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The latest Kia Sorento is classier and more refined than ever and is now available as a petrol-electric hybrid.
17in alloy wheels, roof rails, dual-zone climate control, 60/40 split, folding and reclining 2nd row, 50/50 split and fold 3rd row, radar cruise control with stop-go function, auto LED headlights, heated front seats and steering wheel, front and rear parking sensors, 8in touchscreen, Bluetooth, Apple Carplay and Android Auto, seven airbags including front centre, forward collision avoidance including city, pedestrian, cyclist and junction detection, lane follow assist, intelligent speed limit assist, trailer stability assist, hill-start assist, downhill brake control, drive select including changeable Terrain Mode - mud, snow and sand
1.6 T-GDi HEV 226hp
2.2 CRDi 199hp
2, 3, 4
6 and 8-speed automatic
Not so very long ago, large SUVs were seen as social pariahs, with particular boorish examples unable to show their faces outside the school gates for fear of a pasting from egg-wielding eco activists.
Attitudes have certainly changed since then, and the latest Kia Sorento is a perfect example of why.
Originally designed as a tough, go-anywhere off-roader, with as much regard for the environment as a rally of Trump supporters, successive generations of Sorento have looked to distance themselves from their origins in favour of a more efficient, more refined, more family-friendly status.
Although the latest Sorento is still an all-wheel-drive vehicle, nowadays it relies more on sophisticated electronics than heavy-duty mechanical components to climb every mountain and ford every stream, or icy driveway.
What's most telling about the latest Kia Sorento and the demands of its target audience is that it is now available with hybrid power.
In general, it's an extremely refined powertrain, especially at low and medium speeds, using the combined strengths of an efficient 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine, a muscular 59hp electric motor, and a slick-shifting six-speed automatic gearbox.
If it does have a weakness, then it is on the petrol side of things, as the engine can sound and feel rather thrashy at higher revs, with coincidental levels of vibration seeping into the cabin.
Although it's far from annoying, the engine also tends to hang on to revs when backing off the accelerator pedal; most probably a by-product of the battery charging regime.
These idiosyncrasies aside, things are impressively civilised overall, as even at motorway speeds low levels of road and wind noise do an effective job of masking the Sorento's substantial mass and bluff frontal profile.
Bearing in mind the Sorento is capable of carrying seven adults, it's all the more reassuring that the brakes are super strong, while the pedal is perfectly weighted and reassuringly consistent in its responses, making it a doddle to pull off finely graduated, chauffeur-style stops.
There's also a fluid limo-like quality to the vertical body movements, especially with the higher-specification models, which come with self-levelling rear suspension as standard.
For those seeking the ultimate in pulling power, the Sorento can be specified with an all-new 199hp 2.2-litre four-cylinder diesel, which boosts towing capacity to a whopping 2,500kg (the hybrid will tow 1,650kg). Except for some audible turbo whistle at higher revs, it's a bit of a peach in terms of response, performance and refinement.
It is also an RDE2-compliant engine, so it escapes the 4% BIK surcharge applied to older oil burners, but, unfortunately, business users won't feel any benefit as the CO2 emissions exceed the 170g/km cut-off point, so it still falls into the top whack 37% tax bracket.
Undoubtedly, the Sorento's greatest attribute is its ability to carry seven people in genuine comfort. It may only be a shade longer than the outgoing model but the space between the axles has been extended by 35mm, mainly to provide more legroom for rear passengers. What's more, the middle row of seats slide by an additional 45mm to provide better access to the two rearmost pews. It's a simple process to operate, as pressing a button atop the second-row backrest releases and slides the seats forward in one synchronised movement.
The cabin has also received a hike in quality, to such an extent that even entry-level cars have a look and feel of substance and quality. There's no shortage of tech either, including a sharp-reacting infotainment screen and instrumentation, which changes hue and design depending on driving mode. In addition, top-notch models gain a jazzy blind spot monitor system, which projects a camera-relayed blind spot view into the main instrument panel when you indicate to change lanes. Thankfully, despite all the technology, there's still a knob to control the stereo volume, and rocker switches to alter the climate temperature.
Like most motors in this class the Sorento comes with phone mirroring, and the higher-trim models feature a host of online assistance tools. These include live traffic information, weather forecasts, points of interest, and parking details, including price, location and likely availability. You can also send your intended route to the car in advance and activate the Last Mile Navigation feature, which is particularly useful if you're parked some distance away from your final destination, as a notification can be sent to your smartphone, allowing you to use it to guide you to your destination on foot.
Kia Sorento 2 1.6 T-GDi HEV 6sp Auto AWD
Residual value: 41.3%
Service, maintenance and repair: £2,495
Cost per mile: 54.3p
Fuel consumption: 40.9mpg
CO2 (BIK band): 158g/km (34%)
BIK 20/40% a month: £213/£427
Boot space: 608 litres (five-seat configuration)
Engine size/power: 1,598cc/226hp
Spacious and comfortable
Seven-year 100,000-mile warranty
Coarse petrol engine at higher revs
Diesel version falls into top BIK band
Tax-efficient version misses out on self-levelling and sat-nav