By Bill McCarthy
NOT so very long ago, the idea of paying more than £50,000 for a Kia would have seemed, well, fanciful. That is no longer the case, with the latest offering of the stylish, super-practical Sorento, seeming a bit of a snip when compared to the opposition.
Just like its stablemate Hyundai, which recently introduced their upmarket brand Genesis, Kia has gone upmarket.
It’s the fourth generation Sorento since 2002 and for the first time offers a plug-in hybrid powertrain alongside the 2.2 litre diesel and1.6 full hybrid and is available with three spec levels – ‘2′, ‘3′ and this test flagship ‘4′ model.
So what do you get for a price tag approaching £55k? A whole lot is the answer with this seven-seater, four-wheel drive SUV that scores close to a perfect 10 on the fashion catwalk. It also features the Kia seven year warranty.
For a multi-purpose vehicle, it’s design is more than eye-catching with large black grille flanked by smart headlight cluster, wing-shaped air curtains and stylish 19-inch alloy wheels. Longer taller and wider than its predecessor, it has an imposing road presence.
The plug-in hybrid technology mates a 1.6 petrol engine with an electric motor and 13.8 kWh battery to produce 261bhp.
It is also capable of up to 35 miles on battery power alone, increasing to 43 miles in city driving. The nominal mpg is 176.6 mpg and with emissions of 38 g/km, it is cheap to run.
Mated with a six-speed auto box, it has plenty of power and can hit 60mph in a very respectable 8.4 seconds, making it quick away from the traffic lights, but also excellent for overtaking on the motorway.
Should the going get tough, the Terrain Mode. can be deployed to select ‘Mud’, ‘Snow’ and ‘Sand’ modes. The system automatically optimises the drivetrain to best suit each scenario, adjusting engine torque output and distribution.
Otherwise, for normal driving the car is composed and comfortable as you would expect in a large SUV.
The interior has a premium feel as you would expect with a car of this price and some clever innovations.
It features high-quality soft-touch finish, using metal and natural materials and soothing ambient lighting.
There is a digital cockpit fitted as standard on all models, while a 10.25-inch touchscreen is fitted on ‘3′ and ‘4′ models, which controls navigation, infotainment and smartphone connectivity.
This range-topping 4 model also features an ear-splitting, (if your turn it up) 12-speaker BOSE premium sound system with all the extra woofer and tweeter bits and pieces.
The infotainment system also allows Bluetooth smartphone pairing for two phones concurrently.
There is also a host of kit on this model including powered tailgate, roof bars, camera, full length sunroof, heated and cooled powered seats, ambient lighting and a clever safety innovation seen in the GENESIS where the two main binnacle dials turn into cameras when the indicators are activated.
Like many upmarket models if features a rotary get selector while switchgear and general controls feel sturdy and are logically placed.
It’s a hugely practical vehicle with seven seats as standard, which split, fold or can be removed for maximum stowage. The middle row has slide, recline and 60:40 folding functionality, while the third row split 50/50. The rearmost pair are pretty substantial as well, so longer journeys can be completed with relative comfort.
It is jam packed with safety kit including various lane departure, collision and blind spot warnings, while the full set of airbags includes for the first time a centre airbag for extra driver protection.
Kia Sorento ‘4′ 1.6 PHEV T-GDi Auto AWD
Mechanical:261hp, 1,598hp petrol engine and electric motor driving fall wheels via auto gearbox
Max Speed: 119mph
0-62mph: 8.7 seconds
Combined MPG: 176 miles
C02 emissions: 38g/km
Warranty: 7yrs/100,000 miles