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Sorento is Kia’s new top-quality player 

IT’S been a typical start to the year in Scotland with plenty of wind and rain along with ice-cold temperatures and some snow showers.

And when road conditions get to the dangerous stage it’s comforting to know that you’re travelling in a vehicle that will get you from A to B as safely as possible.

So I was happy to see that one of my early test cars of the year was an all-wheel drive Sorento – Kia’s flagship model.

It first arrived in the UK in 2002 and this third-generation model has evolved to become a big high-quality SUV.

The Sorento is a prime example of how Kia has transformed over the years from a value-driven company to become a manufacturer of premium-quality cars.

It is a huge improvement on its predecessor – and not just in size.

The new Sorento is longer, slightly wider with a small reduction in height.

Its 80mm longer wheelbase brings improved headroom and legroom in all three rows of seats and an added 90 litres of luggage space.

And all models are better equipped, more refined, stylish and come with new technology.

Prices start at £28,795 and there are six versions – all sharing the same 2.2-litre 197bhp turbo diesel engine with the choice of manual or automatic transmission.

The Sorento, with its sleek profile, is a stylish-looking seven-seater SUV that offers lots of versatility in its roomy interior.

And you get a high level spec, even from the entry-level model.

There are four trim levels – KX-1, KX-2, KX-3 and KX-4 – all with four-wheel drive.

Standard exterior features include black side sill and wheel-arch mountings, roof rails and rear spoiler, cornering lights integrated into the foglights, LED daytime running lights, front wiper de-icers, electrically adjustable, folding and heated door mirrors with LED indicators and door sill scuff plates – aluminium with front illumination on KX-2 up-wards.

There’s also steering-wheel mounted controls, all-round electric windows, cruise control with speed limiter and reversing sensors.

Step up to KX-2 and this brings items such as chrome exterior door handles, a side sill chrome garnish, automatic light and wiper control, black leather/faux leather upholstery, heated front and outer rear seats, dual automatic air conditioning in place of standard air conditioning, seven-inch touch-screen sat-nav, a reversing camera and self-levelling suspension.

KX-3 adds a panoramic sunroof with automatic one-touch blinds, xenon headlights with automatic levelling, adaptive front lighting, eight-inch touchscreen, an eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, alloy pedals, start/stop button and smart entry system, a smart powered tailgate, an Infinity premium sound system, a seven-inch TFT LCD colour instrument display, lane departure warning system and speed limit information.

The range-topping KX-4 is distinguished by a 10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with four-way powered lumbar adjustment and an eight-way adjustable front passenger seat, ventilated front seats, adaptive cruise control, 360-degree around view monitor, smart park assist system, blind spot detection and rear cross traffic alert.

The test model was a luxury top spec £40,995 KX-4 and I liked the high-driving position in the airy and quality cabin.

With power coming through the six-speed automatic transmission, the Sorento moved smoothly up and down the gears.

It was responsive when extra power was required and was fairly nippy from pick-up, going to 60mpg in 9.6 seconds and capable of a top speed of 124mph.

And fuel economy figures are fairly impressive, retiring an average 42.4mpg.

Steering was light enough in town driving and road holding felt more saloon standard than big SUV when cornering at speed.

The all-wheel drive system delivers 100 per cent of engine torque to the front wheels but this is redistributed up to 60:40 front-to-rear to enhance steering stability or in adverse road conditions.

Travelling along some snow-covered side roads, the Sorento was never in danger of losing its grip.

Off-road driving offers a select lock mode which gives a 50:50 split at speeds of up to 25mph.

Ride comfort is good as is the quality build of the Sorento with little wind, road or engine noise coming through to the cabin while driving at motorway speeds.

Whatever your need, the seating and loading area offers plenty of versatility.

The second-row seats, with a 20:20 split, slide forward by 270mm to allow easier access to two seats in the rear

There is 132 litres of luggage space with all seats in use, 605 litres with the third-row folded and this rises to 1,662 litres when middle and rear seats are folded flat.

You won’t be disappointed in the quality and luxury of the new Sorento which, like every other Kia, is covered by its industry-leading seven-year or 100,000-mile transferable warranty.