New car road test: Kia Sorento GT-Line

Korean car maker’s new offering is truly worthy of being on the short-list for family buyers in the highly competitive seven-seat, large SUV segment.

Kia claims its latest generation Kia Sorento, dubbed the MQ4, delivers 60 key improvements over the outgoing third-generation model.

We didn’t bother box-ticking each and every one during our week-long test of this range-topping GT Line but there’s no denying this newest iteration of the family-sized SUV represents a substantial evolution over its highly regarded predecessor. 

This is the first of what will undoubtedly be many models to be based on the company’s new-generation N3 SUV platform which Kia claims is larger, stronger and stiffer than its predecessor. 

That last bit is important as it means the vehicle is likely to be safer and may have better handling thanks to a reduction in body flex. 

What’s also important to the family market is the fact the Sorento’s freshly redesigned body is larger and has been designed to maximise both passenger and cargo space. 

The new package also accommodates Kia’s latest generation Smartstream engines which promise improved fuel efficiency, lower emissions, and enhanced performance.

Debuting here in AWD versions only is a new all-alloy four-cylinder, 2.2-litre turbo-diesel that musters a strong 148kW/440Nm and delivers economical combined cycle fuel consumption of 6.1L/100km.

The engine is impressively smooth and delivers satisfyingly strong response, especially at low and middle revs, ensuring great all-round drivability.

Kia Sorento GT-Line.

It’s mated to Kia’s latest eight-speed wet double-clutch automated-manual transmission driving through an active part-time all-wheel-drive system with lock mode.

The auto box works smoothly with well-timed ratio changes while paddle shifters allow manual shift control for a sportier drive. 

Noise suppression is very good and there’s little evidence from inside the cabin of the diesel heart beating up front.

In fact, the whole powertrain has a smooth and refined feel that sits well with the cabin’s premium ambience.

So too the Sorento’s dynamics which are suitably polished so as to deliver an engaging drive experience by class standards while remembering the need to balance comfort with ride and handling. 

Standard features like mood ambient lighting (with 64 selectable colours), quilted Nappa leather seat coverings, leather-bound steering wheel, soft-touch trims and piano-black highlights give the interior a stylish look and a quality feel that elevates the Sorento GT-Line above family-hack status.

There’s lots more too, including heated and ventilated front seats with 14-way power adjustability for the driver and 10-way adjustments for the passenger.

Passengers in the heated and sliding second row are also well catered for with generous space and comfortable pews, at least in the outer positions. 

Kia Sorento GT-Line.

The centre seat’s firm and narrow backrest makes it markedly less desirable. 

The kids-only fold-away third row is reasonably easy to access, Kia having incorporated switches on the outside of the second-row seat cushions that easily tilt and slide the second row, enabling convenient access to the back seat.  

There are many other practical touches throughout that will no doubt win the Sorento valuable brownie points with families. 

They include five child restraint points spread across the second and third rows, with the outer two in the second row also ISOFIX capable.

There’s also powered USB ports in all rows, pull-up window sunblinds for row two, cup holders in all rows (ideally located in the door armrests for the centre row), inductive phone charging, climate control for all rows, a power tailgate, and a full-size alloy spare wheel. 

Also worth highlighting is Kia’s innovative Driver Talk in-car intercom which uses a microphone to allow the driver’s voice to be played through the rear speakers, enabling parents to more effectively communicate with passengers in the rear-most seats.

Infotainment is covered off with an Apple CarPlay and Android Auto enabled 10.25-inch touchscreen system with navigation. 

It’s complemented by a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and an 8.5-inch colour head-up display ahead of the driver. Audiophiles will also appreciate the 12-speaker Bose audio system and digital radio.

Kia Sorento GT-Line.

The new Sorento also ups the ante on safety and advanced driver assistance systems with a lengthy list of standard items, the acronyms for which read like alphabet soup. 

Included are front centre airbags, an Australian first for the large SUV segment, providing additional protection by preventing the heads of front seat occupants coming together during a collision.

Another feature, safe exit assist detects vehicles approaching from the rear and provides a visual and audible warning if someone attempts to open a door, potentially causing a collision.

It’s a great feature in any vehicle but especially one where children are likely to be exiting frequently. 

Another gee-whiz feature that’s reserved for the generously equipped GT-Line is remote smart parking assist which enables the driver to remotely start and move the Sorento in or out of a front-and-back parking slot using only the key fob. 

The technology is likely to cause a few double-takes when seen in use but is designed to allow ease of entry and exit in tight parking spaces. 

Inbuilt safety systems ensure that the brakes are automatically applied if a person or object is detected in the moving vehicle’s path. 

Summing it up, this safer, smarter, quieter, more refined, more spacious, better finished, and more dynamic Sorento is an accomplished vehicle that has been improved in many key areas. 

Key stats

MLP: $63,070.

ENGINE: 2.2-litre turbo-diesel, four cylinder.

ANCAP CRASH RATING: Not rated. 

FUEL CONSUMPTION (combined cycle, litres/100km):  6.1L/100km (159g/km CO₂).

FOR: Family friendly and practical; nicely refined; well-equipped; strong on safety and technology; enjoyable to drive.

AGAINST: Row three is best suited to kids.