David Motton

See other tow car reviews written by David Motton

Caravanners love the Kia Sorento and the third-gen has already impressed, but what tow car ability does it have when fitted with an automatic gearbox?

Overview

We’ve already tested the Kia Sorento manual and liked it enough to award it a strong, four-star rating. Now it’s time to discover what tow car ability the Sorento has when fitted with an automatic gearbox – step forward Practical Caravan's long-term test car.

Choosing the automatic over the manual adds £1755 to the price, and reduces the legal towing limit from 2500kg to 2000kg. Even so, is the auto just as good for towing? We hope the automatic gearbox will enhance towing, giving smooth gearchanges and hassle-free hill starts – let's find out.

Towing

On paper, the Kia Sorento auto’s reduced towing limit makes it seem a lesser tow car than the manual. However, the two-tonne maximum is still high enough to make the Kia a suitable match for most big twin-axle caravans, so in reality, the lower maximum is unlikely to be a problem.

The automatic is slightly heavier than the manual, with kerbweights ranging from 1953kg to 2107kg, depending on specification. Even the bottom of that weight range gives a healthy 85% match figure of 1660kg.

We towed a Swift Expression 626 with a Mass in Running Order of 1413kg. Thanks to an absolute lorry-load of torque (325lb ft), the Sorento 2.2-litre diesel pulled this twin-axle with ease. Accelerating from 30-60mph took 11.6 seconds.

The gears changed smoothly, helping the driver to make the most of all that power, and it comfortably held speed on steep hills and helped us overtake with confidence.

Hill starts are rarely a problem for 4x4s with automatic gearboxes and gutsy engines. The Kia proved very capable at stopping and starting on a 1-in-10 slope, then climbed it in drive or reverse. The electronic parking brake held the outfit still and released smoothly.

At high speeds the Sorento was stable and self-assured. Driven more aggressively in our lane-change test, the Kia gripped hard and changed direction promptly for such a big car. It leaned when pushed, but kept the tourer on a tight leash.

Everyday driving

Without a caravan, the Kia is very polished. Forget the rough edges of earlier generations – it is now comfortable and refined.

At motorway speeds, the Kia is secure and smooth-riding, with ample performance in reserve. Road noise is noticeable, but the Sorento is quiet otherwise. Little noise escapes from under the bonnet unless you accelerate hard. Around town you’re aware of the Kia’s size, but the automatic gearbox is more relaxing in traffic than the clunky manual.

Today’s Sorento is more at home on winding country roads than previous models, thanks to precise steering and reasonable body control. However, press-on drivers will prefer the greater agility of a BMW X3 or a Land Rover Discovery Sport.

Space

This generation is the most practical Sorento yet.

Up front, the driver and passenger have plenty of space. The driving position is sound, with sufficient adjustment to the seat and steering wheel to accommodate most shapes and sizes. The standard of finish is a step up from the previous Sorento, although choosing KX-2 spec means missing out on the colour screen, which more expensive versions have in place of dials – but we’re quite happy with dials.

In the middle row, there’s enough room for adults, even if the driver and front seat passenger are tall. Despite being a 4x4, it has no big hump in the transmission tunnel to get in the way of passengers’ feet, if travelling three abreast.

Predictably, anyone riding in the third row has drawn the short straw, but if those in the middle compromise on legroom by sliding their seats forward, adults will find short trips bearable.

Boot space is limited with all seven seats upright but, with the third row lowered, there’s a 605-litre capacity, which is more generous than many estate cars.

Running costs

The Kia Sorento is more expensive than it used to be but, for our money, KX-2 is the best value of the four trim levels. You miss out on some high-tech features compared with KX-3 and KX-4 models, but for £33,750 this is a very well-equipped car, with leather upholstery, sat-nav, dual-zone climate control and more.

You’ll pay more to fuel the Sorento than some rivals, with an official combined figure of 42.2mpg. We achieved 23.4mpg when towing. However, fuel bills will be partly offset by the Kia’s strong resale values. Expect to get back half the original price after three years and 36,000 miles.

Technical specs

Engine size2199 cc
Kerbweight1953 kg
85% KW1660 kg
Towball limit100 kg
Maximum towing limit2000 kg
Power197.0 bhp
Torque325.0 lb ft
Official MPG42.2 mpg
CO2177 g/km
30-60mph11.6 seconds
30-0mph11.2 m

Verdict

The more time we spend with the latest Kia Sorento, the more we like it. Having now towed many miles with both the manual and the automatic versions, we definitely prefer the auto. The smooth-shifting gearbox better suits the car, and makes for relaxed driving in heavy traffic. What’s more, we think KX-2 spec is great value.

Conclusion

Pros

  • It has a healthy kerbweight
  • Performance is great and it's a strong tow car
  • The automatic gearbox is smooth shifting
  • Boot space is impressive
  • It's a seven-seater

Cons

  • It's less fuel efficient than rivals
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