The main driver for this change will be that its premium SUV-alike will have a price far below that of the BMW X5, Mercedes-Benz M-class and Lexus RX300 it aspires to be (the base XE is £17,995 on-the-road), while having lots of kit and looking like the real thing. Kia claims 'brand sheep' will not be customers, and that people that judge value by product not badge will be.
It certainly comes with all the extras. The basic Sorento 2.5 CRDi XE has part-time four-wheel drive, six airbags, ABS, air conditioning, electric sunroof and self-levelling suspension.
Automatic transmission can be specified for an extra £900, while the XS model, priced at £20,495, adds full-time four-wheel drive, leather trim, climate control, electrically-operated driver's seat, heated front seats, cruise control and windscreen wiper de-icer.
The interior is a bit soulless though, with hard plastics and some dodgy 'wood', but most of the switches and main functions are laid out clearly enough.
According to Kia, the Sorento was styled with the sophisticated European customer in mind. The problem Kia will have is that the sophisticated European is exactly that and no matter how sharp a suit the Sorento is wearing, the label is all wrong.
We are brand sheep, for good or bad, whether we like it or not. But the only way to haul your brand up by its bootstraps when you have started from Kia's position is to make incremental gains in product and market position – and in that sense the Sorento is a useful stepping stone to a brighter future.
Used valuers at CAP can see some gains in that area: averaging about 36% retained value after three-years/60,000- miles is worse than the Nissan X-trail, Land Rover Freelander or Jeep Cherokee, but only by two to four percentage points, which isn't bad going.
For a start, the Sorento looks right. Its inspiration lends itself more to American SUVs than Japanese or British models, but it has tight lines, with sharp creases along the bonnet which all add some purpose.
Behind the wheel
Despite its good-looking flashy Americanised style, the Kia has a number of shortcomings in other areas, and some are quite major. The 2.5-litre 138bhp common rail diesel engine engine is woefully underpowered in the manual and even worse with the four-speed automatic gearbox. Combined fuel economy is 33.2mpg for the manual and 31.7mpg for the auto, and carbon dioxide emissions are 226g/km and 238g/km respectively.
It roars like the fairly unrefined diesel it is, but has none of the bite, taking more than 14 seconds to get to 60mph from standstill, although in-gear acceleration feels worse. The manual gearbox throw is long and clonky, although there are not many cars in this sector which perform much better.
Off-road, the Sorento is not a bad performer, with enough traction to scale decent sized hills in the dry. There is no low range gearbox so on downhill stretches you need to select first gear, which is a little too long though, and will not hold the car at a creep like a genuine off-roader will. That's fine in the dry because you can use the brakes, but I wouldn't fancy it in the wet.
Apparently the suspension has been tuned by Porsche, and although it copes fine off-road which would suggest a certain amount of elasticity, oddly on tarmac is has all the pliancy of an ironing board. Every bump or ridge in the road becomes a major drama as the Sorento smacks against them. Perhaps Porsche provided the settings for a 911 GT3 by mistake.
I would find it difficult to justify spending the money on a Sorento when there are some more-than-useful competitors in this price band – Land Rover Freelander, Honda CR-V and Jeep Cherokee to name a few – but if a driver wants good looks (when has that been said before about a Kia?) and that little bit of extra space, then the Sorento might be the choice.
Model: Sorento 2.5 CRDi
Engine (cc): 2,497
Max power (bhp/rpm): 138/3,800
Max torque (lb-ft/rpm): 232/1,850-2,500
Max speed (mph): 106 (auto 105)
0-62mph (sec): 14.6 (auto 14.5)
Comb fuel consumption (mpg): 33.2 (auto 31.7)
CO2 emissions (g/km): 226 (238)
Transmission: Five sp manual, four sp auto
Prices (OTR): From £17,995