Kia Sorento: To tow or not to tow?

Riley Riley


What is it?

The fourth generation Kia Sorento is bigger, bolder and more angular than its predecessor.

With seven seats across the range, it is available with a petrol or diesel engine, and with either two-wheel or all-wheel drive.

Although the latter is determined by your choice of engine — only the diesel is available with all-wheel drive.

Kia says the the design of the 7-seat SUV draws inspiration from the larger Telluride which is sold in the United States, but unlikely to come here with the imminent launch of the Hyundai equivalent — Palisade.

But for most people Sorento will be more than enough, or will it?


What’s it cost?

Pricing starts at $45,850 for the two-wheel drive petrol S.

The diesel S with all-wheel drive is $3000 more at $48,850 and the subject of our review.

The range tops out at $63,070 for the top of the whizz GT-Line diesel.

Standard kit includes cloth trim and standard ‘red and blue’ airconditioning, 17 inch alloys,  digital speedo, LED head and fog lights, daytime LEDs, auto lights and wipers, automatic high beam, auto folding wing mirrors, front and rear parking sensors, six-speaker audio, digital radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, with 3 x USB ports in the centre console, 2 x 12v outlets one of which is in the cargo area, plus a full-size alloy spare.

Safety gear includes seven airbags, rear-view camera with parking guides,  and Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) with pedestrian, cyclist and vehicle detection.

The system also detects oncoming traffic when making a turn at a junction.

There’s also Blind-spot Collision-avoid Assist, Advanced Smart Cruise Control, Lane Following Assist, Lane Keeping Assist with Lane Change Assist, Driver Attention Warning and Rear Cross Traffic Collision Avoidance Assist.

Lane Following Assist operates between 0 and 180km/h, employing camera and radar sensors to maintain a safe distance from the car in front, while monitoring road markings to keep the vehicle in the centre of its lane.

Child restraint anchorage points consist of 5 x Top tether/4 x ISOFIX.

Like many manufacturers Kia has pulled back on a promise to keep satnav standard and the Sorento is no exception.

Yes, you can connect your phone and use Apple CarPlay or Android Auto to provide a map and directions, but in our experience its fiddly and apt to play up.


What’s it go like?

At 4.81 metres in length, the new model is 10mm wider and longer than its predecessor, and sits 10mm higher, with a 35mm longer wheelbase (distance between the axles).

A new platform sees a significant amount of extra legroom for first- and second-row occupants, as well as more headroom for third-row passengers.

Second-row seats now slide up to 45mm further, creating a wider point of entry to the third row with more space for feet and legs.

With all seven seats in use, boot space behind the third row is up by 32 percent to 187 litres — although it’s not exactly what you’d call family-sized.

Starting the car requires the insertion of the key in the ignition like the old days, with no keyless start in this model.

The new four-cylinder 2.2-litre ‘Smartstream’ diesel in our test vehicle produces 148kW of power and 440Nm of torque, the latter between 1750 and 2750 revs.

It has an aluminium block instead of the old cast iron one, making it 19.5 kg lighter — and that means better performance pound for pound (or should that be kilo for kilo).

The diesel is paired with a new 8-speed ‘twin clutch’ style auto, designed to deliver smoother shifts than a conventional auto, but is up to 15 per cent more efficient.

The 3.5 litre petrol V6, meanwhile, has been further refined and delivers 200kW and 332Nm and is teamed with Kia’s proven 8-speed conventional auto.

The all-wheel drive system in the diesel remains front-wheel drive most of the time to save fuel, but the rear wheels kick in automatically when required.

This time around too, it has a variety of on- and off-road drive modes from which to select with a console-mounted rotary knob.

But with no low range gearing and only 176mm of ground clearance, it’s not up for the rough stuff.

As always the 2.2-litre diesel is the consummate performer and, with a 67-litre tank, returns a claimed 6.1L/100km in combined driving.

So far so good, but we were disappointed to find it’s still rated to tow only 2000kg, which could rule it out if you’re planning to pull a large van.

In contrast, Toyota’s Fortuner can tow 3100kg — likewise the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport.

On a more positive note, the Sorento S certainly doesn’t present as an entry level vehicle.

The styling is angular and more aggressive, and gives it a more assertive presence on the road, with some cool, cross-hatch patterned cabin trim (as pictured).

Rectangular design tail lights chart new territory and while we’re not ready to render a verdict on them, they do help the new Sorento to stand out, as does the broad, horizontal front grille.

Fit and finish are excellent, while the redesign of the dash is impressive to say the least, with instruments and touchscreen both housed within a single broad piano glossy black panel, with physical buttons for such items as volume control.

Entry-level S features an 8.0-inch colour LCD touch screen, and 4.2-inch colour TFT info cluster between a pair of conventional analogue tacho and speedo dials.

Even at this level you get to pick from one of three themes.

We were surprised Kia had opted for a twin clutch tranny.

We’re not big fans because they tend to be jerky, but I have to admit I didn’t pick this one out of the gates.

But with lots of torque on tap, it doesn’t need to change gears frequently, which perhaps helps to iron out the wrinkles.

The ride is very comfortable, even in sport mode, and the cabin is generally very quiet, although some tyre noise from the expensive Continentals intrudes when it encounters coarse bitumen.

In a washed out week we clocked up about 300km at a rate of 6.9L/100km.

For a car this size, that’s impressive.


What we like?

  • Larger and more comfortable
  • Aggressive styling
  • Rear air vents
  • Excellent fuel consumption


What we don’t like?

  • Nothing much


The bottom line?

You get a lot of car for your money, but at $50K driveaway the price is getting up there for an entry level model — and for many customers it’s sometimes all about the price.

It would be handy if it could tow a larger van too.

Just saying . . .


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Kia Sorento S AWD diesel, priced from $48,850
  • Looks - 7.5/10
  • Performance - 8/10
  • Safety - 8.5/10
  • Thirst - 8/10
  • Practicality - 7.5/10
  • Comfort - 7.5/10
  • Tech - 8/10
  • Value - 7.5/10