Kia Sorento (2015-2019) Expert Review
Kia Sorento Review (2015-2019)
The third-generation Kia Sorento is a seven-seat SUV with lots of equipment and a spacious interior. It’s also very comfortable and has low running costs for a large SUV of its generation. It was affordable when new, which means used prices are comparatively lower than rivals’, so it’s a great second-hand buy.
- Five-door SUV
2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019
What is the Kia Sorento?
Kia is currently one of the biggest car manufacturers in the UK, and its sales really gained traction in the 2010s. The third-generation Sorento SUV (which shares its development and parts with the Hyundai Santa Fe) is one example of how it moved upmarket and reeled in buyers from what were then more established brands.
It's a hefty seven-seat SUV and something of a departure from the brand’s budget roots, because it’s teeming with equipment and really quite luxurious, which is how Kia positioned it. That said, it was also much better value than many rival SUVs when it was new.
There’s little about the Sorento’s looks to dissuade you from thinking that you’re looking at a premium product. It has all the design cues we expect from a large SUV, including the big ‘tiger nose’ grille that has defined Kia’s cars in recent years. Other than that, it’s all very neat, restrained, and conservative, just like the premium German brands.
How Practical is it?
The Sorento has a quality cabin, with soft-touch plastics covering the upper surfaces and big, comfortable front seats that afford a good driving position. The dashboard is well laid-out with robust switchgear, and even the entry-level model has loads of equipment.
There’s plenty of room up front, and the second row of seats also have enough space for three adults, thanks to generous head- and legroom. There’s also a pair of seats in the third row, which should just about accommodate adults and but are more appropriate for children. They’re not easy to get into though, as only one of the middle-row seats folds forward to allow access to them.
The boot is limited to 142 litres with all three rows of seats in place, which is enough for a few shopping bags but not much more. Fold the third row of seats flat (which is easy, thanks to a quick pull on a strap) and there’s a very usable 660 litres behind the 60:40-split middle bench, which can also slide forward and back. Fold down the middle three seats and you have 1,732 litres of luggage space, which is more than the Land Rover Discovery Sport, but less than the Skoda Kodiaq’s 2,065 litres.
What’s it Like to Drive?
The Sorento is set up for comfort above all else. The steering is accurate, there’s plenty of grip, and it largely resists body roll, but it’s not engaging to drive in the same way that the Land Rover Discovery Sport is. The soft suspension, and the resulting ability to soak up whatever the road surface throws at the car, is what it’s all about.
There’s only one diesel engine – a 197bhp 2.2-litre unit. It does the job, but proper luxury SUVs come with smoother and more powerful engines, and the Sorento’s can’t match them for refinement, because it sounds clattery when you accelerate. There’s also a little wind noise from the big mirrors.
It also weighs 2.6 tonnes, which is a lot of car to pull around, and although that isn’t a small or gutless engine, many luxury SUVs have much larger, smoother, and more powerful six or eight-cylinder units, some of which are coupled to plug-in hybrid drivetrains.
Technology and Equipment
The Sorento’s trim levels are pretty straightforward. They start at KX-1, then move through KX-2, GT-Line (from 2018), KX-3, GT-Line S (also from 2018), and KX-4. The entry-level KX-1 is a very well-equipped car, and includes 17-inch alloy wheels, air-conditioning, Bluetooth connectivity, a DAB radio, cruise control, a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system, smartphone integration including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, rear parking sensors, privacy glass, a rear spoiler, and roof rails.
At KX-2, an eight-inch touchscreen is introduced, along with exterior styling details, leather upholstery, heated seats, satnav, and a reversing camera. The incremental equipment additions continue up the grades but, in short, you’re not likely to want for much with any version.
Three Things To Know
- Safety is one of the Sorento’s key qualities, and it was awarded the full five stars in independent testing body Euro NCAP’s crash test. Every version has all-wheel drive, which adds an element of sure-footedness in slippery conditions, but a host of electronic active crash prevention features, plus six airbags and Isofix child seat anchor points, contribute to scores of 90% for adult occupant protection and 83% for child occupant protection.
- At seven years and 100,000 miles, Kia’s new car warranty is one of, if not the best in the business. It can be transferred between owners so, providing the service schedule has been adhered to, most used Sorentos should still have a certain amount of the original cover.
- Kia positioned the Sorento’s upper trim levels against s established premium rivals, with new prices starting just above £30,000 and rising to just under £43,000. While the KX-1 was a lot of car from new for £30,000, by the time the range reached the range-topping KX-4 model, you had to question whether it was really on a par with a top-end Skoda Kodiaq vRS or a well-equipped Range Rover Discovery Sport. Either way, many second-hand Sorentos offer a lot of features for less than half the original purchase price.
Which One to Buy
- As all versions of the Sorento have all-wheel drive and are powered by the same engine, so the only differences between them are the four trim levels and their respective equipment. The entry-level KX-1 model has a lot of kit – far more than you’d get with a seven-seat SUV from many other car manufacturers – but if you want more, look for the likes of KX-3, with its full-length sunroof, LED lights, and upgraded sound system.
The Sorento relies on just one powertrain for all the different versions of the car, a four-cylinder 2.2-litre CRDi turbodiesel engine. It’s available with a six-speed manual gearbox or an eight-speed automatic transmission.
However, with six different trim levels, each adding different amounts of equipment to the car, the weight of the different versions does fluctuate, so fuel economy figures are not the same for every model.
The Sorento’s fuel efficiency was first tested using the old NEDC testing regime, with the KX-1 trim returning 49.9 mpg. When it was tested under the more realistic WLTP test, that figure dropped to 41.5mpg. It’s the same story with the other versions, with fuel economy falling to 37.7 mpg for the best-equipped (i.e. heaviest) cars with the biggest wheels.
It's a similar story with CO2 emissions, which determine the cost of vehicle excise duty. The figures rose markedly when the current WLTP test was introduced, so road tax increased as well.
Insurance costs are reasonable, but not cheap, with models falling between groups 24 and 27.
Servicing costs are reasonable and regular maintenance is due every 12 months or 20,000 miles. At the time of writing, Kia’s website quoted £389 for two annual services for a 2019 model-year Sorento under its Care service plan.
The feedback from owners of this generation of Sorento is that it is largely trouble-free, with a few minor electrical issues seeming to be the most prevalent concerns among owners. Don’t forget that most cars will still have a portion of their original seven-year warranty remaining, too.
Kia came ninth out of 30 manufacturers in the 2021 What Car? reliability survey, and the Sorento finished seventh out of 21 cars in the large SUV category of the same analysis. The manufacturer generally does well in such assessments, and its dealers also have a good reputation for customer service.
The CarGurus Verdict
There’s a lot to like about the Kia Sorento. It feels like a sturdy, solid car that's practical and spacious. It’s safe, too, and it can go anywhere, thanks to the four-wheel-drive system fitted on every version while it's also well-equipped with some useful technological features. It's also a very comfortable family car, well suited to long journeys and, with five passengers, there’s still a lot of available boot space.
But it’s also on the road that the Sorento’s biggest deficiency shows up. It isn’t as dynamic as rivals such as the Kodiaq or Seat Taracco, so it isn’t as responsive or involving to pedal along. That said, it is perfectly consistent and straightforward to drive, so it might not be an issue for many buyers.