The Sorento is the first Kia to use the Hyundai-Kia Group’s new N3 model platform, which has enabled it to grow slightly and its proportions to change a little.

Crucially, it has also allowed Kia to accommodate the necessary components of both hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions of the car while keeping both a mechanical four-wheel drive system and, in all derivatives, a seven-seat cabin layout. That’s no mean feat – and one that plenty of better-established European premium car brands can’t yet equal with their rivals for this car.

Stretching the Sorento’s wheelbase has meant pushing the front axle forward and creating a longer bonnet and a bigger ‘premium gap’ between the front axle line and the base of the windscreen

The chassis is still made almost exclusively of high-strength steel, although aluminium now crops up in it in a handful of places. Kia also says it’s slightly lighter and stiffer than that of the third-generation Sorento, which, considering the car’s dimensions, is commendable too.

Now measuring 4810mm in length, 1695mm in height and 1900mm in width without mirrors, the Sorento continues to sit between mid-sized and full-sized SUVs for outright size. On length, then, it’s between a Land Rover Discovery Sport and a Discovery, although a slightly closer match for the latter, as its visual presence and bulk now more explicitly than ever suggests.

Whether you opt for Kia’s new lighter, aluminium-blocked, 199bhp 2.2-litre diesel engine or its 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol hybrid option, the engine is mounted transversely under the bonnet and drives all four wheels through a hydraulic coupling.

In the case of the hybrid, the engine is ‘sandwiched’ alongside a 59bhp electric motor that contributes to system output peaks of 226bhp and 258lb ft. In the plug-in hybrid, which is expected to join the UK showroom range soon, the same 1.6-litre petrol engine is mated to a 90bhp electric motor, making 261bhp for the car in total. Whereas the diesel uses a new eight-speed dual-clutch gearbox, both hybrids stick with a six-speed torque-converter automatic.

Suspension for the Sorento is all independent, and hydraulic self-levelling for more stable towing features on all but the entry-level grade. Ground clearance is a fairly modest 185mm. Although that’s slightly more than the third-generation car has, it’s not as much as some rivals offer; and while Kia has added X-Line versions in other markets with better off-road ability on paper, there’s been no stated plan to include those in the UK range.

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Towing capacity has risen to 2500kg for the diesel Sorento, but it’s 1650kg for the hybrid, which is still likely enough to pull a good-sized caravan but not the biggest trailers. As for aesthetics, this car certainly catches the eye and, on balance, most testers liked what they saw. Kia’s aim was to create a more ‘technical’ look for the car, intended to better express a sense of precision of build quality and all-round technological sophistication. It’s an effect well practised by the German premium brands but – much as this wouldn’t be the first time Kia has copied their homework – it’s quietly effective.

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