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Sorento style and safety

KIA has already banked some awards for its upgraded Sorento, which is now a more sophisticated and substantial SUV.

In a double win, the Sorento collected the award for the international truck of the year at the Los Angeles Show, while the Optima was voted international car of the year.

The two awards cap an amazing run for Kia in these awards, being the first brand to win the International Car of the Year title in four consecutive years.

The awards are now in their 20th year, run by Road and Travel Magazine in the US. The jurors were impressed by both vehicles, praising the Sorento for its combination of style, space, premium interior, extensive safety features and all-wheel-drive capability.

None of this will come as any surprise to anybody who has had the opportunity to test drive any of the six models that make up the latest Sorento range.

There is a choice of three engines, a 2.2 litre turbo diesel, or 2.4 and 3.3 litre petrol models, all with seven-seat configuration.

The diesel, used for the latest test drive, is going to have a strong, broad appeal.

With maximum power of 147kW at 3300rpm and a hefty 441Nm of torque it can really do the business when towing and also has snappy acceleration when called on while producing a fuel consumption figure of 7.8 litres/100km. Helping that low figure is an idle stop and go feature.

Kia has also piled on the safety features, with a vehicle stability system, trailer stability assist and an advanced cornering control system that transfers torque to the wheels with the most grip. Add to that things like six airbags, an emergency seatbelt fastening device and a reversing camera.

But it is the all-round quality of the Sorento that will leave the most lasting impression. An upgraded suspension system ensures a high-quality driving experience in a vehicle that is at once comfortable and quiet.

An extensive list of interior comfort features includes heated and ventilated seats, dual zone climate control, a seven- inch screen, six-speaker sound system and the usual Bluetooth, i-Pod and USB connectivity that modern customers demand.

The move up from somewhere between a compact and a mid-size SUV to something much larger is part of a continuing transformation for Kia, which in 2015 broke into the top 10 of annual auto reliability surveys where, thanks to the part played by vehicles like the Sorento, it foots it with the leading European and Japanese brands.