With its factories around the world operating at capacity  to keep up with demand and no increase in production on the horizon until 2016, Kia has embarked on a "qualitative growth" programme in place of the previous emphasis on raising volumes.

It will mean more advanced technology content in future models, a further raising of the company's game in terms of quality - and, inevitably, increased prices. And to prove the point you only have to look at the new Sorento, which is already on sale in Korea and some Middle and Far Eastern countries, and is set to come to America and Europe in the first two m onths of 2015.  

The third-generation Sorento is the first Kia to offer the company's Intelligent Stop & Go engine shut-off system in conjunction with an automatic gearbox, and has build and trim standards at least as good as the  flagship K9/K900/Quoris limousine.

The Koreans admit they have thrown every bit of advanced technology they possess - blind-spot and lane-departure warnings, an around-view monitor, smart cruise control and speed limit information through the navigation system - at the latest Sorento.

There's also a powered tailgate which automatically opens if someone in possession of the car's smart key stands within a metre of the rear for more than three seconds, and an active bonnet for pedestrian protection.

Heavily modified European 2.0- and 2.2-litre diesels now meet EU6 regulations and have a higher-pressure fourth-generation common-rail injection system, and Kia admits that a hybrid - possibly even a plug-in - is "under consideration". Petrol options are 3.3-litre V6 and 2.4-litre four-cylinder units.

By far the most important market fior the car will be the US. It regularly contributes more than 100,000 Sorento sales a year, or 50% of the world total. But modifications to the West Point, Georgia, plant to make way for the new model (the previous car is still made there) have made a delayed introduction unavoidable.

The new Sorento is clearly hugely influenced by the US and its enormous SUV market. With its 20mm lower ride height, revised electronically controlled all-wheel-drive and traction systems and greater focus on comfort and luxury, it is now more than ever an alternative to a well-appointed sedan, and as far removed from the first-generation towing-and-trekking model as is possible to imagine.        

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