Parkers overall rating: 4.3 out of 5 4.3
  • Two hybrids and one diesel available
  • Drive sedately and you’ll be fine
  • Performance ranges from adequate to quick

What engine options are there?

The Sorento’s engine lineup is simple to understand. There’s a regular hybrid, a plug-in hybrid, and a diesel. The plug-in is the fastest, frugalest, and cleanest, but also the most expensive. The diesel is slower than either of the hybrids, but is also cheaper and better for certain things, such as towing.

Hybrid engines

Engine Power and torque 0-62mph time
Top speed
1.6-litre T-GDI hybrid 230hp, 350Nm 8.7secs 119mph
1.6-litre T-GDI plug-in hybrid 261hp, 350Nm 8.4secs 119mph

The entry-level Sorento is the self-charging hybrid version. It combines its 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbocharged T-GDI petrol engine with a 44.2kW electric motor and a 1.48kWh battery. In everyday driving, the petrol engine charges this battery pack, allowing it to be used when less power is needed, such as in stop-start city driving.

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 few of you on board, but once at full capacity, you might be holding your breath for longer than anticipated.

The plug-in hybrid model gets more power. It uses the same 1.6-litre engine as the hybrid, but has a more powerful 66.9kW electric motor and 13.8kWh battery. This one is badged the PHEV 1.6 T-GDI, and has an identical maximum speed of 119mph, but the 0-62mph time drops to 8.4 seconds.

On the road, you certainly notice the additional power that the larger battery pack and more powerful 90hp electrical motor brings you. From rest, it pulls eagerly, even in Eco mode, with the petrol engine readily cutting in for additional assistance. But if you’re in as much of a hurry, it’s possible to accelerate smartly enough on battery alone, which makes progress smoother.

Outside of the city, the PHEV is smooth, and will make liberal use of its battery power to maintain a refined cruise. But if you need a dollop of power for overtaking, the petrol engine kicks in willingly, and helps it on its way with a decent slug of power – even if at speed, the 1.6-litre engine starts to feel quite unrefined.

Without doubt, it’s quick when it needs to be (assuming there are volts in the battery pack), but the Sorento PHEV is much happier being driven in a more relaxed manner, where its excellent refinement really comes to the fore.

Diesel engine

Engine Power and torque 0-62mph time
Top speed
2.2-litre CRDi 200hp, 440Nm 9.1secs 127mph

The 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 everyday match over the entry-level hybrid with its consistent high torque output and relaxed power delivery, deploying it’s torque well from 2,000rpm.

It can feel lethargic when worked hard, but there’s enough muscle for everyday driving so you’re encouraged to drive in a laidback manner.

Towing capacity is 2,500kg, some 500kg more than the old model. Although the hybrid makes do with 1,650kg, and the plug-in can only tow 1,500kg.

Automatic only, with all-wheel drive as standard

Every Sorento comes with all-wheel drive and a smooth-shifting automatic gearbox – six speeds for the hybrids, and an eight-speed for the diesel.

Both gearboxes are a bit slow to react from a standing start, 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.

The diesel’s eight speed responds well to throttle inputs, changing down a gear soon enough when you need to pick up speed. At least all models come with steering-wheel mounted paddles should you need to override the gearbox.

How does the Sorento handle?

  • 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 drive. 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 and PHEV have reassuring amounts of pressure.

In a typical hybrid or PHEV, you’d have a really springy pedal that initially operates the regenerative braking, before firming up for the actual brakes in a jerky manner. The steering wheel is big and has consistent weighting. In terms of handling, it’s responsive enough for you to pilot through small town roads without being in fear of scraping yourself or other road users.

The suspension setup is firm enough to stop it from wallowing side to side like the old Sorento, but not enough to jolt the occupants around. In short, it 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.