THE head honchos at Kia decided to try a spot of California dreamin' when their priority turned to perfecting a new Sorento 4x4.
Conscious of the fact that today’s SUV buyers are younger, in many cases female and increasingly want their car for family use, the Koreans looked to a part of the world where lifestyle is all important.
And with design chief Peter Schreyer, the man behind the original Audi TT, at the helm, the West Coast style gurus produced a car that’s destined to be a massive hit.
If the original Sorento was more the traditional off-road vehicle, the new re-invented model not only looks far sleeker, but is more upmarket, more efficient and far better to drive.
For starters the car now has a monocoque chassis instead of the last model’s ladder frame arrangement, making it more refined for everyday driving though it can still cope with tough conditions.
Something Kia deemed essential was to provide seven seats, though a five-seat option remains available, to satisfy buyers who see the Sorento as an alternative to a people carrier.
Not only does it succeed but it trumps several of the popular specialist MPVs in that its two individual third row seats are easily manoeuvred and plenty large enough for adults.
Back row access is also easy and light – you just pull two tabs – and when not required the seats fold fully flat leaving a huge boot.
In no way though does the Kia look like a big, bulky vehicle. On the contrary, it sits closer to the ground, is slightly longer than before and has much more low slung appeal.
Kia calls it ‘urban sophistication’ and certainly there’s plenty of that, from the cleaner engines, more refined driving experience and premium feel of the overall product.
The cabin styling is best described as simple but smart, standard spec is comprehensive and head, shoulder and legroom – including in the centre second row position – is ample.
Seven of the eight models in the Sorento line-up feature the new 2.2-litre CRDi ‘R’ diesel engine first seen in the 2010 facelifted Kia Sedona, though there is still a petrol alternative in the shape of the 2.4-litre car that kicks off the range at £20,495.
The diesel is strong, quiet and the tested model returned a fraction over 40 miles per gallon – acceptably close to the official 42.8mpg figure.
While the latest Sorento is definitely biased towards the on-road experience, it nonetheless boasts four-wheel drive in five models, all of which are capable of towing up to 2,500kg.
And standard kit is comprehensive across the range, all cars scoring high for safety with six airbags and a five-star Euro NCAP rating to go with Kia’s unrivalled seven-year, 100,000-mile warranty.
Kia Sorento 2.2 CRDi KX-2 4WD
Mechanical: 194bhp, 2,199cc, 4cyl diesel engine driving four wheels via 6-speed manual gearbox
Max speed: 118mph
0-62mph: 9.6 seconds
Combined mpg: 42.8
Insurance Group: 12
CO2 emissions: 174g/km
BiK rating: 22%
Warranty: 7yrs/100,000 miles