2014 Kia Sorento 2.2 CRDI KX-4 Auto AWD review – Big luxury at a reasonable price

Good looks, big luxury at a reasonable price, spacious & comfortable & well-equipped cabin, powerful engine

It’s a heavy beast, automatic gearbox hesitates from standstill, no DAB radio, steering wheel doesn’t telescope out enough

Kia Sorento?

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2002 saw the first Sorento launched worldwide as a full-on SUV with decent off-road capability that included a high/low ratio gearbox for when the going got tough. With 2009 arrived the second generation model, and with a new body type Kia saved an impressive 215 kilos (465 lbs) over the previous version, partly by not installing a low-ratio ‘box. While it lost some of its 4×4 prowess, it also gained an extra 2 seats to make it a more useful seven-seater, plus the fact it was now much better looking thanks to the work of head designer Peter Schreyer.

With another major overhaul in 2012 and a higher-spec KX-4 model added in 2014, the Kia have kept the Sorento up to date, but they’re still releasing yet another update with the 3rd generation model to be on sale in 2015. Is an update that badly needed, and does the 2014 car still deliver the goods before it’s replaced? To find out we were sent a top-of-the-line 2014 Kia Sorento 2.2 CRDI KX-4 auto AWD to test and find out…

Exterior. Butt-ugly or beauty?

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I think this last version of the 2nd generation Sorento is actually a good looker. Really, I reckon there’s very little room for improvement here and it’s got a lot going for it. Let’s start from a distance. At well over 15 feet (4.7m) in length, 6.2 feet (1.9m) wide and 5.6 feet (1.7m) high, the Sorento isn’t exactly small. In fact, as you walk up to it you realise that this thing is a fair old size, and more so when you’re behind the wheel dwarfing city cars.

Still, it’s well-proportioned and there’s a bit of that ‘huge American SUV’ look about it, and visually it packs a punch. Up front it’s rounded-off with no jutting panels, up top sits the now-familiar ‘Tiger Nose’ grille, with super-bright LED running lights (standard on all specs), plus oversize vertical fog lamps on the lower half. A high bonnet-line finishes off the front and puts a final stamp on the fact that this is a fairly brutish yet striking-looking front all said.

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As mentioned above the 2014 Sorento is quite a big ol’ beast, and even from a side view it continues to impress that with a decent 185mm (7.3″) of ground clearance, huge windows, gigantic slab-like metal panels, and 19″ wheels (on the KX-4) wrapped with tyres that actually have sensible sidewalls for once (235/60 R19), bucking the trend for those ridiculous, noisy and impractical rubber-band like excuses that some manufacturers like to fit.

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Around to the rear, and it’s still interesting enough, mainly because of the cool lights which are lit in a soft (but bright) neon-type C-shape glow, and lower vertical fog lamps which mimic the fronts. In conclusion, I believe this 2014 Kia Sorento design will last the test of time well, regardless of its third generation replacement.

Interior. Neat or nothing special?

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As Kia sent the highest-spec Sorento KX-4 model, this is the one I’ll be covering. For a full equipment list of what the other versions have, take a gander here. Suitably impressed with the Kia Sportage KX-4 I tested in late 2012, I fully expected the Sorento to deliver on their flagship model. And it does.

This is a Kia, and we know by now that they like to chuck a whole lot of gear ‘n’ gadgets onto their cars, and the higher models are usually very well equipped. So, let’s start with the cool stuff packed into the Sorento KX-4, which includes: 7 seats, full leather, 3-stage heated and ventilated front seats which are also power adjustable, heated side seats for the middle row, reclining middle row seats, a heated steering wheel (possibly the best gadget on the car), dual climate control with ioniser, stylish ambient lighting, retractable rear window blinds, huge opening panoramic roof, 10-speakers with external amp and sub woofer, a 7-inch touchscreen satellite navigation system with Bluetooth, reverse camera and voice recognition, 7″ TFT (thin film transistor) LCD display in place of usual analogue speedometer, and Parallel Park Assist System (PPAS) with Front & Rear Parking Sensors.

The above isn’t a comprehensive list of what’s included on the Sorento KX-4, but you get the idea – there’s a lot of tech included. Sliding onto the driver’s seat, there’s lots of soft-touch surfaces, and the switchgear and trim looks well made and built solidly. It’s also immediately noticeable how roomy and airy the Sorento is. The front seats are wide, there’s loads of leg, head and elbow room up there too, and the switchgear is neatly and ergonomically laid-out, which easy-to-read buttons for glance-and-press type usage.

