A world of options. If you’re planning to visit a Kia showroom and enquire about a Sorento, ask the salesperson for a coffee before they start wading through the innumerable permutations available. This is a complex range, with multiple trims and powertrains alongside loads of options.

The elevator summary is this: the Sorento comes in gas, hybrid and plug-in hybrid variants. There are eight trim levels, from LX to the clumsily-named X-Line SX Prestige. You can choose from FWD or AWD (except on plug-in hybrids, where the latter is standard) and six or seven seats, with prices ranging from around $30,000 to $52,000.

Lots going on under the hood. The base 2023 Sorento is best to be avoided since its 191 hp gas engine makes a lot of noise but delivers precious little in terms of performance. From here, things get more complicated. The 281 hp turbocharged gas engine is much faster, but it’s not a good match with the eight-speed automatic transmission that practically counts on its fingers before deciding which gear to drop into when the accelerator is prodded. Smoother progress can be achieved with the 227 hp hybrid, while the plug-in hybrid spits out 261 hp and feels livelier still.

Even here, though, there are complications. The suspension generally works well but hybrid models experience more audible thumping, especially when the gas engine is disengaged. Being able to access more power also accentuates the disappointing steering, which is bereft of feel and gives the driver little confidence about navigating an approaching bend. At least greener versions improve on the disappointing 24 MPG combined economy served up by AWD gas models; an AWD hybrid will return 35, while plug-in models can travel over 30 miles on battery power while returning 79 MPGe.

Beauty is only skin deep. The Sorento’s cabin looks great at a glance, but prolonged exposure reveals a number of cost-cutting disappointments. Foremost among these is the abundance of low-grade plastics, while embossed trim purports to be quilted leather. The dash is initially striking but ultimately fussy, and light fabric colors won’t wear well if you regularly transport children or pets.

However, there are plenty of positives internally. The front two rows offer exceptional space, with 41 inches of legroom in the back – specify captain’s chairs, and your middle-row occupants will find it hard not to look smug. The third row has just under 30 inches of legroom, which is far in excess of what you’d find in a Mitsubishi Outlander, for instance. With the third row stowed, cargo capacity stands at 40 cubic feet, which is decent enough even if the wheel arches eat into available space.

2023 Kia Sorento Interior

Decent equipment, but rivals offer more. While it’s always reassuring to see an SUV equipped with automatic emergency braking across the range, it’s disappointing that features like blind-spot monitoring and a surround-view camera system are optional. That’s particularly true given the lack of three-quarter vision. We’d forgive that if safety was top-drawer, but the NHTSA has only given the Sorento a four-star rating, and the IIHS fails to give it a top rating unless your chosen Sorento has the premium LED headlights fitted.

In terms of other standard equipment, S models receive an eight-inch touchscreen with wireless smartphone mirroring and alloy wheels, but EX adds everything from heated front seats to blind-spot monitoring. By the time you reach the flagship SX Prestige trim, you’re looking at ventilated front seats with 14-way power adjustment and a Bose audio system.

Final thoughts. With so many trim, transmission and drivetrain options to consider, it’s hard to draw a conclusion that encompasses the whole Sorento range. On the plus side, you can truly make this SUV your own. On the minus side, model-specific drawbacks don’t necessarily apply to the entire range. So here’s our take: avoid the gas engines and go for the hybrid. It’s considerably cheaper than its plug-in sibling but delivers superior fuel economy and better road manners than the gas engines – noise notwithstanding.

If you avoid base S trim, you’ll benefit from a spacious six-seater cabin where at least four occupants will be cosseted and comfortable. The ride is a strong point, and Kia’s five-year/60,000-mile warranty is a welcome bonus on top of reasonable pricing. Just be aware that you’re not buying the safest SUV on today’s market, and nor are you getting a car that advances the sector in any regard. It’s fine, but rivals like Hyundai’s Santa Fe do it all better.

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