The Kia Sorento is a serious off-roader but it won't break the bank
If you thought running a full-size SUV would break the bank, think again. The entry-level Kia Sorento KX-1 will cost 72 pence per mile, and while that makes it the most expensive choice here, drivers pay the same amount to run a Vauxhall Insignia 1.8 SRi.
Yet despite its low running costs, the Kia is a serious off-roader. The clever four-wheel-drive system can automatically direct power to the axle with the most grip, while the electronic centre differential lock can maintain a 50:50 torque split in rough conditions. What’s more, hill descent control takes the strain when tackling slippery downhill stretches.
The Sorento looks the part, too, with an aggressive front end, bold detailing and tough lower body mouldings. There’s nothing rough and ready about the interior, though. It feels surprisingly upmarket, with an attractively styled dashboard, decent-quality materials and solid construction. Even the fake wood trim looks good.
A further highlight is the car’s flexibility. A seven-seat layout makes it an ideal choice for big families, while folding the third row of seats flat gives a healthy 531 litres of luggage capacity. Equally impressive is the car’s on-road performance.
Safe, predictable handling, light controls and a high-set driving position help the Kia to inspire confidence. The 2.2-litre diesel provides strong urge and promises 40mpg-plus.
The only fly in the ointment is the 177g/km CO2 output. But even this can be overlooked when you consider the superb seven-year warranty. Not many cars can make tackling the rough stuff so painless.
WHY: Pence per mile: 72.0
* Price: £24,995 (£23,495 until 31 December 2011)
* Engine: 2.2-litre 4cyl diesel
* Power: 194bhp
* Transmission: Six-speed manual, four-wheel drive
* Economy/CO2: 42.8mpg/177g/km
* 0-62mph: 9.2 seconds
* Standard equipment: Air-conditioning, iPod connection, 17-inch alloy wheels, trip computer, leather-trimmed steering wheel