Good: comfort, space, quality, value
Not so good: it's huge on the outside too - and looks it
There really aren't that many full-sized SUVs on the market that come with seven seats as standard. Kia's new Sorento is one, competing head on with its cousin, the Hyundai Santa Fe, Mitsubishi's Outlander, entry-level versions of the Land Rover Discovery Sport and upper versions of the Nissan X-Trail.
But while the Sorento isn't new to Ireland, this generation is and as ever its maker promises improvement in every area. First up are the big SUV's looks. Gone is the bland and generic front and in comes a confident new nose with a stylised grille and shapely lights. The rest of the body is new too and it's longer, lower, wider and has 80mm more in the wheelbase. It looks huge though and given the weighty feel of the high quality doors and tactile handles, you'll find it difficult to believe there's been any weight reduction.
All four doors open wide and you have to heave yourself up into the cabin. That's where the Sorento really begins to impress everyone. The interior, especially in this Platinum version, is exceptional. The two-tone leather is lovely to touch yet feels hard wearing; the three-spoke steering wheel is perfectly sized, weighted and leather trimmed; and all other buttons and controls are well-damped and sensibly sited for easy use. The instruments are super clear, the touchscreen system very easy to use and quick responding and there's loads of oddment space, notably between the seats - though the glovebox is disappointingly small in comparison.
No such problems for the rear passengers as they have loads of room to stretch out in all directions. The panoramic glass sunroof helps enhance the sensation of space further. The middle row of seats slides to help the two rear most seat occupants out. While those are best kept for not-too-tall teenagers, they're not bad in the grand scheme of things. Of course, there's not loads of space behind them. Fold them flat (a simple task) and the boot opens up to a massive 605 litres, and while the load lip is quite high up, that compares well to 515 litres for the previous Sorento.
You'll be looking for reasons to fill it up and take the family away as the Sorento is a fabulously comfortable cruiser. Its suspension is cushioning and absorbent, making the big Kia as comfortable as a Range Rover at speed. Yes, it really is that good. Refinement is almost comparable too, with wind roar and road noise kept to acceptable levels and the 2.2-litre engine inaudible once you've slotted the slick six-speed manual gearbox into top and eased into a cruise. This car feels like it could comfortably lollop along well in excess of 120km/h.
Full of people and luggage it's not particularly economical though. We averaged about 9.0 litres/100km (31.4mpg) in a week revolving around a lot of motorway driving. That's reflected in the relatively high tax bill too. But then again, the Sorento has full-time four-wheel drive as standard where some of its similarly priced competitors do not and it's undoubtedly a full-size SUV. Not many of those around now and this is definitely one of the very best.