THE booming SUV market is good news for car manufacturers and the forthcoming revised Kia Sorento certainly gives the Korean auto maker something to smile about looking into 2018.
In a very early first drive of the big SUV in Korea we were able to evaluate the new eight speed automatic sequential transmission fitted to a200ps 2.2-litre CRDi turbo-dieselengine.
The combination is very good, offering exceptional smoothness through Seoul's congested streets, sharp responses on open very busy motorways and a lot of effortless flexibility delivered in the foothills north of the South Korean capital and adjacent to the Demilitarised Zone - the boundary between South and North Korea.
Without trying to drive with a light foot but against a tight schedule we pushed it over 43mpg at best and 38mpg at worse and emissions drop from 172 to 159 g/km.
The new auto offers eco, comfort, sport and smart modes depending on a driver's inclination and a new drive mode select also changes the steering weight of the system and "learns" the driving style to blend the steering and transmission to get the most out of it in the smart mode.
The new Sorento also gets Kia's optional ‘Drive Wise' advanced monitoring technology to counter distractions and drowsiness to back up lane-assist, automatic headlights and turning lights.
There is a new GT Line S spec to replace the KX4 with four-lamp LED front fogs, red brake callipers, prominent sill step and additional badging with diesel derivatives getting chrome exhaust tips.
Inside, the top models have quilted leather seating with grey stitching, satin trimmed shift paddles on the column and highlights on the facia and doors.
An eight-inch touchscreen holds TomTom-developed navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for mobile compatibility and wireless charging.
The Sorento was introduced in 2002, replaced in 2009 and the third generation will now take total production to 1.5 million with its closest rivals the sister company's Hyundai Santa Fe, the Audi Q5 and Volvo XC60.
The recent boom in SUV sales also means it could be attracting traditional large hatchback and saloon buyers as well, said Mr Seokhyeon Kang of Kia's overseas marketing team.
The new series Sorento is available to order now in Britain but prices will not be confirmed for a few weeks and deliveries are expected in January.
Outwardly the new series is recognisable from its new bumpers both ends, LED lights, dark metallic finish to the grille, and 17, 18 or 19-inch new wheels. Sound fans can upgrade to a Harman Kardon system as well.
The five-door body style offers a choice of five or seven seats with 185ps 2.0 diesel, a 200ps 2.2 diesel or a 188ps 2.4 petrol engine and depending on choice it comes with front and intelligent all-wheel-drive, and a six-speed manual gearbox is fitted to some.
The Sorento sells in over 200 markets worldwide and the UK is the fourth biggest, with it taking about 10 per cent of total Kia UK registrations, said Alex Kim, Kia's assistant manager Western European sales.
"It's very important to us and UK customers," he said.
The latest Sorento is very roomy as before but now more comfortable, refined and economical with lower taxation, and running costs.
With an official fuel return of 43.7mpg and emissions of 159g/km the new automatic has a company car tax banding of 31 per cent.
Performance figures for the 2.2-litre diesel are 0 to 60 in 9.4 seconds with a top speed of 127mph.
The new exterior look and vastly improved interior with a particularly attractive duo-colour scheme on the test car has sharpened the eye-appeal while the improved technical features will delight all users.
The Sorento is the latest Kia to get a GT Line specification which will be added to other models in the line up.
Kia is also raising its game with the introduction of its high performance Stinger saloon in a direct show of intent to widen the appeal of the range.
In the US, Kia has been the top brand for two years and has a programme of 38 new models by 2021 with a staggering 68 revisions to existing models over the same five years.
A year before then it aims to offer 15 Eco models in its line-up including a fuel-cell car, a number of partly automated cars over the next three years and its first fully automated model by 2030.
Kia Sorento 2.2CRDi Automatic
Mechanical: 200ps 4cyl 2.2 TD, 8-speed automatic
Price: TBCInsurance: TBC
Maximum speed: 127mph
Warranty: 7 yrs/ 100,000 milesENDS