THE Kia Sorento is the seven-seater flagship of the Korean company's range and it delivers impressive quality and practicality in a value for money package.
A huge improvement over the previous model it is good to drive, spacious and is loaded with standard kit.
Just a few years ago no one would have imagined Kia charging over £40,000 for an SUV but the Korean brand has now come so far that it is able to put that price tag on its flagship model.
The current Sorento arrived in March 2015 and prices of the new range start at £28,795 and it is only the fully loaded KX-4 range topper that costs £40,995 but it just shows you how far the brand has come.
Kia is no longer just a value-driven outfit and it is now a company than can mix it with the prestige brands.
The new Sorento marked another stage in the company's drive upmarket and thethird generation model offers bold styling combined with great practicality. It boasts seven seats as standard and a quality interior.
It is only available with one engine - a 197bhp 2.2-litre diesel fitted with a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic gearbox. It is much more refined than its predecessor and is good enough to match the likes of VW for finish.
Designed at Kia's Namyang studio in Korea to appeal to customers in Europe, Asia and America, the styling is smooth and uncluttered. The Kia grille is now a familiar sight and it looks good on this car with a honeycomb effect.
While the exterior styling is handsome rather than striking, the huge improvement in the cabin is really impressive.
A large colour central screen dominates and it is surrounded by brushed aluminium-effect plastic. The soft-touch dash is complemented by gloss plastic inserts and two rows of neatly arranged buttons continue the upmarket feel. There is still a bit too much black for my taste but there is no denying the astonishing improvement.
The seven seats can be configured in any number of ways and even when the third row is in place there is still room for 142 litres of luggage. At a tug of a cord the rear seats will fold flush into the boot floor providing 605 litres of space and if you collapse the second row, a massive 1,662 litres of space becomes available.
The cabin also features storage bins and cupholders as well as charging points for the first two rows. There is a tremendous amount of leg and headroom and the panoramic roof, which is standard in the top models, provides bags of light and highlights the space inside.
Four trim levels are available KX-1, 2,3 and 4 and the two middle versions represent the best value, priced from £31,995 and £35,845 respectively.
The Sorento is high on equipment at all levels and all but the entry model feature leather. Air conditioning, cruise control, stability systems and windscreen wipers are fitted to every model and the automatic only range topping KX-4 gets a larger screen, ventitlated and all-electric seats, adaptive cruise control, a 360 degree camera system, automatic parking and a cross traffic warning sytem which alerts the driver to approaching traffic when reversing.
The 2.2-litre diesel is quiet and smooth and it also has plenty punch with 197bhp on tap. It is fitted with start/stop tech to improve economy and manual models claim a 49.5mpg return with CO2 emissions of 149g/km. The automatic version is a worthwhile £1,500 option on lower spec models and is standard on the higher trim levels.
It shifts seamlessly and makes the driving experience very relaxing. It increases consumption to 43.4mpg and raises emissions to 172g/km but most owners will think it is worth the penalty.
The Sorento handles well and the automatic version takes 9.6 seconds to reach 62mph.
The steering is light and the big SUV grips well in corners and always feels stable and secure. Three driving modes are available which allow the driver to select from Eco, Normal and Sport.
At higher speeds there is some wind noise from the large mirrors but otherwise the cabin is well insulated from road and engine noise and is a very comfortable place to be.
The Sorento is more than capable of giving the established prestige brands a run for their money especially when you factor in Kia's industry-leading seven-year, 100,000-mile warranty.