Road test: the Kia Sorento EX is safe, comfy and sporty for city driving

The seven-seater SUV is priced from Dh99,900

The SUV category accounts for the lion’s share of global automotive sales these days and, in our region, this applies particularly to the seven-seat subgenre that can haul the kit and caboodle of an entire clan.

Kia first dipped its toes into the SUV segment in 1993 with the Sportage, and the marque’s crossover catalogue now also includes the Soul, Niro, Seltos, Sorento and Telluride – so, basically, a horse for every course.

It’s the fourth-generation Sorento we’re focusing on here, which debuted in the UAE mid-March. The newbie slots into a sweet spot, thanks to a sharp entry price of Dh99,900, but we’re testing the fully loaded EX, which costs Dh149,000. The flagship model’s pricing puts it up against the likes of the Honda Pilot, GMC Acadia, Nissan Pathfinder and Chevrolet Traverse.

Safe and stylish

You get an array of bells and whistles in the Sorento EX, and this includes LED headlights and taillights, a rear-view camera, front and rear parking sensors, leather seats, 19-inch alloys, a panoramic sunroof, plus a 10.25-inch touchscreen for navigation and premium Bose sound system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

The safety kit includes the usual six airbags, ABS and stability control, but you also get lane-keeping assist and forward collision assist. Flick the indicator stalk and the rear-facing camera throws up a view of the adjacent lane (left or right, depending on which direction you’ve indicated in) in the instrument cluster. It’s a useful supplement to the side mirrors.

Size and performance

The Sorento is a handy size as it takes up roughly the same road space as a Toyota Camry, yet its SUV proportions provide seating for up to seven and a commanding view of the road (which is why many buyers opt for such vehicles in the first place).

Propulsion comes from the familiar Hyundai-Kia proprietary V6, and in this application the 3.5-litre unit ekes out 272 horsepower and 331Nm, which are healthy if not earth-shattering outputs. Drive is relayed to the wheels via an eight-speed auto, and this engine / transmission combo colludes to deliver seamless performance.

The car goes from 0 to 100 kilometres per hour in about seven seconds, and has a top speed of 230kph.

The Sorento is, on the whole, a comfortable and refined package, although wind noise from around the windscreen pillars mars what would otherwise be a near-silent highway cruiser.

Cabin and seating

The cabin has an ambience of quality and opulence, even though anything that looks like metal is, in fact, plastic. There are USB ports and cupholders galore, so you can hop on board with an armload of beverages and chargeable devices and not feel short-changed.

The first and second-row seats (you can opt for a three-seat bench or a pair of captain’s chairs for the latter) are supremely comfortable and spacious, and even the third-row pews offer adequate head and legroom. That said, a small rear window means you don’t get much of a view of the outside world from the back.

Kia has been through a styling revolution in the past 15 years, with former design boss Peter Schreyer revamping the brand’s design language from what was previously a dowdy look. His shoes have been filled by former BMW design chief Karim Habib, and the Canadian-Lebanese stylist has continued to move the game on.

Sporty but for the city

The Sorento is a handsome chariot for what it is, as its visuals lean more towards sporty crossover than frumpy family bus. It has a purposeful stance on its smart 19-inch alloys, managing to look planted, rather than perched on its tiptoes.

However, it’s important to point out the Sorento is a light-duty all-terrainer, rather than a dune tamer such as a Toyota Land Cruiser Prado, as the Kia doesn’t come armed with low-range gearing or clever differentials to enable it to claw out of soft sand or deep mud. That said, statistics show the vast majority of SUV buyers these days use them solely for the urban trawl.

For what it’s meant to be – a safe, comfortable and stylish family hauler – the Sorento ticks virtually every box. It represents money well spent.

Updated: May 17, 2021 07:43 PM

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