2014 Kia Sorento Si 2.2 Diesel Review
Robert Pepper’s 2014 Kia Sorento Si 2.2 Diesel review with pricing, specs, ride and handling, safety, verdict and rating.
IF YOU ARE READING this review then chances are you’ve decided a soft-roader of some description needs to be in your life. But if you are wondering about the relative merits of a soft-roader vs a wagon, then that question has already been dealt with here.First, some background about Kia and its cars.
The original Sorento came out in 2002, and was based on Pajero underpinnings. It had old-style part-time 4WD, a five-speed automatic diesel and low-range.I took one around the Victorian High Country in 2009 chasing after various tour groups doing charity drives, and was much impressed with its off-road capabilty – I distinctly remember one track which had all four wheels scrabbling for grip as I dodged around a large rock. Later, a modified Prado broke its front differential trying to follow.
The Sorento never missed a beat on that trip and, critically, gave me confidence on every surface from bitumen to dirt to rocks and when crossing rivers. Can’t say that about every 4WD I test these days.I mention all this because there is still, sadly, a misconception about that Korean cars are in some way inferior… Well, they’re not, especially when you consider value for money.
Quality isn’t an issue either, and as proof Kia have enough confidence to put a five-year warranty on this vehicle which is something you won’t find on all competitors.
Overall, there’s certainly nothing wrong with this Sorento, and it stands fair comparison with any of its seven-seat soft-roader rivals. But not so much with its predecessor, because this version, introduced in 2010, lacks low-range gearing and a true 4WD system so it won’t challenge the likes of a Prado off-road. Instead, like every soft-roader, it is aimed at busy, active families, like ours.
I never write much about styling because you can make your own mind up by looking at the pictures. But if pushed, I don’t mind the Sorento’s looks from any angle which is usually about as much as you can hope for in this segment.Kia has avoided trying too hard like Subaru did with the early Tribecas, and the me-tooism of copying more expensive vehicles – nobody wants to drive a poor copy of an upmarket car. So it’s really a case of not having made mistakes as opposed to creating automotive art.
And I’ll be honest, after a couple of hours absence and returning to where I thought I left the car I pointed the remote at a CX-9 and attempted to unlock it. In my defence, it was the same colour but it does show that this segment is much of a muchness.
Behind the wheel
The steering wheel has the usual set of audio, cruise and phone controls, and is adjustable for both reach and angle. Everything is logically laid out and while the interior is not going to win any beauty awards, it feels integrated and is practical, unlike some vehicles where it’s clear different teams designed different areas and never went out to lunch together.The steering wheel controls don’t get in the way as you twirl the wheel, either.
The driver’s seat has some adjustability too including height, although as with all base models it is limited compared to what you find with on the higher spec models which typically offer electric movement, memory, lumbar adjustment and the like. Nevertheless, there’s enough range for most people to feel comfortable.
The sound system works well – it has Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, all controlled by a nicely user-friendly and responsive touchscreen that is a cut above the average system. We swapped the Bluetooth connection from phone to phone, and that just worked flawlessly which is often not the case with such systems.
The heating/ventilation controls could be easier to use; the fan speed isn’t a nice big button like the temperature control and ‘mode’ doesn’t obviously change airflow direction. Still, you get used to these things over time. There’s a split fan system so driver and passenger can choose their temperature. I did like the fact that the drinks holders were to the offside of the auto gearshift so they didn’t get in the way, but were easy to access – would have been easy for Kia to cut costs by not doing that as it’d need to be reversed for left-hand-drive models.
Even better was the removable centre split in the drinks holder so you could convert it to a storage compartment, and clean it easily. There are also drinks holders in the door pockets. Part of a review of any car is picking up what is done right that you’d otherwise notice if it was done wrong, and that’s a good example.
Under the bonnet there is a surprising amount of space, which typically means easy access to components and therefore easier servicing. All the user-serviceable items such as oil and water are clearly marked, and the battery is easily accessible too. The bonnet is on gas struts, always nice to see for convenience and safety and is one of several small indications that this car is definitely not one where costs have been cut to the bone.
At night there’s no real complaints as all the major and most minor controls are illuminated, and the brightness can be varied. Out into completely unlit rural areas and the headlights aren’t bad but as with pretty much every car a set of spotlights wouldn’t go amiss, and it’s then you notice that the rear brake lights shining distractingly in the rear view mirror.
Room & practicality
Let’s start at the back, where there’s a split-row third seat, which is excellent, so the car can be a six- or seven-seater. I give big black marks for any car that forces both third-row seats to be up or down. There’s just one simple pull to latch the seats up which compares well with other, more complex systems.
