The skinny: With a base model below it, and the luxed-up range-topper Platinum above, the mid-spec Kia Sorento SLi could be easily overlooked - a victim of middle-child syndrome. But with a healthy list of standard features, and some very well-mannered dynamics, there’s no reason to overlook this version.
A silken V6 with a hefty 199kW of power, smooth six-speed auto, and enough space for the whole family makes this large SUV the quiet achiever in the segment.
The new Sorento SLi V6 might be $4500 more expensive than the model before it, but few will begrudge the improved audio system, added satellite navigation, tyre pressure monitoring, not to mention the quieter, calmer cabin.
Vehicle Style: Large SUV
Price: $45,990 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 199kW/318Nm 3.3 6cyl petrol | 6spd automatic
Fuel Economy claimed: 9.9 l/100km | tested: 10.9 l/100km
Kia just keeps kicking goals. In barely a decade, it has moved from cut-price motoring to mainstream acceptance and continues to build on the quality of its cars.
Take this new Sorento for instance. The previous car was good buying, solid, well-built and a pleasant drive, but the new model has added features, a more upscale interior, and extra space.
Both in town, and out on the open road, we found Kia’s big SUV offers plenty for growing families.
- Leather trim, 18-inch alloys, eight-way powered driver's seat, hands-free tailgate, privacy glass, 7-inch TFT instrument cluster, cruise control, dual-zone climate control with rear booster fan, alloy pedals, trip computer.
- Infotainment: 7.0-inch touchscreen, 10-speaker Infinity audio, AM/FM/CD/MP3 playback, iPod compatible USB inputs, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity
- Luggage capacity: 142 litres behind third row. 605 litres behind second row. 1662 litres behind first row
From the outside, the Sorento is something of a colossus. On the inside that translates exactly as you might expect: plenty of space in all three rows.
There’s also leather trim, satellite navigation, sports pedals, dual-zone climate control with a third-row booster fan, and the increasingly essential reverse camera.
The dash, doors, and touchpoints are well-finished, with metallic highlights and glossy woodgrain trim applied liberally throughout.
Up front, the big wide seats will suit all shapes and sizes, with a powered driver’s seat to make it easy to get set behind the wheel.
Second row seats can be slid back and forth, at the rearmost setting legroom is huge, and even when slid forward adults will have plenty of legroom.
The left seat of the second row slides forward for third row access and reveals a decently-sized third row for two people.
With some co-operation from occupants of the sliding second row, adults can fit back there, but headroom is a little tighter.
Kids will slot in hassle-free, but the sweeping D-pillar can rob them of outward visibility.
Load up the boot with all three rows of seats in place and there’s 142 litres of space to fill. Drop the third row and that grows to 605 litres, or fold the second row flat and carrying capacity grows to 1662 litres.
ON THE ROAD
- 199kW/318Nm 3.3 petrol V6
- Six-speed automatic, front wheel drive
- MacPherson strut front, trailing arm independent rear suspension
- Four-wheel disc brakes
- Electric power steering, turning circle 11.1 metres
Under the bonnet you’ll find a 3.3 litre petrol V6 producing 199kW at 6400rpm and 318Nm at 5300rpm.
The eagle-eyed may note that the new engine is smaller than the previous model’s 3.5 litre V6, and down slightly on power (5kW) and torque (17Nm). That said, the new model gains 110kg, but fuel consumption only rises by 0.1 l/100km.
It’s a smooth running engine too, and stays just as well-mannered at the top of the rev range as it does at idle, building only in noise, not vibration.
Teamed with a six-speed auto, the Sorento is able to cruise around smoothly and comfortably, and overtaking is a fuss-free affair even with a full-load on board - although you need a few extra revs to move things along.
Unlike the diesel option, the V6 comes with front-wheel-drive only. Those living in damp areas, or with an interest in towing, might be better to look at the all-wheel-drive equipped diesel.
With a fair dollop of power to route through the front wheels, it wasn’t hard to see one tyre scrambling for grip on loose surfaces or in the rain. Certainly more of a problem with an empty car than with the seats filled.
Low effort steering makes navigating the big Kia in and out of tight spaces a breeze, and although over-shoulder vision is impeded slightly by the rear pillars, the reverse sensors and camera help fill in the gaps.
Urban ride is as comfortable as you’ll find in the class. The Sorento takes everything from patchy tarmac to speed humps in its stride.
Add speed as you head out of town and the Australian-specific suspension tune is unfazed by mid-corner ruts and corrugations. There’s only some mild lean through corners, but overall the Sorento feels entirely secure.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars - this model scored 36.62 out of 37 possible points.
Safety features: All Sorento models come with six airbags (dual front, front side, and full length curtain) plus ABS brakes with brake assist and electronic brakeforce distribution, stability and traction control, hill start assist and emergency stop signal.
All seats feature three-point seatbelts and adjustable head-restraints. Front seats feature height-adjustable belts with load-limiting pretensioners. Front and rear park sensors and a reverse camera are also included.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
There’s a fairly wide range of family sized SUVs out there like the Kluger GXL and Pathfinder ST-L, but both, in mid-spec FWD guise are more expensive.
A Territory TS is a decent buy, but just isn’t as large inside, whereas the Hyundai Santa Fe Elite is as close as you’ll get on price and equipment, but doesn’t offer a V6.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
It might not have all the bells and whistles of the top-spec Platinum, but the SLi makes a compelling buy with a near-luxury fit out, plenty of standard features, and a welcome price advantage over most of its similar-sized competitors.
It’s fair to say that the diesel version might appeal more to buyers for its all-wheel-drive grip and fatter low-down torque. The V6 SLi though ticks the boxes as roomy, comfortable family transport.
And, like the diesel, it can tow 2000kg with a braked trailer, horse-float or caravan.
Smooth, quiet, and versatile - and priced for family buyers - the Sorento SLi doesn’t leave you feeling like you’ve missed out on any must-have features or equipment.
For a 'middle of the range' option, it is well worth a look for large SUV shoppers.