Car Reviews

2016 Kia Sorento review

Isaac Bober’s 2016 Kia Sorento review with pricing, specs, ride and handling, safety, verdict and rating.

In a nutshell: The third-generation turns up a notch the quality of the Sorento, but its 185mm of ground clearance, road-tuned suspension, and roomy interior mean its more family wagon than adventurous SUV.

2016 Kia Sorento

Price from $40,990 (+ORC) Warranty 7 years, unlimited kilometres Safety 5 star ANCAP (36.62/37 – tested 2015)  Engine 3.3L V6 petrol; 2.2L turbocharged four-cylinder diesel Power/Torque 199kW/318Nm (Petrol); 147kW/441Nm (Diesel) Drive front-wheel drive (petrol); all-wheel drive (diesel) Transmission six-speed automatic Body 4780mm (L) 1890mm (W) 1690mm (H) Wheelbase 2780mm Kerb Weight 1921kg (Petrol) 2036kg (Diesel) Gross Weight 2510kg (Petrol) 2660kg (Diesel) Towing 2000kg (braked); 750kg (unbraked) Towball Download 100kg Wheels 235/65 R17; 235/60 R18; 235/55 R19 Spare full-size alloy Fuel tank 71 litres Thirst (combined) 9.9L/100km (Petrol); 7.8L/100km (Diesel)

Comprehensive Car Insurance

Editor's Rating

How we rated the 2016 Kia Sorento 90%
Practical Motoring Says: Our pick would definitely be the diesel-powered AWD Sorento. It allows you to go further off the beaten track, although it's not designed for working hard on the tracks all day. But it's the added sure-footedness in slippery on-road conditions, the fact that all variants come with seven seats that fold flat, a full-size alloy, the quality of the interior and the seven-year warranty that make this a winner.
90

THE NEW KIA SORENTO is worlds apart from where the thing started back in the early 2000s. For a start, it’s safer than ever before, indeed, when it first arrived Down Under it scored a shocking one-star ANCAP rating. Then the second-generation arrived and all was forgiven.

Sitting on the basic platform of the Mitsubishi Pajero, that second-generation Sorento was a proper body-on-frame 4×4 with low-range. It immediately won favour as a roomy, capable off-roader offering bang-for-your-buck.

Kia Sorento car review

That was in the early Noughties and since then Sorento has been softened. Enter the third-generation Sorento which is less rough-roader and more people mover in its looks and stance. Available in both front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive, the new Sorento (released last year) is the first of the new generation Kia models.

And I say new generation meaning the Sorento, according to Kia, marked the beginning of its new wave models that are aimed at taking it to the best of its Japanese and European competitors. Indeed, Kia with its new batch of vehicles aims “to match and surpass not only customer expectations but also the world’s best car manufacturers for engineering, technology, refinement and quality”…

…And that’s an impressive ambition for a car maker that within recent memory was considered the poor relation to Hyundai. It’s come a very long way indeed. Since this new Sorento arrived Down Under we’ve seen the Carnival and Optima updated accordingly.

Design

Look at the Sorento next to its predecessor, indeed, look at any of the latest generation Kia models next to their predecessors and you’ll notice the ‘Tiger Nose’ grille is the most obvious change; the snout/grille appears to have been flared.

Kia Sorento car review

Beyond that you’ll notice the Sorento carries a more people mover-esque design, particularly when looked at in profile. It’s almost unrecognisable compared to the original Sorento that I used to drag a small rough-road caravan across some rough tracks out the back of Lithgow, NSW. It’s more people mover than overt SUV.

Indeed, the new Sorento is bigger than its immediate predecessor, measuring 95mm longer in the body (4780mm) and 80mm longer in the wheelbase (2780mm), the roofline is now 45mm lower (1690mm) and it’s 5mm wider (1890mm). Don’t let the lower roofline make you think headroom has been lost in the Sorento as, thanks to some clever reworking of the seat cushions (they’re lower but still comfortable) there’s decent headroom front and back.

Design is a very subjective thing but to my eyes the Sorento is attractive and despite some styling tweaks is definitely still a Sorento in its shape. That said, I still prefer the look of the first-generation Sorento, especially in grey.

Room & Practicality

In this area the Sorento benefits from a greater proportion of high-strength steel which means that pillars and structures can be thinner but just as strong, stronger even. Indeed, the Sorento torsional rigidity (the measure of its ability to resist twisting) is improved by 14% over its predecessor, and you can tell that the first time you hit a pothole or expansion joint in the road; there’s no creak or groan and the thing generally feels solid.