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The above-mentioned touchscreen has intelligible menus, decent graphics and a good sat nav system too. However, considering the amount of on-board tech the KX-4 packs, there’s still no DAB radio weirdly. Bit rubbish that. The TFT LCD display which sits in place of the lower-spec analogue dial for the speedo reads well and looks good, plus the steering wheel features a load of controls but they’re nicely spaced and straightforward to fathom if you need to concentrate on the road ahead. A gripe I have is that the ‘wheel doesn’t telescope out far enough, and if like me you’re fairly short yet like a relaxed driving position, this doesn’t really allow for it.

The middle row of seats give a superb level of comfort, and you sink deeply into the soft leather with an immediate sense that the journey ahead will be a pleasant one. As well as being able to recline them to a ‘favourite armchair’ like angle for a good nodding off position, the outer middle row seats are also heated for further sleep-enabling relaxation.

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The two 3rd row seats (okay for adults on short journeys, but more suited for kids) normally sit flat in the boot area until you want to use them, and when you do it’s a simple matter of grabbing the strap and pulling, whereupon they’ll slide into position in one fluid movement. They’re easily light enough to this with one hand too, which is useful if you’ve got a kid in the other arm.

Another thing: normally boot seats can be fairly claustrophobic because of a lack of opening windows, head room, and lighting, but the Sorento combats this in a couple of ways: firstly, there are big vents each side, and you can control the air speed via a 3-setting switch. The driver can turn on air conditioning to the rear, for that all-important cool ventilation. Secondly, the panoramic roof brings in a load of light during the day, and at night third row passengers can switch on their own light in the rear.

With both in position there’s still 116 litre of boot space (enough for a decent amount of shopping bags) and there’s even a hidden compartment to stow other gear away. With the middle row in place there’s 515 litres of room, and with those folded down you get a suitably large 1,530 litres. Kia show ingenuity and practicality by making indents each side of the boot for the retractable cover to sit in, rather than having to leave it at home when you’re using the 3rd row seating. Simple, but clever.

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My only real gripes: the steering wheel doesn’t telescope out enough, there’s no DAB radio, the boot cover is flimsy, looks a bit like an old sack when in place, and catches on the rear belts as you retract it, plus the boot light is situated above the cover, thus blocking out the light and meaning you have to retract the cover to see anything – a daft mistake than should have been obvious on design.

All said though, the 2014 Kia Sorento KX-4 interior is very impressive. Driver or passenger, it comes across that you’re sitting in a decidedly luxurious (and more expensive than it actually is) SUV, and aside from a few minor issues I think Kia have done very well with the cabin. Will the third generation be any better? We’ll see, but even if it is this 2nd gen Sorento still gets the job done notably well.

Engine & gearbox

In the UK, the second-generation Sorento gets just one engine – a 2.2 litre (CRDI), 4-cylinder, 16-valve, turbocharged diesel, with either a 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic transmission. The KX-4 comes only with the auto ‘box. The 2.2 CRDI puts out 194 bhp at 3,800 rpm, and 311 lb ft (421 Nm) of torque between 1,800 -2,500 rpm.

0 – 60 mph is accomplished in 9.5 seconds, and it’ll do 118 mph at the top end. Official fuel economy (UK mpg) stats are: urban: 31.7, extra urban: 51.4, combined: 41.5. The manual gives around an extra 6 – 8 mpg on those figures. Co2 emissions go from 155 g/km for the manual to 175 g/km for the auto on 17″ wheels, and 178 g/km on 18/19″ rims.

Real-life fuel stats during the test period included a long run down winding country roads with varying speed limits of 30 – 60 mph, lots of uphill sections, plus annoyingly frequent slow-down speed-up traffic, and a few heavy-footed overtakes, and it was a windy day too, which all in gave a surprisingly decent return of 36 mpg. A motorway run saw an average of 42 mpg, and if you can be bothered to take a slower journey at around 60 – 65 mph you’re obviously going to get even better economy.

All Sorento’s in the current range (2014) get Permanent All-Wheel-Drive. This is backed up by electronic stability control and management (ESC, VSM) systems should things go pear-shaped.

Ready to roll? Let’s drive!