The good news continues with a little load area of about 250mm deep by 1100mm wide behind the third row, which means you can put small items or a bit of shopping behind the rearmost seats. Other seven-seaters do better, but they’re larger cars. There’s also a little compartment right there you can lift up and drop more gear in for storage, and it is that sort of detail that starts to mark out winners from losers in this competitive segment. Unfortunately, no 12v outlet in the third row though.
Easy enough for an auto sparky to sort out, but it should be there from the outset.Still more praise. If you need to drop the spare wheel out you can do so without needing to put the third row down, as the lowering mechanism is behind the seats. And the next point is so important it gets its own paragraph:Kia supply a full-size alloy spare with the Sorento. Thank you Kia. This really is critical. See, you might not be crossing the Simpson Desert in a Sorento (although I’d be happy enough to drive one over) but if you’re wandering rural Australia and you get a flat then you need, not want, a full-size spare tyre. Which is what you get here, unlike numerous other soft-roaders which have space-saver spares or those exercises in pointless frustration, a goo kit.
So, well done Kia and this point alone is reason enough to shortlist this car.Still in the third row, and if you think this is all going to be Kia-love then here’s where the story changes. There is a single-piece tailgate, which is ok, but it’d be nice if the rear glass could be lifted up for access to the cargo area. It can’t, and that’s a negative relative to the competition, because that’s handy in confined areas and also when you lift the tailgate up things tend to fall out. You could, however, fix that with some suitably sized plastic containers.
Then there are the tie-down points in the cargo area, which are built into flimsy plastic, set into the side of the car not the floor, and definitely do not look like they’ll stand much wear and tear or pressure from a ratchet strap.Kia do provide a multi-position cargo cover which is standard fare. A tip for owners; all seven-seaters have small gaps between the seats when folded, so buy a removable rubber mat and lay it over the top. This will also help prevent damage to the seats.The cargo area itself is one-metre deep, and 1100mm wide between the wheelarches so there’s a decent bit of room there.
If you fold the second row down you get a pretty good 1900mm of loadspace, but the second row doesn’t quite fold flat.The third-row seats themselves are good for this class. Yes, I sat in them for an hour while someone else drove. It’s a bit like economy class on an airliner, but with your feet higher up on a platform, not the worst I’ve tried, but only bettered by bigger and more expensive cars like the Land Rover Discovery and Volvo XC90.
Unfortunately, a problem is that small children will sit down very deeply in the car and have difficulty seeing out of the windows, and that can lead to carsickness. The better seven-seat designs have larger rear windows. And they have storage compartments to hand as well as dual drinks bottle holders, something Kia should consider in the future as only one side has a drinks bottle store.
Access to the rear is via the left side of the car only – the second row is a 40/60 split, the 40% bit – the left seat – folds down and then tumbles forwards. The 60% bit only folds forwards. At least the 40% bit is on the kerb side, unlike other seven-seaters from left-hand-drive countries where the manufacturer hasn’t bothered to swap it around.Both parts of the second row can vary the angle of the seats’ backrests and height of the headrests. A second-row centre rest folds down and can be used as a drinks holder. There’s also a 12v outlet, air-con vents and a small coin tray, and both front seats have seatback pockets, unlike some others which economise with one or none.
There’s three child restraint points for each of the second row, but none on the third row, and ISOFIX points too, which should be the baby seat of choice now, as at long last, ISOFIX is legal in Australia.
Moving into the front and the passenger has a reasonably comfortable chair, manually adjusted in this Si base model. There’s a capacious centre console storage system with a half-length removable tray, a good move as the removable trays that are full length tend to be annoying as to get to the console depths you need to take the tray out. But the Sorento doesn’t have a little storage compartment built into the lid, which is a minor disappointment. Similarly, there’s just one glovebox (nicely lit in the dark) and it’s not that big, and nor are there any on-dash cubby holes like you find in Foresters. So storage wise the Sorento is adequate.
There’s decent lighting. Two lights in the front centre roof, and another for the front passenger, with a third for the second row. But the third row remains sadly dark in the roof, and there are no puddle lights. The headlights are acceptable, but not wonderful.
It’s now time to start the engine, and horrors, it’s a steel key you insert into the stalk. Remember those? Well, the higher spec models have keyless entry but not our base tester. Anyway, on with the engine and off with the park brake which is foot operated. Personally I hate those things, but there’s a reason why they exist and that’s to free up interior room.
I found the steering far too light and lacking in feedback, but after a few days driving I adjusted somewhat. Still, the higher spec models have a user setting to change the steering weight, so perhaps Kia agrees with the sentiment.The brakes are good, and in general the Sorento’s dynamics are the same as most of its peers – bland, boring and vice-free, so enthusiast drivers will need to look elsewhere.