As mentioned, the Sorento runs a longer wheelbase which has freed up extra room inside the vehicle, allowing for a longer boot (by 87mm) for a total capacity with the second row seats in place of 1077 litres. Drop the second row of seats which fold flat and you liberate 2066 litres of space. With all seven seats in position you’ll have around 320 litres of boot space. The boot tonneau cover stores neatly away under the boot floor, which is good if you’ve got to remove it to carry larger items and don’t want to leave it loose in the vehicle.

Kia Sorento car review
All Kia Sorentos come standard with seven seats. Both the third and second row seats fold flat into the floor. They can be dropped by a lever in the boot and raised by the pull strap on the back of the seat.

The good thing about the seats is that they actually fold flat, giving you a nice cavernous storage space right up to the back of the front seats. I’m not a bike rider so I didn’t get to throw a bike in the back, but I am in the middle of renovating and had to collect a bunch of timber. I managed to fit half-a-dozen three metre lengths of timber into the back of the Sorento.

And the materials used are tough with the carpet of a good, strong quality that doesn’t mark or fluff easily. Although one criticism I had was the inability to tie down the timber (so I had to wedge other stuff around it – and yes, I’d strapped all the timber together) because of a lack of tie down points; there are two in each corner of the actual boot space but are best used for lighter items (like bikes) and not heavy stuff like lumber.

Kia Sorento car review
The top tether latch points are mounted high on the back of the second-row seats making it easy to fit and remove child seats even when the boot is loaded.

Given I’ve got small children I still need to swap car seats, and throwing the kids seats into the Sorento was pretty easy. The top tether latch points are on the backs of the seats towards the top and so are easy to reach when you’re fitting the seat and don’t impede on storage space when you’re carrying stuff in the boot; or if you need to remove the child seats with the boot fully loaded.

Adults who have to travel in the back seats shouldn’t grumble as there’s decent legroom, which can be improved upon because the 40/20/40 split second row seats slide forwards and aft, but they don’t tumble forwards, meaning you’ve still got to clamber across them to get into the third-row seating. That third row is roomy enough and there are nice storage pockets mounted into the tops of the wheel arches, but legroom and headroom is a touch tight; these seats are best left to younger kids just out of a booster seat. There are no hooks for child seats to be mounted on the third-row seats, which is a good thing as I’d hate to try and get a tiny-tot across the second row and into the back.

Kia Sorento car review
The second-row seats don’t tumble forward to make getting into the back, but there’s enough of a gap that climbing into the third-row isn’t too hard.

The Sorento’s hip point is a little lower than its predecessor, or at least it seems like it is, because getting in and out of the thing is a cinch. The door openings are nice and wide, but I did think the doors themselves, while closing with a nice solid, premium-sounding thunk were quite heavy and the stays struggled to keep them open on some hills I parked on.

Initially when I climbed into the Sorento I thought the seats, both front and back, felt a little squidgy, but by the time I got around the block I’d settled into them and although the seats are quite broad that initial softness in the seat (think of it like a latex layer on a mattress) makes them both grippy and comfortable for longer drives. While I had the Sorento I notched up around 700km with most days being solid 100km stints.

The interior is a clear step ahead of this vehicle’s predecessor, with soft touch plastics and contrasting gloss, piano blacks giving the interior a conservative yet classy feel. Indeed, I’d go as far as to suggest that Kia has managed to out-VW VW in the quality of its interior, both in styling, materials and fit and finish. Beyond this the plastics and carpets used seem robust and should handle everything a busy family can throw at it.

Kia Sorento car review

The dashboard layout is neat and tidy and the central-mounted touchscreen, which offers access to both media, phone and navigation is easy to use, although you do occasionally have to frig around a bit when flicking between albums, for instance. The climate control is easy to set and the fact you can set recirculate and it stays on recirculate is something that the likes of Jaguar could pay attention to with its annoying default timed recirculation for air-con although it can be turned off via a three-second press and hold (speaking of air-con, all three rows get outlets). It’s the little things, right.

Kia Sorento car review
Not the author’s music…

There are a number of hidey holes for your keys, phone, drinks and more. The deep centre console bin is capable of holding quite a bit, although the cup holder behind the transmission shifter wasn’t quite big enough to perfectly hold my coffee ‘keep cup’ snugly. That said, half the cup fitted into the holder and it didn’t spill – another first world problem…

For those who like to have an elbow rest while driving, the Sorento offers excellent support for both elbows, and the steering wheel can be adjusted for reach and rake making it a cinch for drivers of all heights to get comfortable.

