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Kia Sorento review – tech drive (2015 KX-2, KX-3, KX-4)

We put automatic parking assist, adaptive cruise control and Kia's latest satnav to the test in the 2015 Sorento

The UK launch of the 2015 Sorento is huge for Kia; the seven-seater crossover SUV is the manufacturer’s British flagship and represents a major shift towards higher-spec vehicles, rather than the bargain basement cars that signalled its arrival to European territories in the 1990’s. Even before you climb inside, it’s clear from the spec sheet that the Sorento comes fully equipped, with a large range of equipment and technology that will come as a pleasant surprise considering the very reasonable list price.

We got the chance to test out the new Sorento’s satnav and in-car entertainment system, as well as its adaptive cruise control, automatic parking assist and 360-degree cameras on twisting mountainous roads through the south of Spain, in order to bring you some first impressions and help prospective customers decide which options and extras are worth their cash.

Kia Sorento Interior 2

The basic KX-1 trim (£28,795 OTR) includes useful additions like LED daytime running lights, electrically adjustable folding door mirrors, cruise control with speed limiter and audible warning reversing sensors, but the £31,995 KX-2 represents a significant upgrade in terms of technology. The basic stereo is swapped out for a 7in touchscreen satnav system and a full reversing camera linked to the centre console display.

That screen is bright and clear to read from almost all angles, with a responsive touch layer that never had us waiting for the UI to react to our inputs. It’s not the largest screen given the size of the centre console, but it was still large enough to be legible from a driving position and was easy enough to reach without leaning forward. The buttons on the sides let you jump between navigation, media playback, radio (a choice of AM, FM or DAB) phone control and settings menus. As you would expect, smartphones pair to the car via Bluetooth and let you make and receive hands-free calls, download your address book to the car for voice-controlled dialling.

Kia Sorento Interior 3

Kia’s satnav system coped brilliantly with a mixture of main roads, mountain passes and smaller trails on our test route, with clear and precise instructions as well as lane indicators for motorways. Spoken instructions were clear if slightly repetitive at times; we counted four notifications when turning off one particular roundabout. Maps can be set to a top-down view or simulated 3D navigation, complete with 3d modelled POIs and an optional compass. 

We appreciate the addition of speed limit indicators too, and although it did trip up once during out test drive, suggesting a road through the centre of a town had a motorway speed limit, it was accurate for every other road on the journey. It took a full five seconds to switch from daylight to nighttime colour schemes when driving through tunnels, however.

Kia Sorento Interior 4

The screen is very useful when parking, thanks to the numerous cameras dotted around the exterior. Shifting into reverse gear engages the reversing camera automatically, although a button beneath the gearstick can disable this if you wish. You have a choice of feeds in the higher trim models, with rear only, rear and side view, or a top-down 360-degree view for complete peace of mind. Audible indicators and visual warnings that judge distance help you get into fairly tight spaces, and we were impressed with how close it lets you get to other cars when parallel parking. Other systems we’ve used have been rather conservative, but the combination of camera and visual warning let you get less than a foot away.

Of course, you could let the car take over parking duties completely rather than do it yourself. A button beneath the gearstick engages Automatic Parking Assist, which scans the area around the car for a suitable space. The button toggles between left and right sides, and reverse and parallel modes to cover a wide array of parking possibilities. Once a space is found, the driver is only responsible for gear changes and pedal control; the car handles all the steering. 

It worked flawlessly during our test drive, coping with tight spaces and recognising viable spots quickly. Having to toggle between detection sides is a little cumbersome, as if you’re indicating to park anyway the car should be aware which side you’re aiming to park on, but this is a minor niggle. We’ve used similar systems in smaller cars, but it really comes into its own here, especially if you aren’t used to driving a larger or taller vehicle.

Stepping up to the KX-3, available from £35,845 OTR, marks another jump in terms of tech. Beyond welcome additions like an eight-way electrically adjustable driver’s seat, engine start/stop button, powered tailgate and adaptive front lighting, buyers also get a larger 8in touchscreen satnav system, lane departure warning system, Infinity premium sound system and a 7in TFT instrument display in place of the traditional analogue instrument panel. This is an excellent addition, giving the instrument panel a premium feel and putting important information about speed limits in clear line of sight for the driver. The white text on black background was perfectly legible in bright sunlight too.

We were expecting the speaker drivers spread around the cabin to produce a great sound balance throughout the car, and the Sorento didn’t disappoint. Audio was clearly delivered to every seat. The car does a great job of keeping exterior noise to a minimum when driving at speed, but the stereo still perfectly audible at low volumes when on motorways. That’s not to say there’s not much volume; with a window cracked passers-by are going to be able to hear your music clearly at a little over half volume. Sound quality was excellent from a paired smartphone over Bluetooth too.

Kia Sorento Interior

Basic cruise control comes as standard across the range, but the KX-4 (£40,995 on the road) takes things up another notch with Adaptive Smart Cruise Control. It’s an absolute godsend for long distance motorway driving, with the ability to set a desired speed but have the car automatically slow down should you get too close to the car in front or one pulls out into your lane unexpectedly.

The system is activated and controlled by buttons on the steering wheel, putting them in easy reach while cruising at motorway speeds. You can manually adjust your speed and the distance to maintain from vehicles in front, but otherwise you can just concentrate on steering. We’re still a few steps away from it being completely self-driving on motorways, even with the lane departure warning system engaged, as you need to keep at least one hand on the wheel for it to function, but it’s a brilliant addition nonetheless.

Kia Sorento (2015) rear

Based on what we’ve seen so far, the 2015 Sorento earns its place at the top of Kia’s UK line-up. It’s incredibly well equipped for the price and represents a step up in build and design quality that clearly indicate where the brand is heading in the next few years. We walked away impressed with what Kia includes as standard, and the optional extras certainly make a compelling case for spending the extra – particularly the step up from the KX-2 to the KX-3.

With very few other crossovers/SUVs in its price range that come quite so well specced, it will be interesting to see how it fares among the British car-buying public when it goes on sale in April.

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