1159590_Sorento 2.2 CRDi 6-speed manual KX-2-64515

YOU might think ownership of a seven-seater, feature-laden SUV is the preserve of the Volvo XC90 driver, or the Range Rover Sport or, if you really have to, the SsangYong Rexton.

But there’s also the Kia Sorento. Not to suggest for one moment that Kia is a budget brand any more – those days are long gone, if you want a people carrier on a budget and your commute involves some muddy fields, you’d be daft not to give it some serious thought.

1159443_Sorento 2.2 CRDi 6-speed manual KX-3-64548We’re now looking at the third generation of this once utilitarian load-lugger and the latest version is better equipped, more refined, stylish and technologically advanced than before.

It’s longer, lower and wider, thanks to a revolutionised platform, while an extended wheelbase serves up more space in all three rows of seats.

1159464_Sorento 2.2 CRDi 6-speed manual KX-3-64549Safety technologies include advanced smart cruise control, blind-spot detection, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-departure warning system, around-view monitoring and speed limit information.

There are six models to choose from, all powered by a 2.2-litre turbodiesel engine, with either a six-speed manual or an automatic gearbox. All have permanent, all-wheel drive and you can choose from the well-specced entry level KX-1, to the range-topping, everything-thrown-in KX-4.

1159540_Sorento 2.2 CRDi 6-speed auto KX-4-64571The interior on all models is a world apart from some budget SUVs. Kia really knows how to screw together a car and how to create a premium feel in a cabin.

The standard instrument cluster features clear white-on-black graphics but in the KX-3 version this is replaced by a seven-inch TFT display which adds an even more premium look to the dashboard.

1159548_Sorento 2.2 CRDi 6-speed auto KX-4-64573Legroom is excellent in all three rows of seats and with the rear rows folded down – or even with them up, to be fair – the boot space is very generous.

1159552_Sorento 2.2 CRDi 6-speed auto KX-4-64574On the move, the 197bhp engine has plenty of power to heave along the large body and it drives better than you might think.

Fuel consumption is very good. You’ll not find it hard to stay in the 40s and CO2 emissions are a thoroughly reasonable 161g/km.

1159574_Sorento 2.2 CRDi 6-speed manual KX-2-64513There’s actually little to dislike about the Sorento. It does its job of carrying plenty of people and their luggage in comfort and it has a surprisingly rewarding driving experience, thanks to that excellent, punchy engine.

Dig deep enough and you’ll find a few cheap materials, but it’s not enough to put you off opting for what is actually a very sensible and very appealing car.

1159582_Sorento 2.2 CRDi 6-speed manual KX-2-64514