(Pocket-lint) - Can an SUV ever be a truly exciting drive? Now in its third generation, the Kia Sorento has had more than just a facelift to bring it up to date, and while its new body and wheelbase is never going to feel like a Ferrari on the road, for carting around the whole family it's an appealing prospect.
Sat in among the likes of the Nissan X-Trail and Volvo XC90, the Sorento is Kia's top-of-the-line car. There's bundles of tech and appealing trim on board. Well, if you're willing the pay the extra for it - but even the top-of-the-range model with all the toys tops out at £41,500 compared to the entry level Volvo's £50,000 starting price.
Does the Kia Sorento get the balance of functional and fun right?
Kia Sorento KX-4 review: Lupine looks
The Sorento's face has supposedly been fashioned on a wolf's appearance (albeit minus the fur coat); we don't quite see the lupine snarl, but it's less bulbous than the X-Trail's rounded front, and there's more natural motion to the headlamp lines than something like the tech-faced, more rigid Honda CR-V.
The grille is broken only by the Kia badge, and is considerably beefier than the smaller Kia Sportage. The choice of front grille - if it can be called exactly that - is an unusual series of triangles. It's very Jaguar-esque, but not as premium.
To the rear, the sizeable rump features LED lamps, a sharkfin spoiler up top, and a broader shouldered look than the gentler front. The wolf's gone out the window from this angle, it's a little more hippo - but the form has definite function, as boot space definitely doesn't lack.
Kia Sorento 2015 review: Seat arrangements, boot space
Compared to the Nissan and Honda the Sorento is the slightly larger model: at 4.78-metres there's a lot of car to squeeze the family into. We drove two 5-seat configurations on the roads in Europe in 2015 and a 7-seat version in the UK in 2016.
If seven seats are going to be too much then the two rear-most seats will fold down into the floor giving you plenty of space for the weekly shop, or luggage space for a week away, or a couple of kids' bikes.
With the seven seats up you get a 142-litre boot space. With five seats up you get 605-litre capacity. The middle row also flat-packs (to a point) so you can move the occasional wardrobe around too. The boot spans a 1.37m width, meaning you can fit stacks in without sacrificing on comfort for anyone. The Sorento certainly serves its SUV purpose.
Inside there's ample space to feel immediately comfortable, whether driving or being carted about as a passenger either front or back. With a metre of headroom up front and exactly a metre of legroom in the second row - the far back row is a bit of a squeeze, as to be expected - it's all very light and breezy. Access to the third row is really only for the nimble though.
The optional leather seats are particularly cushy, with more electronic adjustment controls available than offered by a first class airline seat. It puts our office chair to shame - we so need eight-way power-adjustable positioning with lumbar support in our lives.
However comfortable, the car's long nose does place the A-pillar in that typically irksome position relative to driver, which isn't ideal for ambling around curvy mountainous roads. A bit of head-bobbing and you'll see through the large windscreen no problem though.
Kia Sorento review: Tech-tastic treats
On the tech front we were daubed with stacks of quality in our top-trim KX4 automatic model. Finished in light grey and black the interior looks good, complete with flourishes such as a wrap-around dashboard with stitching. If that interior colour scheme is too boring, then how about beige or brown? No, still too boring? Well, it's that or simple plain black - the Sorento doesn't cater for the colour splashes of company's the more youthful Soul Mixx.
But the tech on board adds a lick of colour to proceedings, including glowing Sorento logos in the footwells when the doors are open (good for not tripping up in the dark), digital dials and a 7- or 8-inch touchscreen centrepiece.
The digital speedometer is particularly fun too: the luminescent orange digital hand smoothly moves along, looking very elegant indeed. There's also sign-detection system which was particularly useful in foreign lands to recognise the speed limits and have them display directly within peripheral vision. All non-standard stuff, of course, but a show-your-mates feature should you fork out the extra cash.
The touchscreen to the centre, which is used for sat nav and beyond, feels responsive - plus there are plenty of traditional buttons and dials for control too. Perhaps too traditional: the air conditioning controls, which offer independent driver and passenger side controls, look a bit retro, and the angle makes it all a bit "in your face"
Elsewhere there's advanced smart cruise, plus options for lane-departure alert, reverse camera, 360-degree cameras, self-parking, and all such mod cons.
Kia Sorento KX-4 review: All the tech
Cushy seats and electric dials are all well and good, but what's the Sorento like to drive?
Well, the 2.2-litre CRDi engine (149g/km being the all important emissions) is the only one that's available in the UK, and with that pulling the steel chassis - which is 30-40kgs heavier than the second-gen Sorento due to increased size, so over the 2.5-tonne mark - lacks a huge amount of grunt.
Saying that, it's smooth as butter down the motorways, with little cabin noise or rattling to speak of, making for a very comfortable cruise. And there's enough pep to overtake those cautious drivers too.
As with all SUVs the Kia Sorento can suffer from being a little "top heavy", so you aren't going to want to throw it around tight country corners. However, it feels considerably more stable than, say, a BMW X5 on the same roads. No surprises though, this is a SUV after all, it's not going to dance around like a ballerina at this scale.
All told, we're very content with the way the Sorento glides along the roads, the comfort of the ride and the all-wheel drive (AWD) system being there to kick into four-wheel drive mode when the on-board computer feels it's necessary (manual differential lock is possible for a traditional 50/50 4x4 split).
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The Kia Sorento is a smooth ride that's clearly pitched at families that will ride in it while making sure mum and dad have some added comforts.
Loaded with tech (in the higher-specced models) it comes with all the usual toys like parking cameras, Bluetooth, sat nav, adaptive smart cruise control and lane assist.
But it's the robustness of the interior that is likely to appeal most to families. Everything is wipe clean, there's plenty of storage for all, and for those younger tots ISOfix aplenty.
And all that before we even mention the lure of the 7-year warranty.