The car is a front-wheel drive with the rears coming in as and when the computers deem necessary, but Kia has done a pretty decent job of driving all four wheels on demand to hide front-drive handling traits.One point I don’t like is the footrest, which is far too level, leaving the foot at an awkward angle and the driver unable to brace. I guess you’re not meant to drive this car in situations where you need to brace, but even for cruising it’s far less than ideal and an oddly glaring inconsistency with what is otherwise a well-sorted car.
The auto gearbox has two modes – normal drive, and manual select. Kia hasn’t yet fallen in with others who have finally agreed that pull back is shift up and push forwards shift down. There is no automatic sport mode, it’s either normal auto or manual select. However, the normal auto mode is good, I never found the car in the wrong gear no matter what the conditions, so it’s not really necessary and if you want to crack on just switch to manual mode.
Like most modern cars if you have the gearbox in, say, manually selected fourth-gear then floor it then it’ll down-change to third- or even second-gear if it can do so. I hate that, but then again I’m the only one who ever notices.On dirt roads the Kia tracks, handles and rides well, better than many competitors, and I’d even go so far as to say the composure is impressive. When loaded, the suspension is noisy over bumps.
A quick take-off on a loose surfaces is accomplished with very little wheelspin and no intrusive electronics, so again high marks for the 4WD drivetrain.The tyres are 235/65/17 which is a common soft-roader size, and reasonably good for dirt/off-road, so replacements should be easy to pick up and there are stronger all-terrain tyres in that size should your driving be more dirt than blacktop. Higher spec models use 18- and 19-inch rims. The ABS system is adequate for dirt roads, even handling two wheels on the dirt/two on bitumen (split mu) panic stops at speed, although the calibration doesn’t appear to extend to below around 40km/h in that scenario.
The Sorento isn’t designed for hard off-road work, but it is certainly a cut above most of its no-low-range peers. Firstly, electronic stability control can be disabled, which means muddy roads and sand driving will be possible without electronic interference. Secondly, the disabling doesn’t also cut out traction control, so the computers continue to brake individually spinning wheels so you move forwards.
Then there’s the centre-lock button, which forces torque distribution front/rear instead of mostly to the front. This makes some difference to off-road capability, and the Sorento was able to pull itself out of a hole where we’d balanced it on diagonal wheels. Then we have the nice, torquey engine with decent power and tractable control.
On the off-road downside there is no hill-descent control system, which would be handy for cars sans low gearing, there’s no recovery point at the front, and only one screw-in eyebolt not two so you can’t split the recovery load with a bridle. At the back you could fit a towbar and recover off that. The underbody is reasonably clean and protected.
Summary on the off-road – don’t consider this a medium-sized low-range wagon, but it’ll do better than many of its peers and you need not stop when the bitumen runs out. As for robustness, no concerns there and reference the introduction for a view on Kia/Hyundai’s ability to build things other than anonymous city skateboards.
Ride & handling
At idle, as with most modern diesels it’s hard to tell it’s not a petrol, although at times this particular car isn’t the smoothest of idlers. Pull away and as usual with turbo-diesel automatics there’s a slight delay before the horses wake up, but when they get going the car surges purposefully towards the horizon, the six-speed auto changing gear smoothly most of the time. It’s not a revvy petrol runabout, but it is easy to drive in stop/start traffic and quick getaways do happen, even in the wet thanks to the all wheel drive system.
When it comes to parking the Sorento, it gets a 10.9m turning circle which is pretty good, a well-positioned reversing camera with overlay guidelines and decent visibility all round including to the rear. At night, the camera is very well lit too, and the field of view is excellent. The throttle response is nicely tractable with no surprises, so all up this is an easy car to park and maneuver.We didn’t get a chance to tow with the Sorento but the autos are rated for 2000kg braked, and the manuals 2500kg. The towball mass is a mere 120kg, but there’s a Kia-approved kit to upgrade it to 150kg, something that would be a good idea if you intend to regularly carry six or seven people or heavy loads such as tools, because like most cars of this nature the suspension is clearly tuned for light or nil load.
Smaller trailers of say up to 1000kg would most likely be fine, and while sheer grunt is only one small measure of a towcar the Kia’s power and intelligent auto augurs well for lighter towing duties.Still on the subject of load, with six people on board the performance edge is blunted, but not significantly and the car still performs briskly and quickly.
Our fuel consumption came out to 8.5L/100km which is reasonable for this class of vehicle. The ADR81/01 figure is 7.3, but that never reflects real-world driving. Given the 64L tank you can expect 650-750km of mixed suburban and short-range driving, and more if you’re cruising on freeways so range is quite respectable. While our test model was a diesel, the petrol variants do accept standard 91 octane unleaded petrol.