Performance, Ride & Handling

The first thing you’ll notice when you turn the key on the Sorento, whether it’s petrol or diesel, is just how quiet it is. And that’s thanks to a staggering 29% thicker dashboard insulation panel, as well as larger engine and transmission mounts. I’d go so far as to say the noise suppression is equal to anything costing thousands more from German manufacturers.

The two-wheel drive Sorento (all petrol models are 2WD) we tested ran the big-banger 3.3-litre petrol V6 engine that makes 199kW and 318Nm of torque at 5300rpm, while the all-wheel drive version gets Kia’s tweaked 2.2-litre turbocharged four-cylinder diesel which makes 147kW and 441Nm from 1750-2750rpm (all diesels are AWD). Both engines are mated to the same six-speed transmission running identical ratios with just the final gear ratio being different at 3.320 to 3.195 for the diesel. And if you’re considering the Santa Fe, know that its automatic transmission ratios are different to that of the Kia, which is also slightly more powerful.

Kia Sorento car review
The 2.2L turbo-diesel four-cylinder is grunty down low with enough mid-range punch to keep the Sorento loping along.

The six-speed automatic in both the petrol and diesel Sorento is a perfect example of why some makers shouldn’t bother with their nine-speed transmissions (Jeep, I’m looking at you). First to sixth gear, the Sorento’s transmission is smooth and impossible to catch napping, and believe me I tried with a lot of taxi-driver style throttle action to trip the thing up… I couldn’t.

Fuel consumption was the big difference and the petrol Sorento in our week guzzled down the fuel, at least compared to the diesel variant. The official combined numbers are 9.9L/100km and 7.8L/100km and our testing bore that out, with the petrol Sorento returning 10.5L/100km and the diesel 8L/100km. Both vehicles have a 71-litre fuel tank.

To be fair, though, I was generally giving the petrol Sorento a fairly heavy right foot and most of the driving while both were on test was up and down the Blue Mountains. So, your own consumption is likely to be somewhere between the official numbers and my own.

Both the petrol and diesel engines, as you can tell by the numbers above, are strong with the diesel feeling the stronger early in the rev range. And if it was my money, I’d be buying the diesel but then I travel longer distances than most on my daily commute and have more than the average drivers elevation changes to deal with…

Kia Sorento car review

Ordinarily, we would have taken the Sorento off-road but we’ve already extensively tested its more or less twin-under-the-skin Hyundai Santa Fe, and don’t expect there to be much between them when the going gets rough. Although, the Sorento runs a slightly softer suspension tune which gives it the edge on road in softening out the worst of the roads imperfections.

And don’t think that that means its sloppy. It isn’t. But the two vehicles, meaning front-drive and all-wheel drive Sorentos feel different, as you’d expect.

On-Road: The front-drive Sorento is a comfortable cruiser that’s clearly been built to transport up to seven people in comfort. And it does this very well.

Yes, there’s lean in corners as you’d expect from an SUV of this size, but the body movements are well controlled and it generally feels sure-footed in both fast and slow corners. The front-drive Sorento remained composed across all surfaces we drove it across, including smooth highway bitumen, coarser stuff around town and patchy road works. While it’s not agile in the same sense as a BMW X3, I’d go so far as to say it’s one of the sharper handling SUVs at this price range; if you can call a front-drive vehicle an SUV…

The electric power assisted steering is an improvement on the system in its predecessor, feeling quicker and more naturally weighted in its response off-centre. But it still has a frustrating tendency to self-centre.

The all-wheel drive Sorento actually felt more agile than its front-drive sibling, although I had the same concerns with the steering in both vehicles. To me, the AWD Sorento actually feels a touch sportier than its Santa Fe sibling, but there’s only poofteenths in it. Even on streaming wet roads, the Sorento showed that it can be hustled along quite quickly. And while it might not give the ultimate sporty driving of, say, a BMW X3, for example, it felt only a small step behind in ability.

Kia Sorento car review

The brakes have been slightly embiggened from 302mm solid discs at the rear to 305mm solid discs, the front brakes are carried over from the second-generation being 320mm ventilated discs on both the petrol and diesel models. The brake pedal offers a nice smooth, progressive action.

Vision out of the Sorento is generally very good, with only the rear three-quarter view obscured slightly by the bulky C-pillar.

Off-road: The Sorento AWD runs the same Dynamax AWD system as the Sportage, meaning the system is an active all-wheel drive and so unlike, say, a Subaru, will send most of the drive (and can send as much as 100%) to the front wheels.