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Fire the Sorento’s 2.2 CRDI into life, and you’re met with the familiar rumble of 4-cylinder diesel. Kia have done fairly well in muting it for the most part, but myself and others found that at idle and low-speed acceleration it’s still overly noticeable in the cabin. Once moving at higher speeds, it – like many diesels – settles into a fairly quiet rhythm, and some of it also hidden by wind noise when at motorway cruising pace. It’s not bad, but there’s room for improvement, which we’ll perhaps see on the 2015 3rd-gen version.

With a kerb weight of around 2 tonnes (4,400 lbs), the Sorento is no lightweight. However, the weightiness happens to suit this Kia rather well somehow. It’s already a large vehicle physically, and the way it rolls down the road in that reassuringly substantial manner that only a big SUV or 4×4 does gives a sense of satisfaction in a way.

In 2012 the Sorento got a major upgrade to a large amount of components, from the cabin, to the exterior, to the safety tech, and also to the chassis and suspension, which improved the handling on and off road. Up front, the MacPherson struts with coil springs and gas-filled dampers were mounted to a H-shaped frame to improve straight line and braking stability, as well as providing a more comfortable ride. The rear independent suspension (multi-link, gas filled dampers) was now attached to a rectangular subframe to ensure better tyre contact and again, better comfort.

I drove the Sorento over a wide variety of tarmac which included smooth motorways with those long undulating sections thrown in for good measure, rough single-track country lanes that are rarely maintained, fast-flowing rural roads, and masses of urban streets paved with everything from concrete, cobbles, and a smattering of nasty, overly-large speed humps. Throughout every test, myself, other test drivers, and passengers remarked at just how well it rode, soaking up the varying surfaces with utter ease and providing a superbly comfortable ride.

If you’re travelling at speed and come up to a sharp corner (those country road type) and have to throw it in sharpish to get around, you definitely notice the weight and bulk of the Sorento, but overall it’s not too bad at all and there was much less rolls than I expected there would be.

The Sorento also gets down the road decently quickly, with a 0 – 60 mph time that even the average family saloon or hatchback would struggle to keep up with. On from there, and that substantial 194 bhp and 311 lb ft of torque provides you with a respectable turn of speed during rolling acceleration, both at the low or higher end of the speedometer. Even going up long and steep hills the Sorento monsters up them without much apparent effort. It cruises down motorways with absolute ease, and makes for a superb long-distance cruiser.

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Its brakes are matched to the car’s weight well, and they knock down the speed in a suitably reassuring way with no issues. Sure, you can feel it’s a heavy car, but it’s stable enough and doesn’t nose-dive under heavier braking. Helping out is obviously ABS, plus EBD (electronic brakeforce distribution), DBC (Downhill Brake Control), aforementioned ESC (electronic stability control) and VSM (vehicle stability management). Another point is that from 2009 onwards the Sorento has achieved top marks for safety from worldwide testing groups, including a 5-star Euro NCAP rating. Good to know!

The Sorento also has the Flex-Steer system, which gives you a choice of Comfort, Normal and Sport settings. Comfort gives you a super-light feel for easy city driving, Normal for a heavier feel and better feedback at higher speeds, and Sport for a weightier turn-in. In all honesty, I really didn’t like this system on the Kia Cee’d Sportswagon I tested as it seemed a little pointless, but the Sorento genuinely benefits from it with it being such a heavy and large SUV. For instance, getting around tight town streets becomes a breeze and a very windy motorway drive saw the Sorento getting pushed around at the high speeds, but Sport mode gave more stability thanks to less sensitivity on the steering.

The Sorento also has the Flex-Steer system - KIA Sorento SX-4 Automatic 2014 car review

 

Whilst the ‘completely designed, engineered and built in-house‘ 6-speed automatic gearbox is fairly smooth overall, there’s a flaw with it, and it’s glaringly obvious. A lot of times when accelerating out of junctions and onto roundabouts from a standstill, I noticed a distinct lack of acceleration for the first couple of seconds, before the car seemed to catch up with itself and decide to haul forwards: slow… slow … slow… MEGA THRUST!  In the end, it’s a case of having to accelerate out of the above with more time to spare than you’d usually need. Not good, and it definitely needs sorting.

With 185mm (7.3″) of ground clearance, by Kia’s own admittance the Sorento is not a full-on 4×4, but more aimed at getting you down a rough lane, across a flat field for camping, across a snowy mountain pass, or for pulling off the beaten track if really necessary.

