The new Kia Sorento on test for Changing Lanes!
The new Kia Sorento on test for Changing Lanes!

The Kia Sorento has long been a popular model for the brand in Ireland. With demand for 7-seater SUVs, the Sorento always filled the gap perfectly with family-friendly seating all wrapped up in a cool SUV exterior.

In 2020, the brand launched an all-new generation of the Kia Sorento. With the model first appearing in 2002, Sorento is now in its fourth generation. Together with the popular Kia Sportage, it brought the Kia brand to prominence here in Ireland and throughout Europe.

The formula remains much the same – big family SUV with seating for seven. However from whatever angle you look at this Sorento, the jump appears big. Kia is seriously stepping up the game with the new Sorento, which should seriously worry any other brand trying to sell a 7-seat SUV.

What’s new for the 2021 Kia Sorento?

Appearances matter. And Kia has done a wonderful job with the new Sorento. Inspired by the uber-big Kia Telluride, an SUV available in other markets like North America, the new Sorento has much stronger and serious design language. There is indeed more than a slice of Americana about the big, blocky grille and squared-off rear, but still the typical flair we expect from the Korean brand in this century. Cue the interesting light detail at the rear, and S O R E N T O spelled out in large letters.

The 2021 Kia Sorento raises the bar for design in the 7-seat SUV segment
The 2021 Kia Sorento raises the bar for design in the 7-seat SUV segment

Kia also is one of the brand’s at the forefront of electrification, with no delays on rolling out electrified powertrains, even to their biggest SUV on sale in Europe. You could say they are ahead of the curve and have been for some time. Can you see why other brands might be worried?

For the first time, this behemoth will be available with a plug-in hybrid powertrain. In Ireland this model will go on sale from February, priced from €50,000 and exclusively all wheel drive. So what we find in the Changing Lanes garage to review today is the new Kia Sorento diesel, now on sale priced from €51,600.

Another reason why this Sorento impresses so much on a first encounter is the way the interior is kitted out and the technology on board. As I cruised down the M11 after picking the Sorento up in Sandyford, Dublin, I felt like I was driving a Korean Range Rover. I’m not making fun of Kia as only fools would do that with a brand that has become such a powerhouse. And Ireland clearly loves Kia.

The Kia Sorento is available as a plug-in hybrid for the first time in 2021
The Kia Sorento is available as a plug-in hybrid for the first time in 2021

Inside the new Kia Sorento

You sit high in the 2021 Kia Sorento. From your armchair you are met with an all-new dashboard design that is a sign of great things to come. It really does feel like a fresh start for the brand once again. This will be Kia’s most high-tech car ever, thanks to new connectivity features, driver assistance and infotainment technologies including an impressive twin digital screen display.

For Kia’s flagship SUV in Ireland, a 12.3-inch digital driver instrument cluster is twinned with a 10.25-inch touchscreen infotainment and navigation system at the centre of the dashboard. These display information clearly within the driver’s line of sight, and create a cool wide-screen user experience.

Quality goes up another level again inside the new Sorento; another reason for competitors to worry if they are not 100 per cent on their game, and focusing too much on trying to cut costs.

But what is most impressive is the attention to detail, the way the ambient lighting cuts through the elegant design of the dash and door panels. The glossiness of it all. And the slickness of the new digital instrument panel with its funky fuchsia pink detailing. As I was changing lanes, my speedometer turned into a camera view of my blind spot. How clever.

The interior of the 2021 Kia Sorento
The interior of the 2021 Kia Sorento

More technology on board

That’s because the Sorento is equipped with Kia’s new Blind-Spot View Monitor. When you indicate to change lane, the system displays a high-resolution video feed on the left or right side of the TFT-LCD instrument cluster. The video feed comes from discreet wide-angle, high-resolution cameras, hidden in each of the door mirror housings. These provide a wider viewing angle than the door mirrors, giving drivers a clear view of any approaching vehicles.

In Ireland the entry into the range is the K3 model. It is a well-equipped car that comes as standard with 18” alloys, the twin digital screens display with telematics, rear view camera, leather upholstery, heated front seats, and charge ports on all three rows of seats. Safety features include Bind Spot Detection, Front Collision Avoidance, Lane Keep Assist, Lane Follow Assist, Smart Cruise Control, and Highway Drive Assist.

The K4 model on test adds even more comfort and safety features including a panoramic sunroof, driver and passenger power seats, 12 speaker Bose sound system, rear heated seats, power opening tailgate, the Blind-Spot View Monitor, Around View Monitor and Parking Collision Avoidance.

