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HomeFeaturesTop-of-the-line Kia Sorento review – A R1-million bargain

Top-of-the-line Kia Sorento review – A R1-million bargain

The new Kia Sorento SXL is expensive, but for R1 million you would be hard-pressed to find a more value-packed SUV in the luxury segment.

Its European competitors at the same price might have comparable outputs and looks, but when it comes to features and pure size this Kia blows them out of the water.

A refined diesel

Kia’s parent brand Hyundai invested heavily into powertrain technologies in recent years and in this Sorento it shows.

The engine runs smoothly and noise and vibration levels are incredibly low. At idle you can barely hear the 2.2-litre mill from inside the cabin but when you get going it still has that signature diesel rumble, although in this instance it is quiet and reassuring rather than irritating.

For such a long, wide, and angular SUV – with a relatively low roofline – the Sorento is also quick.

Getting on the accelerator at any legal speed sees the Kia effortlessly pick up pace and from a standstill it clears 100km/h in just over 10 seconds – which is on par for the segment.

A touchy throttle and a ride that is on the firmer side of the luxury segment lend it a sporty character when you’re in control, and the all-wheel-drive underpinnings keep grip levels consistent. This might explain why the first time I ever saw a new Sorento out in public the driver was speeding.

On a farm road that was admittedly in better shape than most of the tar roads in Gauteng, the Kia performed brilliantly, too.

I flicked the drive mode to “Sand” and immediately noticed that in this setting the transmission waits a little longer before changing gears and the maximum 440Nm of torque was therefore available on a whim.

On each front the Sorento excelled with its agreeable ride and well-weighted steering. It felt more sedan-like to drive than like a big SUV, which for me was a big plus.

It’s also frugal when considering its size and heft, consistently managing a combined fuel consumption of just under 9.0l/100km for the week.

Features I never knew I needed

A dependable powertrain is good to have, but where the Sorento in SXL spec really impressed was with its airy and spacious cabin.

Giving credit where credit is due, Kia implemented a few truly innovative features I never knew I needed until now.

Each aircon vent in the front has two independent air tunnels that allowed for cooling or heating on both hands and knees at the same time.

The heated steering wheel and heated and ventilated front seats were also particularly useful at this time of the year when it’s freezing in the mornings but boiling in the afternoons.

The driver seat automatically moves forward and backward as you get in and out of the large Kia to make the action even easier – and a lock button on the tailgate negates the need to lock the car with your key fob after taking something out of the boot.

While on topic of the key. Even here the manufacturer made an effort to fit solid metal buttons on the sides of the fob rather than the front, simply to make it feel more natural in the hand when using it – and probably to make it a bit more recognisable, too.

Passengers in the second row are equally well looked after with two aircon vents and four USB ports, as well as sunshades for the windows, cupholders integrated into the door armrests, and large bottle holders right below them.

Additionally, the front passenger seat can be adjusted through controls on the side of the backrest, which was extremely useful when I had to move the seat forward and couldn’t reach all the way to the switches on the other side, and didn’t want to get out and walk around.

However, the absolute highlight was the blind-spot monitor that displays a video feed in the digital instrument cluster when the indicator is on. This added another level of reassurance when changing lanes and is one of the best uses of a digital driver’s display I’ve ever seen.

It’s difficult to find major fault in this well-thought-out package.

My largest gripes with the SUV was that its infotainment system looked and performed somewhat previous-gen and it only had wired Apple CarPlay, which led to me not using this feature at all as I despise cables hanging around in the cabin.

There’s also more liberal use of plastic than in the Europeans, but thankfully everything felt solid and looked premium, and there were no creaks or groans to write home about.

Very rarely do I get out of a press vehicle and think that I would’ve loved a specific feature to be in my own car. In the Sorento, this happened more than I would like to admit.

The cabin of this Kia is a masterclass in practicality and convenience and other luxury brands should take notes.


No fewer than three times during my week with the Sorento SXL did I have a different passenger in the front seat who exclaimed in one way or another that “this is an awesome car for the long road.”

With its general maneuverability, comfort, spaciousness, and power – I would also say this Kia is one outstanding all-rounder.

I think Kia with this new Sorento is trying to chip away at the loyal customer base of the similarly-priced BMW X3, Mercedes-Benz GLC, and Audi Q5 – showing them there’s great value to be had elsewhere, too.

If the manufacturer badges were removed, I’d be willing to bet the Sorento sells better than all of them.

Kia Sorento SXL


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