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The 4-wheel-drive system does include include a ‘lock’ mode button, which when pressed splits torque 50:50 to the front and rear axles up to a speed of 19 mph, disabling above that but re-engaging it should you go below that again. There’s also down hill brake control, and hill start assist to help things along. Having said the above, there are two YouTube videos of it tackling some tough terrain on standard tyres, and it does pretty darn well. See here, and here.

In summary though, I really like the way the Sorento rides and drives. It flows beautifully over bad sections of road, has a satisfying amount of torque and power under the bonnet and doesn’t lack for either, the handling is no more or less than what I’d expect from a modern (and weighty) large SUV, and overall it’s a very easy thing to drive in most conditions.

Price

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(Figures correct Jan. ’15) The Sorento ranges from £26,995 – £36,805, and the top KX-4 AWD version we had certainly looks and feels at a premium level – well worth the asking price, in fact. The better choice is the KX-3, as you get almost the same level of equipment as the KX-4 for around £4,000 less, and if you don’t mind a manual gearbox you can save another £2k over that as well.

The competition? Well, we’re looking at 7-seaters SUV’s – not full-on 4×4’s. Examples include the Mitsubishi Outlander at £20,000 – £40,000, the Hyundai Santa Fe 7-seater at £27 – £35k, the Chevrolet Captiva 7-seater version at around £27,000– £30,000 and the Nissan X-Trail at £23,195 – £32,145. If you want to go higher in the price range, there’s the Audi Q7 and Volvo XC90.

2014 Kia Sorento 2.2 CRDI KX-4 Auto AWD verdict & score

I’m sorry, but just remind me we’re in a Kia Sorento again, and not some mega-bucks SUV. Yes, the 2014 Sorento is that impressive, and any who travelled in it were as impressed as we were. What’s more, it’s being replaced by the third-gen model in 2015, so these version are likely to drop in price before the newer model arrives, making it hugely tempting if you’re after a 7-seat SUV with big space and luxurious comfort on the high-end models.

Let’s just hope they’ve sorted that hesitation issue out on the automatic gearbox for that new Sorento…

Do you own a second-generation Kia Sorento, or have questions about it? Share your thoughts and leave a comment below!

Exterior  8
Interior  8.5
Engine  7.5
Gearbox (auto)  7
Price  8
Handling  7
Drive & Ride  8
Overall Score  8.0 / 10

Read more of our Kia reviews here

Specs

Model (as tested)  2014 Kia Sorento 2.2 CRDI KX-4 Auto AWD
Spec includes  Tinted rear windows, Xenon front lights, LED running lights, 7-seats (leather), heated & ventilated fronts & heated rears, panoramic sunroof, 19″ alloy wheels, 7″ touchscreen with Satellite Navigation, reverse camera, Bluetooth, USB & AUX ports, dual-zone climate control, full LCD dials, cruise control with speed limiter, 7 airbags, brake assist, Parallel Park Assist System (PPAS) with Front & Rear Parking Sensors, All-wheel-drive, ESC, VSM, EBD, BAS, hill-start, self-levelling suspension, See website for more info
Options you should spec  N/A
The Competition  Mitsubishi Outlander, Hyundai Santa Fe 7-seater, Chevrolet Captiva 7-seater, Audi Q7, Volvo XC90
Price  (Jan. ’15): £26,995 – £36,805
Engine  2.2 litre (CRDI), 4-cylinder, 16-valve, turbocharged diesel, with either a 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic transmission
Power, Torque  Engine: Power: 194 bhp @ 3,800 rpm | Torque: 311 lb ft (421 Nm) between 1,800 – 2,500 rpm.
Drive, Gears (as tested)  Permanent All-Wheel-Drive | 6-speed automatic
Ground clearance, Wading depth,  Towing Capacity  Clearance: 185 mm (7.3 inches) | Wading: N/A | Braked towing: 2,000 kg’s (4,409 lbs)
Top Speed, 0 – 60 mph, Euro NCAP  Max speed: 118 mph | 0 – 62 mph: 9.5 seconds | Euro NCAP rating: 5/5 stars
Fuel economy (UK mpg), CO2  Urban: 31.7, Extra urban: 51.4, Combined: 41.5 | CO2: 155 g/km – 178 g/km (depending on spec)
Weight (Max. kerb)  1,999 – 2,033 kg’s (4,407 – 4,481 lbs)
Websites  Kia UK, Kia USA, Kia worldwide

Words: Chris Davies | Photography: Chris Davies, Matthew Davies

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