If you need a seven-seater, but would prefer a handsome SUV to a sensible people carrier, then the all-new Kia Sorento could be right up your street.

Starting at £38,845, this striking fourth-generation model has just been launched and the great news is that it’s better than ever.

Back in the day, the Sorento’s natural rivals were the Nissan X-Trail, SEAT Tarraco and Skoda Kodiaq, but now it can compete with the likes of the Land Rover Discovery Sport and Volvo XC90 too.

You see, the new Sorento doesn’t just boast bold looks, Kia’s moved its flagship SUV upmarket with an emphasis on premium materials, superb build quality and generous equipment levels.

Available as a self-charging hybrid, plug-in hybrid or diesel, it’s the most high-tech Kia ever, with new safety, connectivity and infotainment features.

There are three equipment levels – ‘2’, ‘3’ and ‘4’ – and, as ever, Kia’s tempting seven-year 100,000-mile warranty is on offer.

Standard kit includes an 8.0-inch infotainment system, 12.3-inch instrument cluster, heated seats and steering wheel, LED headlights and 17-inch alloy wheels. Mid-range 3 adds 19-inch wheels, a 10.25-inch touchscreen, full leather trim, seat heating front and rear, power-adjustable front seats, ambient lighting, wireless phone charging and a powered boot lid.

The range is topped off by the ‘4’ which offers a 10-way powered seat adjustment for the driver, ventilated front seats, a panoramic sunroof, a head-up display, 12-speaker Bose stereo and additional safety kit, such as blind-spot camera, 360-degree camera and parking collision avoidance system.

A special mention for the clever Blind-Spot View Monitor which displays a high-resolution video feed in the driver’s instrument cluster if you indicate to change lane with another vehicle hidden in your blind spot.

The self-charging hybrid pairs a 1.6-litre engine with a 44.2kW motor and a 1.49kWh battery pack, giving a total output of 226bhp. Fuel economy is up to 40.9mpg, CO2 emissions are from 158g/km.

The plug-in hybrid blends the 1.6-litre petrol engine with a more powerful 66.9kW electric motor and 13.8kWh battery. Power climbs to 262bhp, while torque remains identical at 258lb ft. Electric-only range is expected to be around 35 miles, with CO2 emissions as low as 38g/km.

The diesel engine is a 199bhp 2.2-litre unit and it’s capable of 42.2mpg with CO2 emissions of 176g/km.

All Sorentos come with all-wheel drive as standard, plus a smooth-shifting automatic gearbox – six speeds for the hybrids, and an eight-speed DCT for the diesel.

And it’s the diesel version (in ‘3’ trim) that we got to test. This is the model that will be most popular with high-mileage buyers and those who tow caravans, horseboxes and trailers because it has a maximum braked capacity of 2,500kg (1,650kg for the hybrid).

First impressions are excellent because the new Sorento has serious road presence thanks to its sharper lines and more assertive front end complemented by narrow LED headlights, plus Rolls-Royce Cullinan-esque rear light clusters

Inside it’s a real step-up from its predecessor, with a top-quality feel, slick digital interfaces and clever packaging, with a focus on comfort.

The new rotary controller in the centre console gives is a classy touch, while the superb 12.3in digital driver’s display and 10.25-inch central infotainment screen feature smooth, sharp graphics.

There’s stacks of space in the cabin, with room for three adults to relax in comfort in the rear seats.

All Sorentos come with seven seats as standard and the second row of seats slides and reclines, meaning it’s possible for adults to sit in the rearmost seats, which is impressive.

As you’d expect from such an epic SUV, luggage capacity ranges from 616 litres (five seats up) to 2,011 litres with seat rows two and three folded.

On the road, our diesel test car was no slouch. There’s plenty of low-down torque and it’s capable of 0-60mph in 9.1 seconds and a top speed of 127mph.

You get a choice of Eco, Comfort, Sport and Smart drive modes, plus off-road options for Snow, Mud and Sand.

Frankly, Comfort is just fine for everyday driving, then stick it in Eco for motorway runs. Smart mode is worth a try too – it’s meant to adapt to your driving and probably comes into its own during ownership.

The diesel engine is definitely more refined than before, no doubt helped by the smooth, swift-changing eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.

The Sorento is well mannered on the road, soaking up the bumps well. For its size and weight (two tonnes), body roll is kept in check on faster, more challenging corners, but it’s no performance SUV.

Visibility is excellent, with a commanding view of the road, while the steering is quick and direct.

Perhaps the only area of disappointment with the diesel is when it comes to fuel economy, which is closer to 30mpg in real-world driving, but stretches out towards 40mpg on steady runs.

Naturally we couldn’t resist taking it for a spot of soggy soft-roading. Mud mode kept us moving, though winter tyres would help with more challenging terrain.

Finally, the Sorento is packed with safety systems and driver assistance aids, helping it gain a maximum five stars in Euro NCAP crash testing.

Verdict: The all-new Kia Sorento seven-seater SUV is a real step-up, giving premium rivals a run for their money. Offering comfort, space, practicality, state-of-the-art tech, upmarket materials and great build quality, it oozes kerb appeal.

Review in association with www.automotiveblog.co.uk