Basically, the system is designed to reduce fuel consumption, hence the default front-drive distribution of drive. Here’s how Kia explains it: “during constant speed driving, the driving power is almost completely transferred to the front wheels. When cornering, driving power is relayed to the rear wheels in accordance to the turning radius and vehicle speed. If one or two of the front wheels slide, an appropriate amount of driving power is then relayed to the back wheels depending on the level of sliding [slip]”.

You’ll also notice that there’s a Lock button down near the electric handbrake selector. This isn’t as some people might think the button to lock the Sorento into permanent all-wheel drive, although it kind of is. Meaning, it locks the drive distribution front to back (it doesn’t lock a centre differential because there isn’t one) but it’s only for use at speeds of less than 40km/h when in low-traction situations, like sand, or mud.

Kia Sorento car review

That said, don’t expect the clutch that engages drive to the rear to be particularly beefy, the Sorento AWD isn’t designed for rock hopping, and it can struggle when diagonal wheels are light on for traction in rough-road situations.

Safety

The new Sorento scored a five-star ANCAP rating back in April 2015 (36.62 out of 37) as well as 5 stars from both the EuroNCAP and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in the US. This new Sorento has a much stronger body than its predecessor with 52.7% of it made from ultra-high strength steel (strengthening areas like the tailgate surround and wheel arches) with 10.1% of it using hot-stamped steel, particularly for the A- and B-pillars.

There are six airbags, including front to rear curtain airbags, reversing cameras are standard across the range, as are the usual traction and stability controls, and front and rear parking sensors. The diesel Sorento gets the added sure-footedness of all-wheel drive… the stability control system has been tuned to handle both braking and turning, something that can unsettle some SUVs running older stability control systems. The Platinum spec Sorento adds lane departure warning, smart cruise control, blind spot warning and rear cross traffic alert.

I’ve already discussed fitting child seats and there are ISOFIX points on all three of the second-row seats.

Pricing & Equipment

As mentioned earlier, all petrol Sorentos are front-wheel drive and all diesel variants are all-wheel drive. Both engines get the same six-speed automatic transmission. There’s no manual option. The Sorento is available in three model trims, Si, SLi and Platinum with prices ranging from $40,990 for the Si petrol to $55,990 for the Platinum diesel AWD.

Kia Sorento car review

Key differences are wheel sizes with the Si getting 17-inch alloys, 18s for the SLi and 19s for the Platinum. The Platinum gets electric seat adjustment with memory function, the other two variants get manual adjustment. The Platinum also gets a flash panoramic glass roof, the others don’t. But, to be honest, the key differences between SLi and Platinum are safety features like the lane departure warning, and more.

Si Petrol $40,990 (+ORC)

SLi Petrol $45,990 (+ORC)

Si Diesel $44,490 (+ORC)

SLi Diesel $49,490 (+ORC)

Platinum Diesel $55,990 (+ORC)

The other thing to consider with Kia is its industry-leading seven-year unlimited kilometre warranty, seven year capped price servicing and seven year roadside assistance. The Sorento service schedule is 12 months or 15,000km – to determine the capped price servicing costs you need to add your VIN on the Kia website.

Kia Sorento car review


5 Comments

  1. spoon
    January 22, 2016 at 10:20 pm — Reply

    With the Kia in the early 90s – the Sorento was a new badge from 2003.

    You’re thinking of the Hyundai Terracan which was based on the Pajero.

    • January 25, 2016 at 8:04 am — Reply

      Thanks Spoon. I think I was thinking of two sentences at once… You’re right about the Sorento and I’ve amended the article. Wasn’t thinking about the Terracan, was thinking more about how far Kia has come since the 1990s, but mashed that and the Sorento into one sentence. D’oh! – Isaac

    • Mark Sookee
      February 28, 2017 at 9:35 pm — Reply

      Terracan’s are still holding their value. They must have got something right. 🙂

  2. Steve-O
    October 11, 2016 at 3:34 pm — Reply

    Fantastic car, great quality and an exceptional diesel engine. Great review too.

  3. Mark Sookee
    February 28, 2017 at 9:34 pm — Reply

    At last a pragmatic review based on the intended purpose of the vehicle. i.e Safe family motoring/higher riding than a station wagon. I am now leaning towards this over the Santa Fe.

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Isaac Bober

Isaac Bober

Isaac Bober was born in the shadow of Mount Panorama in Bathurst and, so, it was inevitable he’d fall into work as a motoring writer. He began his motoring career in 2000 reviewing commercial vehicles, before becoming editor of Caravan & Motorhome magazine. He then moved to MOTOR Magazine before going freelance and contributing to Overlander 4WD, 4×4 Australia, TopGear Australia, Men’s Health, Men’s Fitness, The Australian, CARSguide, and many more.