Car manufacturers - much the same as actors - can fall into the trap of being typecast.

Jags are elegant, Volvos are solid, Suzukis are good value and Audis are rapid, or so the stereotype goes.

Enter stage left Kia, the Korean manufacturer that’s no longer reading from the traditional script.

The third-generation Sorento has arrived on the scene to make Kia into a much classier act.

In previous years, Kia’s motivation has been to provide value cars at a highly-affordable price.

But the ambitious firm has somewhat forgotten its lines, or rather rewritten them.

The latest version of the flagship Sorento is designed to bring the curtain down on the domination of established contenders that have long been associated with style and refinement.

Indeed, Kia believes this seven-seater family vehicle is the start of a new chapter of ‘brand transformation.’ Their words, not mine.

To be fair, there’s no doubt that the Sorento is a good start in Kia’s stated goal of being a ‘world-class manufacturer of premium-quality cars.’

The 2.2-litre turbodiesel engine is impressive; power has been increased, emissions have been reduced and fuel economy improved.

It has more presence, thanks to the fact it’s longer, lower, wider and roomier than its predecessor.

And it certainly looks the part, boasting stylish lines and a sleek appearance that belies its overall bulk. The Tiger Nose grille, low-line roof rails and discreet rear spoiler add the type of sophistication associated with the prestige brands.

However, with the Sorento range starting from just under £29,000 and rising to £41,000 for this range-topping KX-4 model, Kia has exited the cheap seats and made its way towards the stalls. But can the Sorento mingle successfully with such talented counterparts and tread the boards with the likes of the Land Rover Discovery Sport or Hyundai Santa Fe?

One benefit of a more expensive seat is that you get more legroom, and that’s certainly true of the new Sorento. A revolutionised platform and an extended wheelbase create greater room in all three rows of seats - something my children appreciated during a lengthy roadtrip. The versatility of the seat configurations is superb, with the second-row seats folding flat in a 40:20:40 split and the third-row being able to be split 50:50.

Behind the wheel, the driving dynamics feel good, with the vehicle being fleet-footed and unexpectedly nimble.

Indeed, until you look behind and see the oceans of space, it’s easy to forget that you’re driving an SUV, such are its car-like handling characteristics.

In terms of performance, the engine has benefited from a significant upgrade. Combined with a smooth six-speed automatic box, it will happily accelerate from a standing start to 60mph in around 10 seconds.

Four-wheel drive comes as standard on all models and there are decent levels of torque to be had, with figures of 311 lb from 1,800rpm.

It’s a capable machine in off-road conditions and is also capable of towing. Despite the car’s rugged abilities, the interior is very classy and is undoubtedly a step up for Kia. The heated/ventilated leather upholstery makes for a relaxing experience, while the wide range of seat and steering wheel settings offers excellent adjustment for the driver.

Thanks to extra insulation in the engine bay and wheel arches, noise from the engine and road is better insulated than the previous version.

In conclusion, the Sorento has a greater range of abilities than previous Kia models. It’s still comfortable playing the role of a rugged, down-to-earth machine, but has diversified its abilities in a bid to take centre stage in a new market.


Kia Sorento 2.2 CRDi KX-4

PRICE: £41,000 on the road

ENGINE: 2.2-litre diesel

TRANSMISSION: Six-speed automatic, four-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE: 0-62mph in 9.6 seconds, max speed of 124mph

ECONOMY: 42.2mpg combined

EMISSIONS: 177 g/km

WARRANTY: Seven years/100,000 miles