have the Sorento GT-Line and a very upmarket holiday. Unfortunately, CX-9 is fitted only with a space-saver spare tyre and comes with the typically Japanese warranty of just three years. But the curtain airbags protect the 3rd row occupants in the CX-9, and they do not in the Sorento.


Toyota Kluger

Some people will say: ‘Toyota versus Kia - what an absolute no brainer’. Toyota has spent millions promoting its purportedly legendary build quality and reliability - quite successfully. But if you lose the spin they’re both about the same size and the Kia is better value as well as more engaging to drive.

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The Sorento offers four more years warranty (with capped-price service to match, and roadside assist.

The Kluger demands more frequent servicing (6 months or 10,000km) versus the Sorento on 12 months or 15,000km. And of course Toyota still has its obstinate head in the sand on Apple and Android phone integrations. Objectively, you’ve gotta give this round to the Sorento.


Nissan X-TRAIL

Frankly, X-TRAIL is a retarded competitor to the Mitsubishi Outlander. If you need a cheap seven-seater, Outlander is better, and if you've got the cash, spring for the Sorento.

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Neither the petrol nor the diesel engines compare to the Sorento, and you cannot get a seven-seat X-TRAIL with AWD, perversely enough.

The third row is a joke - let's be kind: for occasional use only. And the CVT is a typical Nissan/Jatco unit - which is to say ... huge reliability question mark.


Mitsubishi Outlander

Outlander is definitely not winning any beauty contests any time soon, thanks to Mitsubishi's dubious 'Dynamic Shield' (yes, that is what it's called) styling.

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Inspired by the Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, clearly...

However, this vehicle is significantly cheaper than a Sorento, Santa Fe, Kluger or CX-9, and significantly better than its main competitor, the Nissan X-TRAIL. And it murders the Territory and Craptiva on all rational ownership metrics.

My full Outlander buyer's guide >>


DON'T BUY

The Euro 'stars'...

When you look at Land Rover Discovery Sport you see just how ethically bankrupt the prestige vehicle segment really is.

The poverty pack Disco Sport is pretty close to Sorento GT-Line - in price. But that Land Rover really is 'poverty'.

Everything you want, which is standard on Sorento GT-Line, costs extra on the Land Rover. The big alloys, the high-intensity lights, the third seating row, etc. 

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Everything desirable is (seemingly) 'just' another two grand. It adds up very fast ... but the dealership will doubtless offer you an espresso to distract you from any mental arithmetic you might be attempting, to keep track of the ballooning price. Fiscal exsanguination deatils here: Land Rover Discovery Sport report >>

All the premium Euro brands do this: Audi is a gold-medal-winning specialist at this up-selling process. You walk into the dealership expecting to pay about $60,000, and you emerge with telltale bruising, $90,000 out of pocket. 

This is a vulgar, egregious process. If you buy that Slovakian-built Audi Q7 (right) - $114,00 drive-away, thank you very much - and you want adaptive cruise control, an Audi dealer will require another $4075.

This feature is standard in Sorento Platinum, a vehicle costing half the price.

With the Sorento, if you come in expecting to pay $60,000 (or whatever) you'll find there's not $20k upsell in play.

Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Land Rover, Jaguar, Volvo, etc., all upsell like it's 1980 all over again. It’s absurd.

For example, you pay $110,000 for a Volvo XC90 (right) and those Swedish meatball-eating muppets will attempt to charge you $2600 for adaptive cruise and $400 for heated front seats. These are standard features on Sorento Platinum.

Of course, Kia dealers are not saints. They won't be afraid to rip you off or sell you high-priced finance or that reprehensible paint, fabric and rust protection you absolutely don't need.

Alternatively, you could buy the poverty pack of Volkswagen Touaregs. Of course, you will need an additional $12,000 just to get in the door. That's a lot of extra hoot. And there’s no question the Sorento’s engine is doing a much better job than the Volkswagen's, with basically the same outputs from 25 per cent less capacity, and you only get five seats with the Touareg, as well as four years’ less warranty. Of course the Sorento also has many more standard features.

The other thing nobody talks about is reliability and support - the Europeans offer typically poor reliability and terrible support.

With Kia, you get the exact opposite - excellent reliability and support, but obviously not as much brand cachet.

What else could you buy from House of SUV, for mid-$50,000s? Alternatively, read my much more detailed report on 7 seater SUVs >> or watch this video: Worst 7 seater SUVs >>


Holden Captiva 7

The price is right but everything else is wrong. Craptiva is a reliability disaster. It's one of the worst SUVs on Australian roads. Truly an appalling choice.

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When you need Holden's assistance with some technical irritation ... good luck with that. Holden is one of the worst companies for compliance with Australian Consumer Law.

They are so bad that the ACCC recently took them behind the woodshed on it, with an enforceable undertaking. Basically, Holden has admitted its long-term track record of screwing customers over. More on this >>

See why Australia desperately needs lemon laws >> Why anyone would want to become a Holden customer is beyond me. My full report on the aptly nicknamed Holden 'Craptiva' is here >>


Jeep Grand Cherokee

Grand Cherokee Laredo diesel is similar on price with the Sorento GT-Line. It’s a poverty pack and just a five-seater, but it's got the look and it goes great. You’d look good in a Grand Cherokee. Everyone does.

