Lizzie Pope
Digital Editor

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The expert team at Practical Caravan reviews the Kia Sorento 2.5 CRDi XS, which with more power and improved dynamics than its predecessor, promises much

Overview

Although the previous version of the Kia Sorento looked like a Mercedes-Benz M-Class, it proved that it was not a cheap imitation. It was overall winner of last year's Caravan Club Towcar of the Year and remains a favourite among caravanners for its good towing dynamics and low price.

Now Kia has revised it, giving it more power, better suspension and sharper steering. Inside, there is a more user-friendly instrument panel. But is the new Sorento such a big improvement on its predecessor? We've put a lot of miles on a 2004 model, so we're well-placed to compare the two.

Towing

We rated this four out of five for towing. One of the old Sorento's best features was its 2.5-litre turbodiesel engine, which pulled strongly through the gears and offered lots of low-down torque. Power has now been boosted by 30bhp and torque increased to 289lb ft from 232lb ft. This gives it far more muscle than most rivals, such as the Hyundai Santa Fe and the Nissan X-Trail. This extra torque kicks in higher up in the rev range than on the old version.

There is little turbo lag between when you hit the accelerator and time the turbocharger starts. The automatic five-speed gearbox works well when towing and doesn't hunt for gears on hills – the manual override allows for engine breaking down steep inclines.

A high kerbweight lets the Sorento take on heavy caravans. It is very stable with our long-term Lunar Quasar, although the suspension transmits nudges and shunts from the caravan to the car. However, the improved suspension set-up keeps the new Sorento more settled than the outgoing version.

Everyday driving

So it tows well, but how about when driving solo?

While the old Sorento's ride was floaty, the new version, with its Porsche-tuned suspension, feels rather choppy over rough roads. However, cornering is much better, with the firm suspension reducing body roll. Steering has also been improved – it's still light, but it's now more direct and accurate.

One of the strengths of the old car was its responsive turbodiesel engine. The new engine in this Kia is smooth and quiet when cruising, as well. The model we tested was mated to the H-matic five-speed automatic. Changes were smooth, but the gearbox often did not know what gear to select on corners. XS (as tested) and XT models have full-time, four-wheel drive, incorporating the Active Torque Transfer system. This transfers optimum drive between front and rear wheels according to conditions. In the XE, all-wheel drive is activated when needed.

Space

The interior of this Kia is solidly built and well finished, from the leather upholstery to the high-quality plastics on the dash. The gauges are clearly set out and the dials get a touch of class with a new chrome trim. Overall, the cabin is functional rather than luxurious.

The driving position is good, as is the visibility all around. The front seats were reshaped to allow a bit more legroom for rear-seat passengers. The rear seats fold right down to create a flat load area, and while the suspension turrets intrude into the load space, it can still hold 1849 litres of cargo. This beats such rivals as the Nissan X-Trail, which has a 1841-litre max.

Running costs

Depreciation on the auto-gearbox Sorento is 48%, which is not as bad as initially feared. There is a ready market for those who want to get their hands on this competent tug.

The Kia is competitively priced when new. With prices starting at around £20,000, you could buy one for the cost of depreciation of more prestigious 4x4s. The model we tested came with climate control, cruise control, and 16-inch, five-spoke alloy wheels, for £24,095.

Running the Sorento is not all that expensive either. The diesel auto returns 33.6mpg combined solo – when towing the Lunar Quasar, it gets 22mpg, which is not bad for an all-wheel-drive of this size. The prices for servicing and parts are also low.

Last year, Kia won the 4x4 section in the J D Power customer satisfaction survey. This was partly due to the dealerships, which were said to be friendly and helpful. But some of our readers have complained of poor dealer service.

Technical specs

Torque289.0 lb ft
Official MPG33.6 mpg

Verdict

Overall, the Practical Caravan tow car review team felt that the Kia Sorento is a no-nonsense tow car for the discerning buyer who is not brand-conscious. With a kerbweight of well over two tonnes, the Kia offers good towing ability and solid build quality. Although the ride and the vague steering have been addressed, they are still not quite good enough to earn the car a full five stars. However, it offers an awful lot of tow car for your money.

Conclusion

Pros

  • Running costs are very reasonable
  • The engine pulls strongly when towing

Cons

  • The suspension is a bit choppy on rough roads
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