Is the handsome Kia Sorento a decent match for its frugal diesel engine?

It wouldn’t be too cruel to say that not too long ago, the idea of Kia making a highly desirable, premium SUV would have raised more than a few eyebrows. Yet you only have to spend a moment in the presence of the Sorento to know that this is a handsome, quality car that could go toe-to-toe with more expensive machinery.

While the big news in the current climate is that there’s a plug-in hybrid version, we’ve been behind the wheel of the diesel. Because despite sales of diesel-powered cars nosediving, it does make sense in larger vehicles. The question we’re going to answer today is whether Sorento buyers travelling longer distances regularly should still plump for the diesel.

This latest generation of Sorento is wider and longer than the car it replaced, and is therefore unsurprisingly more spacious inside, too. On the powertrain front there are self-charging and plug-in hybrids as well as the diesel we’re testing, with a new eight-speed dual clutch transmission.

Photos: PA Media

There’s also that bold new look that previews the styling direction of future vehicles from the brand, while fine tuning is said to reduce road and wind noise. Inside it has upgraded kit and high quality materials, with seven seats fitted as standard.

Our test car is powered by the 2.2-litre diesel engine, which has 199bhp and 440Nm of torque. It’s the slowest unit in the Sorento range, taking 9.1 seconds to get from 0-60mph, though it has the highest top speed of 127mph. More importantly, it has a healthy 42.2mpg fuel economy rating and CO2 emissions of 176g/km.

It’s an impressively refined unit, subtly chugging at lower speeds but softening into the background once up to speed. That high torque number makes itself known as although the acceleration numbers might not be too thrilling, it’s perfectly capable of surging up to speed on motorway on-ramps or when pulling off overtakes.

The Sorento feels at its happiest at motorway speeds or gliding effortlessly along wide open country roads. The suspension is softly sprung so it’s comfortable even when the road quality begins to deteriorate, while that refined engine lulls you into a relaxed driving manner.

However, this is not a small SUV, and although it doesn’t lean too much in corners given its size and comfort levels, it doesn’t naturally slot into urban life. If you’re buying a Sorento for the school run and said school is in the city, it might feel a bit like overkill, as navigating tight streets can take quite some concentration.

That being said, once you’re acclimatised the steering is light enough that it doesn’t feel too unwieldy and that comfortable ride quality impresses at all speed.

If you remember the old Sorento, you might look at this new one and be shocked they can even share a name. That car was far from unattractive, but it had nondescript styling that blended into the background. The new one has a bold look, with sharp lines that give it a truly premium appearance.

At the front is an updated version of Kia’s Tiger Nose grille, which wraps around the full width of the car and incorporates the headlights with LED daytime running lights. Kia says the styling has been designed to make the car look even bigger than it is, thanks in part to the longer wheelbase and the vertical taillights.

The premium appeal continues inside, as Kia has brought in some high quality materials and clean design that wouldn’t look too out of place in the price bracket above. Arguably the touchscreen’s graphics and the piano black plinth it stands in are the only things that let the side down.

But aside from that the rest is positive. It’s incredibly spacious, with loads of useful cubby holes for all kinds of things and stuff. Those in the middle row will have more than enough room, though the rear-most seats are generally best reserved for smaller children.

Kia is really onto a winner with the new Sorento. True, few families necessarily need a car this big, but if you’ll genuinely make use of the space and want something that feels premium as well as providing good value for money, the Sorento should be high up your shopping list.

The diesel engine isn’t outstanding but it gets the job done, and is an excellent alternative for those who do lots of motorway miles in an age where many manufacturers are pulling this option off the table.

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