Although marketed as anÂ SUV, theÂ SorentoÂ is really a thinly disguised âpeople carrierâ of the type that used to be tremendously popular…
Bus. The Kia Sorento is a great big bus. It seats seven, across three rows of seats (2-3-2 formation), in some comfort (more comfort than most buses, to be fair).
It looks a bit like an older type of bus, with that rounded window line at the back. Itâs a jolly sort of environment for a gang or a large family on an outing. Built for fun, this charabanc.
The only thing missing is some red buttons scattered around the cabin for request stops, bearing the slogan âPress once telling the driver to stop at the next safe placeâ.
The kids at the back are sitting quite a long way away, after all. It would, I suppose, suit the Rees-Moggs, though at two adults plus six kiddies the Sorento is actually too cramped for them to be transported safely from West Country manor house to Westminster townhouse, let alone to new Dublin corporate base, post-Brexit. You canât have your cake and eat it, I guess.
Although marketed as an SUV, with vaguely SUV styling and permanent all-wheel drive, the Sorento is really a thinly disguised âpeople carrierâ of the type that used to be tremendously popular. Remember the Renault Espace â capacious, clever, desirable, but now disappeared from the UK scene?
Remember, for that matter, the Kia Sedona, a more value-oriented version of the same concept, a multi-purpose vehicle that sold well but which, like the Espace, is no longer on sale in the UK.
There are a few survivors from the people carrier boom. If you want to carry six passengers (plusÂ driver) you can buy a purpose-built boxy people carrier from Vauxhall (Zafira), Ford (S-Max and Galaxy), Volkswagen (Sharan) and Seat (Alhambra), but theyâre all probably on the way out, victims of changing tastes and fashion.
Like so many creatures in the natural world, they are being driven to extinction by loss of habitat (ie willing buyers) and fierce predation (by premium brands and SUVs). The car market is nothing if not Darwinian. On the whole, the passing of the people carrier or MPV (âmulti-purpose vehicleâ, as the car companies called them) is to be deplored.
They were lighter and, thus, more environmentallyÂ friendly than their successors, less expensively engineered and complex to look after, and thus with lower running costs and longer prospective lives, and were usually a bit smaller than the behemoth SUVs that clog up city streets, country lanes and car parks.
As it happens, the Kia Sorento is actually built on the same base as the Sedona, which explains the relatively low stance, which is no bad thing, as, other things being equal we all know the dynamic benefits of a low centre of gravity, donât we?
Good. Not that the Sorento is a great handler. It only comes as a 2.2-litre four-cylinder diesel, which means that it does well to be as pleasant a driveÂ as it is.
The eight-speed automatic gearbox works OK, though I see there is a manual option, which some will favour. For what it is, the Sorento works well â relatively refined, comfortable, nice light steering, ideal for the sorts of work the vehicle will be put to; drivers will also appreciate, on the better-specced versions, satnav, driver aids such as adaptable cruise control and assisted steering, and the parking cameras. Without them parking your bus requires extrasensory perception.
The only substantial fault I can find with the Sorento is the interior. It is of good quality, but it lacks panache. It is odd, that, because so many of Kiaâs recent designs have been almost painfully funkadelic: the sexy Stinger GT saloon; the on-trend StonicÂ (a Citroen Cactus lookalike); and the Soul, which has been out a few years now but still manages to look fresh and different.
The Sorento feels much more like a throwback to the days when Kia was an exclusively Korean concern, with conservative tastes, rather than the transnational concern it is now, with partner Hyundai, boasting design centres, factories and sales all over the globe.
It wouldnât take much to make the Sorento a more obviously classy choice, and, more pertinently, justify the Â£40,000-plus price of the plusher variants.
Your Sorento will also play a little theme tune when you turn off the ignition. It sounds like a few bars fromÂ Sergei ProkofievâsÂ Peter and the Wolf. After a few years of ownership â and the Kia carries a 7-year warranty youâd want to get the most out of â that might get a bit irritating.Â I donât think you can turn it off.
The KiaâsÂ EuroÂ 6 standard diesel â the latest â and a 5-starÂ Euro NCAP safety rating also help to future-proof it to an extent; if you kept it for a decade its replacement would probably be pure electric.
Usually Iâd advise a buyer to look at the cheapest entry-level version on any range of cars for the best value, but the Sorento driver and tribe really need all the toys they can get to distract them from a long journey in the company of people (ie blood relatives) they may not wish to spend such an extended time in an enclosed space with.
Just being on a bus full of screaming school kids, in other words, but more difficult to just get off and walk.