Parkers overall rating: 3.9 out of 5 3.9
  • One petrol-electric hybrid and one diesel from launch
  • Drive sedately and you'll be fine
  • Plug-in hybrid with more power on the way

The Sorento is available from launch with a self-charging hybrid, combining a 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol to a 44.2kW electric motor and a 1.48kWh battery.

Badged 1.6 T-GDi HEV, the combined power is 230hp and 350Nm of torque. It takes 8.7 seconds to get from 0-60mph and top speed is 119mph.

The electrical assistance at low revs is very welcome, disguising this small engine in a large car quite well around town. This is thanks to a sharp enough response from the electric motor at low speeds, which also avoids being neck-jerking for the six other occupants.

Once you leave town, however, it struggles to disguise the weight the faster you go. You can gently cruise up to the national speed limit with little fuss, but once you need to overtake or get up to speed on a motorway slip road, this engine will be throwing a tantrum quickly. There’s no escaping from this small engine having to deal with a two-tonne kerb weight.

That’s not to say you’ll need to plan too far ahead when there’s a couple of you on board, but once at full capacity, you might be holding your breath for longer than anticipated.

The familiar 2.2-litre CRDi unit with 200hp and 440Nm ft of torque takes 9.1 seconds to get from 0-60mph and has a top speed of 127mph.

The diesel instantly feels like a better match with its high torque output and relaxed power delivery, deploying it’s torque well from 2,000rpm.

What’s also improved is the towing capability over last diesel model, with a braked towing weight of 2,500kg is up from 2,000kg over the outgoing model, but the hybrid is 1,650kg.

A plug-in hybrid model arrives later this year which uses the same petrol engine, but has a more powerful 66.9kW electric motor and 13.8kWh battery. Power and torque figures climb up to 262bhp and 258lb ft.

Automatic only, with all-wheel drive as standard

What all Sorentos come with, however, is all-wheel drive and a smooth-shifting automatic gearbox – six speeds for the hybrids, and an eight-speed DCT for the diesel.

Both of these engines suffer from a brief delay as the gearbox wakes up for that burst of acceleration but the diesel’s biggest plus point is the sustained torque delivery when you need to get going - the hybrid can leave you floundering when the electrical assistance has gone. At least all models come with steering-wheel mounted paddles should you need to override the gearbox.

Handling

  • Safe, composed handling
  • It's hardly exciting, but that's not the point
  • All-wheel drive on all models benefits traction

Given this is one of the larger SUVs among its rivals, the Kia Sorento is very easy to pilot.

The controls are easy to use without being completely numb - the brake pedal in the diesel is extremely light and highly assisted, but the hybrid has a reassuring amount of pressure. In a typical hybrid, you’d have a really a springy pedal that initially operates the regenerative braking, before firming up for the actual brakes in a jerky manner.

The steering wheel is a nice size with consistent weighting and it’s responsive enough for you to pilot through small town roads without being in fear of scraping yourself or other road users.

The chassis setup is firm enough to stop it from wallowing side to side like the old model, but not enough to be jolting the occupants around. In short, the Sorento doesn’t feel like a tank.

Trying to drive the Sorento fast like a hatchback won’t necessarily upset the large SUV but it’ll just feel clumsy, so it’s best to drive it in a relaxed manner.

There are plenty of drive modes to choose from, all selected by a rotary dial arranged in a similar fashion to Land Rover’s Terrain response. You get a choice of Eco, Sport and Smart (plus an additional Comfort mode on the diesel), which adjusts throttle and steering response. Sport brings regenerative braking while Eco lets you coast.

Off road modes include Snow, Mud and Sand. It’s unlikely to bother a Land Rover Discovery Sport on the rough stuff, but it should prove more than capable for most needs.

Higher-spec 3 and 4 also come with self-levelling rear which will aid towing.