The Sorento has an Eco button, which adjusts auto gearshift points and plays a bit with the air-conditioning so it uses less fuel. We found this made no measurable difference whatsoever – the budget and patience for this test didn’t extend to an emissions dyno test – so mark that down as a gimmick. Kia would be better off implementing an engine stop/start system which actually does make a difference in slow traffic. The AD81/01 figure was set without Eco mode being enabled.
The fuel filler cap doesn’t automatically unlock with the car, as it should these days. But what does lock once the vehicle exceeds 15km/h are the doors, and on the base model you can’t change that, only the dealer. Higher spec models permit the driver to disable that setting. However, when the transmission is placed into park the doors unlock, and there’s a manual unlock button next to the driver and another next to the front passenger. And as always with such features in the event of an impact all the doors automatically unlock.When figuring out all of this I had occasion to refer to the owner’s manual, which is poorly indexed, and I say that as someone that has read more than my fair share…
No concerns here. Nothing rattled, just about everything seems robust with the exception of the cargo tie-downs, no fit and finish problems detected and there’s the 5-year warranty which says something about Kia’s confidence.There are several little indications that Kia is thinking about detail. For example, there is a slide cover for the drinks holders, and not only that, it clicks shut and closed. Already mentioned the bonnet is on gas struts, and the 12v socket cover. Quality is the design, strength and practicality of a feature, as opposed to the simple existence of a feature. However, while good for the price point don’t be confusing this car big guns at the top end of town.
Pricing & equipment
Here’s what you’ll pay for your Sorento, with the proviso of slight variations depending on your postcode – check Kia’s website for details. Our test model is in bold. 2WD 7 Seater Si Petrol AT; 3.5 Litre $38,490.00; 2WD 7 Seater SLi Petrol AT 3.5 Litre $40,990.00; 2WD 7 Seater SLi Petrol with Navigation AT 3.5 Litre $42,490.00; 4WD 7 Seater Si Diesel MT 2.2 Litre R $39,990.00; 4WD 7 Seater Si Diesel AT 2.2 Litre R $41,990.00; 4WD 7 Seater SLi Diesel AT 2.2 Litre R $44,490.00; 4WD 7 Seater SLi Diesel with Navigation AT 2.2 Litre R $45,990.00; 4WD 7 Seater Platinum AT 2.2 Litre R $50,790.00. At the lower levels the Sorento offers reasonable value, and at higher levels it competes on equipment as opposed to looks, performance, handling or luxury.
The Sorento is rated 5-stars, but not all 5-star cars are equal. The minimum score for a 5-star rating is 32.5 out of 37, and the Sorento scored 33.21 which is not bad, but not excellent compared to other seven-seater softroaders – surf to howsafeismycar.com.au for more details.Nevertheless, the Sorento ticks all the major and most minor safety boxes, including active head restraints in the front to help prevent whiplash, and they’re adjustable too which is a rare but welcome feature.
What isn’t well known is that the star ratings change from year to year, becoming progressively harder to achieve so a five-star rating of four years ago is not the same as a five-star rating today, and the Sorento’s rating is very recent – a 2014 test. And, even less well known is the fact that the ratings don’t account for physical vehicle size, and all else being equal the larger the vehicle better off you’ll be in a crash.
One interesting point is that the side airbags on the Sorento appear to extend a little way into the third row area, unlike other seven-seaters. This is not considered in the ANCAP ratings which only rate front-seat occupant protection.In the event of an emergency stop the car will flicker the brakelights, and temporarily activate the hazard lights to reduce the chances of being rear-ended. Emergency braking is generally good, as is the case with most modern cars, with the vehicle staying nicely controllable.
The wife: What I liked – turning circle, light steering, really easy around the shopping centre. Lots of power on the road too! When you open the rear tailgate you don’t need to bend to get under it. Good reversing camera. Comfortable. Legroom good in the second row. Good storage space. Good driver’s visibility. Liked the cruise control, responsive. Held the road well.Don’t like – boring to look at, the interior isn’t exactly very flash. Not much space behind third row. Driver’s seating position not great, no driver’s footrest. Perhaps a bit noisy even for a diesel.
The grandfather: What I liked – good to maneuver, plenty of storage space. Grab handle on boot to close it without dirtying your hand. Quick to put backseat up.Didn’t like – haven’t worked out the heating/ventilation, having to remember there’s a fuel filler release.
The (grand)daughters, 12 and 9: Comfy seats. I really like the centre arm rest because I can put my arm on it and also my drinks bottle. And I can recharge my tablet in the back. Seats are really easy to tip forwards. Headrests uncomfortable as I am too short (9 yo). We weren’t too squashed in the third row unlike other seven-seaters Daddy brings home. I don’t like how it looks (9 yo). I like how it looks (12 yo).