IF PEO­PLE take the ‘‘pop­u­late or per­ish’’ adage too far, then a peo­ple-mover be­comes the pre­ferred mode of trans­port. The boom in seven-seat ve­hi­cles shows the dif­fi­culty some have in rein­ing in their re­pro­duc­tion.

Gone are the mini-buses of old, though, and such broods get about in high­rid­ing SUVs. The up­dated Kia Sorento rates as one of the picks of the pack. The lat­est it­er­a­tion is tech­ni­cally a facelift but the changes are com­pre­hen­sive rather than cos­metic and make the al­ready good seven-seat SUV even bet­ter. VALUE The Si model is the en­try point for the 3.5-litre V6 petrol and 2.2-litre turbo diesel. The former is re­served for front-wheel drive du­ties and costs $37,490, with the diesel lug­ging the ex­tra 60kg that comes with the all-wheel drive sys­tem. The six-speed man­ual diesel is $38,990, the auto adds $2000.

Stan­dard gear in­cludes PRICE: $40,990 WAR­RANTY: 5 years/un­lim­ited km RE­SALE: 54 per cent SER­VICE IN­TER­VAL: 12 months/15,000km SAFETY: 6 airbags, ABC with TC, ESC, EBD, hill start CRASH RAT­ING: 5 stars EN­GINE: 2.2-litre 4-cyl turbo diesel, 145kW/421Nm (436Nm auto)

6-speed auto; AWD 7.3L/100km, 192g/km CO2

4.7m (L), 1.9m (W), 1.7m (H) 1960kg Full-size LED day­time run­ning lights, fog lights, elec­tric fold­ing side mir­rors, front and rear park­ing sen­sors, Blue­tooth and cruisec­on­trol. It’s bet­ter on-road than Holden’s Colorado 7 and cheaper than Ford’s Ter­ri­tory. TECH­NOL­OGY Un­der the fa­mil­iar sheet metal is a stronger body and im­proved noise sup­pres­sion. Bet­ter in­su­la­tion in the en­gine bay and trans­mis­sion tun­nel notably re­duce me­chan­i­cal noise. The elec­tric power steer­ing has a three-mode op­er­a­tion that varies the weight, but not the num­ber of turns needed to move the front wheels.

It works to a de­gree. The ef­fort may vary but the feed­back doesn’t. DE­SIGN The bumpers cop the ex- pected makeover and now have ver­ti­cal fog lights, the sig­na­ture Kia grille and head­lamps with LED day­time run­ning lights. The tail­gate and tail-lights have been given a mi­nor makeover and there are new al­loy wheel de­signs. The Si misses out on some of the fruit in­side but re­mains a hugely ver­sa­tile bus — fold both sets of rear seats down to ex­ploit a barn-like 2700 litres of cargo space. The plas­tics are rock-hard but, given smudge marks and food spat­ter, it prob­a­bly makes sense. SAFETY Im­proved han­dling, all­paw grip and big­ger front brakes (320mm discs) are the first line of de­fence. A re­in­forced body and six airbags come into play when things get messy. AN­CAP rates it a five-star car, with an over­all score of 33.21/37. DRIV­ING Ride and han­dling on the Sorento are bet­ter than some­thing this big should be. Drive it with vigour and there’s some body roll but own­ers of the pre-facelift ver­sion will ap­pre­ci­ate the 18 per cent lift in tor­sional rigid­ity. The big­gest hand­i­cap is the lack of feed­back from the steer­ing. I’m not ask­ing for sports car pre­ci­sion, just a de­gree of feel for what the 17-inch front wheels are do­ing. It is one of the few flaws in this package, even if it won’t bother most Soren­tos that will spend their life am­bling around the ur­ban jun­gle.

In those sit­u­a­tions, the diesel en­gine is re­spon­sive, aided and abet­ted by a sixspeed auto. Adults won’t have any cause for com­plaints in the sec­ond row seats, while the third row is a kids-only af­fair. A word of warn­ing: The child seat an­chor­ages are only on the sec­ond row. VER­DICT The Sorento looks good and han­dles the bumps bet­ter than most in this class. It’s also $8000 cheaper than the com­pa­ra­ble Ford Ter­ri­tory. The Ford’s not that much bet­ter. That leaves the Hyundai Santa Fe, as its big­gest ri­val. Or there’s Kia’s own Grand Car­ni­val with the same en­gine, same space, less roll.

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