The progressive, clean-cut design that has fuelled Audi’s meteoric success as a premium car brand has many imitators but none that is linked quite as widely and frequently with it as Kia.

Having spent the formative years of his career as a designer working for Audi, the architect of Kia’s current design identity, Peter Schreyer, could hardly have prevented a little of his own Bavarian schooling rubbing off on the saloons, hatchbacks and crossovers that he has authored so boldly for his Korean employers.

And to be fair, almost a decade after Schreyer’s appointment, there’s as much that’s distinctive and original-looking about Kia’s production models as there are cues ‘borrowed’ from you know who.

But the time for imitation-based flattery is now over. ‘Phase II’ of Kia’s coming of age is kicking in with this, the third-generation Sorento seven-seat SUV. And, says Kia, Audi has as much to fear as anyone from where this chapter will take the firm.

Written large in the press material for this new car is a statement of quite extraordinary ambition from a car maker that, in relatively recent memory, was peddling models as rough and basic as the Pride and Magentis.

In this new chapter of its development, Kia’s aim is 'to match and surpass not only customer expectations but also the world’s best car manufacturers for engineering, technology, refinement and quality'. However much they’ve improved already, that’s a mountain to climb.

But apparently, the ascent starts here. The new Sorento is the first Kia designed and developed with new emphasis on mechanical and technological advancement; precision of build quality; material richness and solidity in the cabin; and comfort and refinement in everyday use. This same mantra has been passed on to the fourth generation Sportage, the latest Optima and Kia's first hybrid vehicle - the Niro.

However, does it show those transformative strides? And are we to believe that humble Kia is truly serious about leading the car making world in so many ways?

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