IF YOU’VE always seen yourself in a Range Rover but have found the length of its warranty puts you off, or perhaps you feel it’s a bit lacking in seating capacity or maybe, like most of us, you simply can’t afford it, then Kia has a car that might be right up your street.
Its Sorento has been around for a while now and some updates this year haven’t done a great deal to change its styling - but it’s still handsome enough to justify its place as the patriarch of Kia’s rapidly developing range.
Given the meteoric rise from budget brand to serious contender we’ve seen from Kia over the last few years, the Sorento needs to be pretty good to make sure it stands out alongside its siblings, let alone its similarly-priced rivals. But it gets off to a good start.
You may have noticed, now that Kia has established itself as a quality rival to even the best of the German manufacturers’ offerings, prices have crept up across the range - and the Sorento hasn’t avoided that - but there’s nothing to suggest the prices haven’t risen proportionately to what’s offered as an overall package.
In fact, the Sorento represents pretty good value for money, especially given some of the standard equipment it comes served up with - but more on that later.
Let’s not beat about the bush here, it’s big a big car.
Any seven seat SUV is going to be quite a large thing to heave around but despite its chunky, utilitarian looks it carries its bulk quite well and while its design is far from dramatic, as they are with its SUV stable-mate the Sportage, with the right wheels on and with this year’s updates, it looks pretty good.
Its interior is pretty much a function over form affair and it’s in the cabin where the Sorento feels distanced from some of the more modern Kias that have emerged recently.
Not that there’s anything to openly dislike about it. A lack of imagination doesn’t make it an unpleasant place to be.
In fact, it’s comfortable, there’s obviously plenty of space, clever storage solutions and everything is well laid out.
Its rivals might have prettier or more modern interiors, but at least it’s not clumsy or complicated.
What it lacks in excitement, it does make up for in a generous stack of equipment.
Even the cheapest variant comes with air-conditioning, 17-inch alloy wheels, Bluetooth, cruise control and an iPod connection.
Top models get leather seats, sat-nav, cruise control, heated and ventilated front and rear seats and keyless entry.
Its seven seats don’t harm boot space as much as you might suspect but don’t expect to fit too many sets of golf clubs in.
With the rear-most row folded down, storage space is pretty vast.
The rear seats aren’t entirely suitable for adults and legroom in the middle row is a bit limited but it’s acceptable for most journeys and, folding both the rows down, which is very easy to do, frees up a massive 1,530 litres.
Engine choice is limited to a 2.2litre turbo diesel that can be a little noisy when pushed but, thankfully, it offers up plenty of torque and it doesn’t need to be driven too hard to get the best out of it.
Some might find the suspension a tad soft and wallowy but in truth it’s no worse than many cars of a similar stature and it’s fair to say the ride has been engineered to offer comfort over poise and road manners -and that makes for a nice, supple ride.
The steering is vague and perhaps a tad light and you can certainly feel the car’s size at times but visibility is pretty good and nobody really expects a big SUV to handle like a sports car so its perfectly acceptable in most road conditions.
Essentially, it drives as it should. Don’t throw it into corners with carefree abandon and it will respond with all the capabilities it really needs to have on the road.
On long motorway runs, where big SUVs tend to have something of an upper-hand, it’s every bit as comfortable, relaxing and refined as it should be and wind and road noise is well insulated.
It’s when you’re cruising at motorway pace, incidentally, that the engine feels like it’s at its best.
Avoiding harsh acceleration and just letting it tick over means it remains nice and calm and quiet.
Not that many UK buyers will pay much attention, but the Sorento also has admirable off-road credentials such as a lockable centre differential.
These capabilities don’t do a great deal of harm to its economy, you’ll no doubt be pleased to hear.
The manual version should, driven carefully, offer up average fuel consumption into the high 40s - slightly less for the automatic variant.
In the right conditions you may even coax tjhe six-speed manual version into the 50s but don’t forget it’s a big, heavy car, so you’ll need to have a very light right foot.
Still, it’s not a poor showing and it’s certainly frugal enough to keep up with many of its counterparts.
Its emmissions see it fall slightly behind some of its rivals, unfortunately, and the least you can expect is 155g/km, which isn’t a tragedy but it is beaten by some more modern cars with more modern engines.
Drive a Sorento around for a while and you’ll quickly realise that there’s very little to dislike about it.
It’s not perfect but, given the value for money, I don’t think it needs to be.
A big SUV can be all the car a big family ever needs and there’s no reason why the Sorento won’t fit in with the lifestyles and requirements of any modern family.
It’s tough, rugged, big, relatively inconspicous, easy to live with and fairly cheap to buy and run.
When all this is on offer, along with the peace of mind of that excellent warranty, who really needs a Range Rover after all?
Kia Sorento range starts at: £26,695
Engine: 2,199CC diesel, producing 194bhp @ 3800rpm
Size: (L) 4,685mm, (W) 1,885mm, (H) 1,735mm
Maximum speed: 118mph
Efficiency (mpg) Urban: 38.2, Extra-urban: 56.5,
Emissions: 155g/km (manual) 175g/km (auto)
Boot space: 116 litres (seats up) 1,530 (all seats down)