WHEN Kia launched its third generation flagship Sorento model, it was all the proof necessary that the Korean manufacturer had taken the bold move from developing economically-priced cars to producing models that could compete in the premium sector.
And the more recent addition of two sportier trim levels added further to that appeal, making the Sorento a seven-seater with all the luxury you could wish for plus performance capabilities and styling to match.
The new range-topper is the Sorento GT-Line S which is powered by a punchy 2.2-litre 197bhp diesel engine matched to a new eight-speed automatic gearbox.
The car can burst from 0-60mph in just 9.1 seconds and maxes out at 127mph, achieving combined fuel economy of 46.3mpg with carbon emissions of 161g/km along the way.
The five-door GT-Line S certainly looks the business with its sporty edge. Stand out design cues include 19-inch alloys with red brake calipers, ice-cube LED fog lights, a 3D-effect grille, twin tail pipes, a panoramic sunroof, stainless steel side steps and LED headlights with dynamic bending function.
Move inside and it's impossible not to be impressed with the quality of the interior with its plush, black leather upholstery complimented by light grey stitching and ‘GT-Line' stitched into the seat backs.
There are heated and ventilated front seats, heated outer rear seats and a heated steering wheel.
Finding the perfect driving position is simple with a 10-way power-adjustable driver's seat with lumbar support and memory settings, plus a steering wheel that is fully adjustable.
And once you're sitting comfy, there's a wealth of on-board technology to be explored, such as an eight-inch touchscreen navigation system, full smartphone connectivity via Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, a premium harman kardon sound system with 10 speakers, Bluetooth with music streaming, parking sensors, a reversing camera and a smart park assist system.
Admittedly all this luxury comes at a price and the latest Sorento GT-Line S weighs in at £42,925 which is expensive for a Kia, but a clear indication that the company can compete at the highest level.
When it comes to performance and handling, the Sorento really impresses. Despite its larger-than-life dimensions, it proved agile and easy to manoeuvre in busy town centres.
Then when unleashed on the open road the acceleration, road holding and all-round handling was excellent. Motorway miles are eaten up with ease and the Sorento cruises effortlessly at 70mph with minimal road surface, engine or wind noise filtering into the cabin.
The automatic gearbox is really smooth and there are steering wheel-mounted paddles if you fancy taking charge. There are also different driving modes called Comfort, Eco, Sport and Smart that alter the way the car handles and reacts.
Being a seven seater, the Sorento needs to have all the practicality bases covered and it certainly succeeds on that front. The pair of rear seats fold flat to the boot floor when not being used and can be raised or lowered in a matter of seconds.
In the second row there is ample room for two adults to stretch out in comfort or three if they don't mind rubbing shoulders. The heated outer seats, along with window blinds in this row, are a nice touch.
The boot is accessed via a powered tailgate and has a capacity that ranges from 660 to 1,732 litres and there are plenty of convenient storage compartments scattered throughout the car, including a lockable glovebox that is illuminated, deep door pockets, a central bin and cup holders. The Sorento can also tow a trailer or caravan weighing up to two tonnes for family getaways.
Kia has packed a wealth of safety features into the Sorento which helped it achieve the maximum five stars when it was tested for its Euro NCAP safety rating. It boasts the likes of an intelligent all-wheel-drive system, high beam assist, lane keep assist, blind spot detection, autonomous emergency braking, driver attention warning, electronic stability control, rear cross traffic alert and plenty more besides.