IF ANYTHING will change the minds of an ignorant automotive buyer then it's the Sorento.
Kia, like its parent company Hyundai, forged a reputation in the bargain basement. But fast-forward to 2016 and the Korean pair are dancing to a more refined beat… with Hyundai even dangling a toe in the luxury waters with its Genesis saloon.
While Kia may be still in the shadow of its country stablemate, the Sorento large SUV is poised to steal some of the spotlight.
Put simply, it's good. Damn good in fact.
With a retail price of $55,990 some may shy away, but our test quickly proved its money well spent for those wanting room to move and quality performance.
Growing families will appreciate the expanse of space across three rows. Quiet cabin manners offer a European- like feel, with the materials and quality a step above anything we've seen previously from Kia.
The driver has a basic and simple instrument set-up. A large centrally placed speedometer is flanked by a tacho along with smaller temperature and fuel gauges, while the central digital display offers trip information which you can toggle through via steering wheel controls.
Grabbing attention on the dash is a colour touch-screen, which is operationally straightforward with shortcut buttons on either side of the display.
On the road
Beautifully mannered, the Sorento is comfortable and sits confidently on the road.
Using the same underpinnings as the Carnival people-mover, also launched last year, which also impressed with its hushed ride, the ride is exemplary.
The suspension is tuned by Kia's Australian team, led by ride guru Graeme Gambold. They provide settings and parts preferences which the factory implements for our market, and you'll struggle to find a better performer in the large SUV genre.
Diesel power ensures there is a burly response to prods of the right foot, and the six-speed automatic will see it cruise below 2000rpm at 100kmh.
Put the hammer down to overtake at speed and there is a surprising response, while even at low speed it quickly responds when you need to dart into traffic or quickly change lanes.
Around town it boasts car-like handling attributes, and parking isn't a chore despite the sizeable Sorento dimensions.
Given those abilities the Sorento isn't geared for true off-roading, but it will certainly handle gravel and some bush tracks.
What do you get?
This variant gets everything on the shopping list, including 19-inch alloys, sat nav, leather trim, 10-way electric front seat adjustment, panoramic sunroof, 10-speaker stereo with full Bluetooth connectivity, 17.7cm driver display, heated seats in first and second rows (front also ventilated), front and rear parking sensors and tyre pressure monitoring system.
Platinum also gets the best safety gizmos around, like lane departure warning, radar cruise control, blind spot detection and rear cross traffic alert, which together with stability/traction control, anti-lock brakes and front-to-rear airbag protection delivers a five-star safety rating.
The closest rival is the Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander ($55,990), followed by other diesel offerings in the Ford Territory Titanium ($56,740), Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland ($76,000) and Volkswagen Touareg ($67,990).
With the second row collapsed, the Sorento managed to carry three adult bikes. With the third row stowed there is more than 600 litre of space, which helped make easy work of bodies and surfboards for beach trips.
In front of the shifter is a 12 volt plug, auxiliary jack and USB access next to a useful storage spot for phones and other electrical devices.
Each of the three rows has excellent head, leg, shoulder and knee room. The third row does require a level of flexibility to climb inside, and the high floor means it's more suited to children.
The second row also gets door embedded sunblinds.
Average fuel consumption was 7.8 litres for every 100km. That is impressive going for a large vehicle with a combination of highway and city operation. Even better, that's the official figure from Kia - often we find those numbers somewhat fanciful.
Kia also has one of the best value equations when it comes to upkeep, with an industry benchmark seven-year warranty and capped price servicing.
With a distinctive grille, good proportions and the larger 19-inch alloys featured on the Platinum model, the Sorento is one refined looker and a leader in the segment.
The tiger-nose' grille is especially distinctive, while the lower roofline makes it look more streamlined.
Anyone still overlooking the Kia marque on badge snobbery is doing themselves a disservice.
The Sorento Platinum is an excellent all-round offering with impressive drive dynamics, hushed cabin and a strong yet economical diesel engine.
What matters most
What we liked: Quiet ride, space across three rows, fuel efficiency.
What we'd like to see: Improved access for third row, lingering badge stigma dismissed.
Warranty and servicing: Seven-year unlimited kilometre warranty with roadside assist for the same period. Servicing is due annually or every 15,000km, average price is $501 over the first seven services.
Matter of fact
The Sorento received 36.62 out of 37 when crash tested by ANCAP last year, a five-star result.
Compared to the previous model, this Sorento is longer (+95mm to 4780 mm), but lower (down 45mm to 1690 mm) with extra width (+5mm to 1890mm).
At this month's Australian Open, the Sorento makes up nearly half of the 110-strong fleet taking players and officials around Melbourne.
The big SUV also received a 2015 Good Design award. Designers and manufacturers in about 50 nations are honoured every year, and past recipients of Good Design awards include everything from a paperclip to a Boeing 787 Dreamliner and NASA spacecraft.
Model: Kia Sorento CRDi Platinum.
Details: Seven-seat large all-wheel drive sports utility vehicle.
Engine: 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel generating maximum power of 147kW @ 3800rpm and peak torque of 441Nm @ 1750-2750rpm.
Transmission: Six-speed automatic.
Consumption: 7.8 litres/100km (combined average)
Towing: 2000kg (braked); tow ball 100kg.
Bottom line plus on-roads: $55,990.