THE tricky part was deciding where to go first, because the choices may all have been in easy enough range but were equally appealing.
When you’re presented with a new top end spec Kia Sorento SUV model and given the green light to spend an afternoon touring the picturesque county of Cheshire there are plenty of treats in store.
Stretching from the Dee estuary and the old Roman town of Chester – or Deva as it was once called – to the exposed moors of the Peak District, the road conditions can change as swiftly as the weather.
And though the Sorento’s 4×4 capability wasn’t put to any sterner examination than some muddy fields and rain-sodden hills, it’s reassuring to know the hardware is in place should you really need it.
But first a little lesson in modern history. Back in 2002 the Sorento, as the Korean brand’s flagship model, opened a fresh chapter for Kia. It really was a game-changer.
As a steady and successful workhorse, the model was noted more for off-road capability and mud-plugging prowess than any eye-catching design.
Fast forward 15 years and now more low slung, stylish and packed with technology, the latest Sorento has all the attributes needed to mix it with the automotive world’s prestige heavyweights.
Refined, upmarket, economical for the size of vehicle and of course with the assurance of permanent all-wheel drive, it has that raised driving position that presents everyone aboard with the extra visibility to really appreciate the countryside and its landscapes.
And in Cheshire there’s plenty to enjoy whether it be a trip to a petrol head’s Mecca in the shape of Oulton Park motor racing circuit or a high-rise stroll to the summit of Beeston Castle where the views of the Cheshire plain are sensational.
Driving around and through beautiful Delamere Forest is a welcome escape from the urban jungle while following a road sign marked Venetian Marina proved irresistible.
Here – where the 150-mooring marina houses a dry dock, gift shop and narrow boars for sale – in a small car park was a 2014 version of the Sorento, and while still looking an attractive car it clearly lacked the catwalk features of the latest model.
Six models are available, all featuring the same 2.2-litre turbodiesel engine and with prices from £28,850.
Trim grades are KX-1 to KX-4 and the two mid-range levels come with a choice of six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission, though KX-1 is manual only and KX-4 exclusively auto.
When seven seats are standard, as is the case with the Sorento, there’s always the danger things could become cramped in the back.
But that’s not the case here as the extended wheelbase ensures ample space, though shoehorning yourself in and out of a third row of seats is never quite so straightforward as you would like.
Leg and headroom, though, is plentiful, and such is the Sorento’s design – and the panoramic glass roof on the top two grades – that rear passengers need never feel claustrophobic.
And when not in use, the third row seats fold flat to leave a large, flat load area with the bonus of having a below deck stowage compartment for the luggage cover.
Everything from the fit and finish of the bodywork to the quality and feel of the cabin continues the upward curve that’s proved a feature of Kia vehicles over the past few years.
In fact every Sorento model bar entry level KX-1 has leather upholstery as standard and lack of noise, vibration and harshness ensures a super smooth ride quality for passengers.
The 2.2-litre diesel engine produces 197bhp, so there’s plenty of punch, and manual models can return an official average 49.6 miles per gallon with CO2 emissions of 149g/km. Figures for the automatic we drove are 42.2mpg and 174g/km.
Space, value for money and a prestige feel, all backed up by Kia’s seven-year transferable warranty contribute to making the Sorento an SUV of considerable merit.