Generous 7-seat accommodation inside the new Kia Sorento
Generous 7-seat accommodation inside the new Kia Sorento

How practical is it as a 7-seat SUV?

The Sorento is huge inside with seating for seven. It’s built on Kia’s new-generation midsize SUV platform, so is larger again with a longer wheelbase to maximise interior and boot space. The platform ensure the Sorento is one of the most versatile and spacious three-row SUVs on the market.

We can believe it. The rear bench will accommodate three easily and rear legroom in row 2 is very generous. The 2021 Kia Sorento is a proper family car with plenty of storage and other convenience features for all three rows of seats.

Access to the third row of seats is also very easy, with the second row seats released forwards with just the touch of a button.

The seats in the very rear will be most suitable for children, but the Sorento does better than a lot of rivals on space. And in five seat mode you get a huge boot, and more than a token boot space in seven seat mode. Cowabunga!

The new Kia Sorento goes on sale in Ireland priced from €51,600
The new Kia Sorento goes on sale in Ireland priced from €51,600 for the diesel, from €50,000 for the hybrid

Driving the 2021 Kia Sorento

The 2.2-litre diesel in the Kia Sorento is new and avoids being a rumble in the jungle. 202 hp ensures it’s no lazy elephant either, with 0 to 100 km/h achieved in 9 seconds. It’s remarkably refined, another ode to Kia’s ambition for their brand. The Sorento is a fabulous way to travel, smooth and comfortable. Power is directed to the front wheels only in diesel spec using a new 8-speed automatic gearbox. Over a few day’s driving my average fuel consumption was 6.7 litres per 100 km, while this model will cost €420 to tax per year. The diesel Sorento can also tow up to 2.5 tonnes.

In development of this new generation of the Sorento, Kia engineers worked to reduce the effect that road surface imperfections have on the body, and to reduce noise and vibrations through the suspension, while also improving body control and steering responses under cornering. This has been achieved with a series of geometry changes and new components, as well as improvements to the structure of the suspension system. The 35 mm longer wheelbase also contributes to an overall improvement in cruising comfort, while a more rigid bodyshell results in lower body vibrations.

Handling is predictable for a large SUV. It’s not sporty, as much as the driving modes would like you to believe. But it is an easy beast to manoeuvre around tight country roads and delivers the necessary comfort and refinement this segment requires, without cartwheels or fanfare. We did note some road noise at motorway speeds, but other than that the new Sorento is a charming large SUV that can fully command its sticker price.

The Sorento diesel provides a reliable source of power and economy for long distance or rural users
The Sorento diesel provides a reliable source of power and economy for long distance or rural users

What’s next?

A new Kia Sorento Plug-in Hybrid will join the range in Ireland in February. It will be powered by a 1.6-litre T-GDi turbocharged petrol engine paired with a high-capacity 13.8 kWh lithium-ion polymer battery pack and a powerful electric motor. Together the petrol electric hybrid powertrain in the Sorento will produce up to 265 hp and 350 Nm torque. The plug-in hybrid Sorento will come with a 6-speed automatic and will be all wheel drive exclusively. The boon for this model with urban users is a pure electric range of up to 56 km and low emissions of just 50 g – meaning motor tax of just €140!

Did you like it?

The new 2021 Kia Sorento is a serious sign of intent from the Korean brand. Kia has a great track record in Ireland selling SUVs, and the Sorento will continue the fine tradition in the large family SUV category. All things considered it is still remarkably good value, considering the space on board the new Sorento, and the level of equipment and technology.

Buyers will have more options now when it comes to powertrain. While we are yet to test the Sorento hybrid, we can confirm the diesel is a star performer. The new diesel engine is more refined and has plenty of power and torque to make the Sorento drive effortless and something to be enjoyed. Towing capability is strong but buyers may lament the loss of four wheel drive from the Sorento diesel range. That will be reserved for hybrid models.

The biggest recommendation for the Sorento is the space inside the vehicle and the living room feel. It’s more and more like a luxury hotel on wheels. Who could believe we would be saying these things about a Kia? But times have changed and the Sorento will woo buyers from other brands, no problem.

This is a truly impressive SUV and one of our favourite cars of the past year.

The stunning new Kia Sorento raises the game in design and quality for the Korean brand
The stunning new Kia Sorento raises the game in design and quality for the Korean brand

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Kia Sorento 2.2 diesel K4
Price: 
€56,500
Engine: 2.2-litre turbo diesel
Power:
202 hp
Torque: 440 Nm
0-100km/h: 
9 seconds
Top speed: 202 km/h
Economy (WLTP):
6.1-6.4l/100km
CO2 emissions (WLTP): 
165 g/km
Motor tax: 
€420 per year