In 2014 Kia sold 13,962 Sorento units in Canada, just shy of the brand’s most popular car, the Rio at 14,458. That puts the Sorento and Rio at the top of the Kia food chain as the brand’s top performers – which is why this new edition is so important.

Longer, wider but lower than the outgoing model, the new Sorento increases comfort and feature listings while improving value in a bid to continue the brand’s expansion. This is the third generation of the Kia Sorento, and the second model based on the most recent platform. The previous generation shared a platform with the Hyundai Santa Fe, this one shares its platform with the Kia Sedona – the first minivan by famed designer Peter Schreyer.

This platform actually debuted with a mid-cycle refresh of the previous generation, but that car incorporated the new base without a major redesign. This time there’s a new drivetrain (more on that later) and an all new design, which shares many elements with the aforementioned Sedona.

Kia is aiming the new Sorento closer to the long-wheelbase and larger Hyundai Santa Fe XL – a car I liked so much I asked for one for Christmas. The goal, they say, is to capitalize on the rapidly growing compact SUV segment while catering to a rich vein of customers who need a little more size. It’s the Goldilocks approach that continues to blur the sizing lines in every segment. Soon we’ll have mid-size-large-mid-compact-SUV or something, but I digress.

Like the Santa Fe range, the Sorento is available in five and seven-seat editions. Seven-seat models made up about 11 percent of Sorento sales in 2014, but Kia expects to triple that with this model. How? A neat trick called “giving it away”. I’m being a tad facetious; effectively Kia has taken the option of the seven-seat configuration out of the equation and made it a standard on all V6 models rather than charging an extra fee on top of the V6 trim. You could also call this “forcing people to pay for this pricey upgrade”.

They’ve also changed which models can have the third row; it’s now available on LX+ all the way to SX, and all those trims are available with the V6 engine. You can only get the V6 with three rows, and only get three rows with the V6. SX is now also available with the new 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder making 240 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque.

The 185 hp/178 lb-ft 2.4L naturally aspirated four cylinder remains the base engine for LX models only, while LX+ and up all get either the 2.OT or the 290-hp/252 lb-ft 3.3L V6. With the V6 fitted the Sorento will tow up to 5,000 lb, with the 2.0T that figure drops to 3,500. The 2.4L which pretty much nobody will buy can only tow 2,000 lb.

That 5,000 lb is an improvement bought about by strengthening of the chassis – not by changes to the engine.

Using the new five-cycle NRCan fuel ratings, the 2.4L and 3.3L V6 have improved economy over the outgoing models with new ratings of 11.4/9.2 L/100 km city/highway for the 2.4L and 13.4/9.4 L/100 km for the V6. The new-to-Sorento 2.0T returns 12.3/9.3 L/100 km city/highway, placing it smack bang in the middle of the other two engines on economy.

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