2018 Kia Sorento V6
(4 / 5)
Need seven seats but don’t plan on heading off-road? Step this way – Kia has the SUV for you.
“Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.”
We’ve all heard that saying before, and it can apply as much to ice-cream as it does to cars.
So when someone says they’re looking for a seven-seat SUV and the Kia Sorento V6 is on their shopping list, don’t mock them – it’s a very good machine indeed.
If you plan on going off-road, then, of course this isn’t the vehicle for you. You’ll want the Toyota Prado for that. But you’ll pay handsomely for the privilege, because the Sorento is around 25 per cent cheaper.
But let’s be honest, how many Sorento owners do you know that will go off-road? Even the ones that have all wheel drive have probably never seen a grain of beach sand in their lives.
So, for day to day transport, unless it’s snowing or regularly flooding where you live, then driving the front wheels only may be okay. It’s even more okay when it’s this V6 powering it.
Engine and transmission
The V6 petrol motor is only made as front-wheel-drive, while the turbo-diesel four-cylinder models are AWD. And while we’re fans of Kia’s 2.2-litre diesel, the oily fuel is a bit on the nose at the moment, so it was with some relief we were handed a punchy petrol.
The 3.5-litre six-cylinder produces 276hp (206kW) and 247 lb-ft (336Nm) of torque, which is more power but less torque than its diesel counterpart, but in this application, it’s just enough.
The V6 is matched to a very competent eight-speed auto, but with that much power running through only the front wheels, it’s quite easy to chirp them if you’re a bit too aggressive in taking off from the lights.
A little self-control may be required to not make a fool of yourself.
This SUV is very quick on the roll, even when loaded up with six or seven passengers, and overtaking is a breeze thanks to enough power and the smooth but decisive eight-speed auto.
But the best part about it is the smoothness. When idling, it’s silent and completely vibration-free, to the point where you’ll wonder whether it’s running or not.
Because it’s a large V6 and there are no turbos, it’s not exactly economical. Kia lists the city-bound figure at 14.2-litres/100km, which is V8 territory. But in actual use, we found that our city-driving usage was around 13.5L/100km. A bit better, but not great.
And when you consider that the diesel offers the same cycle at 9.2L/100km, you can see why a lot of folks opt for the oil-burner.
On the plus side, the V6 only requires 91RON, unlike so many other vehicles these days, which must have premium to run properly. And with a 71-litre tank, it’s not a huge burden when you need to fill it from empty.
As the base model, our test car was fitted with the smallest wheels in the range. At only 17-inches, you’d be forgiven for thinking that it would be a little boaty when turning into a corner.
However, it happily threads through curves without ploughing into understeer. And that’s despite power only running through the front wheels.
Okay, the handling certainly isn’t segment leading, but it will corner without falling over, which is exactly what Sorento buyers both need and want.
What is a surprise is how well the Sorento rides. On 17s, the suspension compares with air-suspended cars. It’s honestly that good. The way it smothers bumps is supreme, and the overall ride and handling balance is excellent.
The steering may be electric, but Kia has endowed it with a good heft, so you don’t feel like you’re playing a video game. And even in the various drive modes, the weighting still feels quite good.
Dynamically, the Sorento is competent, and that will suit its target audience just fine.
Open the doors are you’re greeted with a spacious interior, but one that doesn’t break the mould design-wise.
The plastics used are fine, but you can see that Kia has tried to make it feel more premium than it looks. The fake stitching across the dash, for example, is meant to imitate a leather trim, but it would have been more convincing leaving it as a plastic dashtop.
Some of the surfaces could be a little less glossy, and the all-black colouring does get a little much. Thankfully, the glasshouse does let in a lot of light, so it never feels too cramped.
The seats are covered in an easy-clean fabric, and they have excellent padding and good shaping, so they aren’t too flat.
The second row has heaps of headroom and legroom, and even more space can be availed if the bench (which splits 60/40) is slid backward.
What’s the 3rd row like in a Kia Sorento?
But if you’re carrying people in the third row, you can slide them forward slightly to allow more legroom for seats six and seven. Getting in and out of those seats is a bit of a mission, so try not to relegate Grandma to the back seats.
Suprisingly, adults can sit in the back row as well, as long as they are happy to not try to sit against the headrest – the roof lining curves down a little too much to make tall people comfortable. Kids, though, will be fine, which again, is the target market for the Sorento.
Here’s the deal
Sure, a Kia Sorento isn’t the most exciting vehicle to drive around, or to be seen in, but it’s definitely not boring.
If you’re carrying seven people all the time then you’re probably better off with a people-mover like the Kia Carnival.
But if it’s a crossover that you want and you need the option for six or seven passengers occasionally, then the Sorento is an excellent option.
The Sorento offers heaps of room for the same price as some midsize SUVs like Mazda’s CX-5, for example. When you put it like that, the Sorento’s room-for-cash argument is very strong.
We’d still look closely at a diesel AWD Sorento for a few grand extra, which gives you all the ride comfort and space, but will be cheaper to run, and has a bit more pull when loaded up, thanks to the extra torque.
Still, the Sorento’s trumpcard is the Kia warranty. Seven years, unlimited kilometres, and seven-years roadside assist – it’s hard to beat that.
As a good, honest machine that does exactly what you expect, the Kia Sorento is well worth a look. Like we said, don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.