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Unfortunately it’s also a Jeep, which means playing Russian roulette with reliability. Jeep is imported by Fiat Chrysler. According to the ACCC, Fiat Chrysler is the company that generates the most consumer complaints (as a proportion of vehicles sold) and sales are circling the drain.

Case closed.

Jeep is also a champion at issuing unlawful gag orders >>


Nissan Pathfinder

Mid-spec Pathfinder is about the same price as Sorento GT-Line … of course, it’s Japanese, but this vehicle is still $14,000 away from being the Pathfinder flagship. And it comes with that delightful Jatco CVT. (You know, the one that’s been destroying itself prematurely all over the world for the past couple of years.)

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Pathfinder was damned to the top 20 least reliable cars list by Consumer Reports in the USA (like Choice here, only with balls and a budget). It is simply disgraceful that a company like Nissan would keep selling this heap of crap. You don’t need the pain.


Getting with the strength: Kia Australia sales over the past decade

Just to put Kia in perspective - in the 10 years (inclusive) between 2008 and 2017, the car market in Australia is up 17 per cent.

In the same period, Kia sales are up 178 per cent.

Kia sales, Australia, past decade

Frankly, some of the older, traditionally trusted brands are blowing it. Honda, Nissan, Holden, Ford - they’re all bleeding with hefty double-digit drops in sales and loss of market share. They dropped the ball in the GFC, or shortly thereafter.

Mazda, Hyundai and Kia are the big post-GFC success stories (along with Subaru). None of these brands have managed this popularity upsurge by magic. They’ve done it by making the product/value better. As in: better than the competitors’ products. Better to drive, better value, better features, and better to own. It really is that simple. Seizing market share ex machina. It would be very difficult to drive a seven-seat Nissan X-TRAIL against a Sorento (for example) and conclude objectively that the X-TRAIL is a better vehicle.

Making the right SUV choice

You need to look hard at what you’re actually going to do with your new SUV.

Be objective and accurate. 

The two basic SUV scenarios are: you want a big bus for all the domestic duties: the kids, their stuff, shopping, the extended family, the holiday up the coast. In other words: Normal driving, with seven seats.

Alternatively, you might need a truly hardcore off-roader like a Mitsubishi Pajero Sport >> to cross mighty rivers and beat the wilderness into submission, recreationally, while towing the QE2.

It’s essential to make this distinction. Because the softer option is always better to drive around town, on the highway - but it won’t do the hardcore stuff.

Conversely, the hardcore option will be far less refined to drive on normal roads (around town and touring) because all of engineering is a compromise, and you can’t beef up the off-road ability without copping a hit in refinement.

Forget what the self-help books say: you actually can’t have it all. To the uninitiated, the Pajero Sport (and vehicles like it including the Everest, Fortuner, Trailblazer, MU-X, etc) look similar to the Sorento (and Santa Fe, CX-9, Outlander, X-TRAIL, etc.) But beneath the skin, the former group are utes converted into wagons at the factory (Pajero Sport is based upon the engineering of the Triton ute, for example). 

So: if you are weighing up (for example) a Pajero Sport - or some other hardcore off-road vehicle - against a Sorento, perhaps it’s time to reboot and decide the category of vehicle that is right for you first. Because if you have vehicles from each camp in your short list, you have not thought about this carefully enough.

If you’ve crossed this bridge of SUV categorisation and you’re shopping in the right aisle, the Sorento has significant core strengths.


CONCLUSION

Anyway - that’s what you need to know. Vis-a-vis the 2018 Kia Sorento, which is onsale now. Don’t let one of those showroom floor vermin stiff you into buying the outgoing one. That would be a tragedy.

I’m pretty sure, thanks to these upgrades, it’s taken one small step for Sorento, but a giant leap ahead of Santa Fe, at least for the time being. Santa Fe is being primed for an update early in 2018 - so doubtless it will get back in the game at that point.

As discussed, I will march into Kia’s palatial head office in Shitsville, with the bat pumpy, and the unmistakable gleam of resolve in my eye, and drive away mid-November. That’s one way to get on the news…

Sorento drive impressions to come - I understand they’ve tweaked it a bit in the dynamics domain as well. For now, though, if you want a new Sorento, the options are: limber up for the time-honoured showroom floor reaming or reach out to me here >>

I guess it all depends how much you’ve been looking forward to that showroom floor reaming. It is quite the memorable experience, once every three or four years - so do make the most of it, if that’s your choice. I know the dealer will.

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In objective terms Sorento already in front of many competitors. Kia has made massive inroads into the Australian market with vehicles like this and the smaller Sportage >>

The badge will remain a hurdle for many potential customers, until perception catches up with the product. Buying a lesser SUV on the premise of it being a better brand might prove a painful lesson, too.

Take an objective test drive with an open mind. Before you do this, read my guide to test driving like a pro >> 

The new Sorento has a great engine and driveline in the diesel, sensational interior space, a huge complement of standard features and a great many standard (Euro-shaming) creature comforts for driver and passengers. The warranty is unbeatable, and the styling is in front of many Japanese competitors. Its not a cheap vehicle, but it offers excellent value.

It's certainly not perfect, but the criticisms it deserves are fairly minor, in context. It discounts really well, too.

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