Kia Sorento: Big and smart enough
The Kia Sorento casts a big shadow and is only available as a seven-seater. Campbell Spray is pretty impressed
The lads from Kia warned me before I picked up the Sorento that the laneway beside my house would have to be widened before I got the big SUV up it.
They were joking but it was a tight enough squeeze as the seven-seater 4WD casts a pretty impressive shadow. Yet as the week's test developed, the Kia's handling and manoeuvrability became far more user-friendly than its carrying capacity would suggest.
But really this is a beast for the countryside or building site and it would be a waste to just use its formidable attributes for the school run, and such families would be more advised to consider the Sorento's Korean cousin, the Hyundai Santa Fe in two-wheel drive mode.
While the big Sorento on test was pennies off €44,000 and is incredibly well-equipped along with that famous seven-year warranty, it does compete in a very crowded market.
But the company's step up in quality does mean that it makes a very good stab at taking out some of those offerings at the premium level.
If you can live with the badge - and you should - it can beat BMW, Audi and - at a stretch - Volvo on value and driveability. The Land Rover Discovery Sport is an altogether different matter.
The Sorento does show a bit of body roll but the 2.2 gives adequate power to bring up the 100km in under 10 seconds and it just loves the open road where the added insulation makes for a much quieter ride than its predecessor.
The Sorento has been around for 13 years and this third-generation one is a very solid and stylish car with plenty of space all round.
It shows that Kia can almost match Hyundai in terms of sophistication. The company's main designer developed his skills at Audi and that firm's heritage can be seen.
There is an argument that the ordinary family very rarely needs big cars like the Sorento, but the market tells it differently. Therefore the Sorento puts together a good proposition.
Sorento takes a big step forward as Kia takes on its cousin
Kia is playing catch up with the leading players in the large SUV brigade but so too are the prices. The new Sorento has arrived with a big number of improvements and is a big step forward to compete with other premium rivals, including first cousin Hyundai Santa Fe, a market leader at this level.
The third-generation model has a new body, improved driving qualities and reduced noise levels and, surprisingly, it comes to market with a €700 higher price than the Santa Fe.
But in fairness, Kia claims their offering carries extra specification which has a price of about €2,500. The 7-seater 4x4 will now also compete with models such as with BMW X3. Prices start at €38,995 for the entry level EX model but the expectation is that the big seller by a mile will be the top-of-the-range platinum model at €43,995. Kia expect 300 sales this year and 800 sales in a full year, evidence indeed that the economy is on the way up as Hyundai has already sold over 400 Santa Fes in the first two months of the year.
The new Sorento is more practical; bigger boot, more head and adjustable leg room with sliding seats, and has a towing load of 2,500kg (2,000kg with automatic transmission) and a boot space that can extend from 605 litres to 1,662 litres with seats folded flat. The body is now 14pc more rigid as there is twice as much high tensile steel than in the previous model.
The 2.2 litre diesel engine has been tweaked and at 197bhp (441Nm of torque) is up 6bhp and 19Nm of torque on the outgoing model, giving good mid-range torque with 149g/km of C02 emissions and a claimed 49mpg (42mpg with automatic transmission).