In general, there are two types of full-size SUVs available on the used market. The first fall into the category of enormous, long-wheelbase vehicles which strike a curious balance between impracticality and utility. While their excellent horsepower, strong construction and high passenger capacity make them appealing to those who require a hard-working vehicle, their plus-sized dimensions introduce a whole slew of issues that not all drivers want to deal with. Poor fuel mileage, difficult parking and a rougher ride than a smaller vehicle are often big turn-offs for buyers.
For those who would prefer to drive a truck that does not overwhelm drivers with its bulk, there exists a second class of full-size SUV's which still make use of the strong frames and large cargo capacity of their bigger brothers but temper their overall length and width so that they are much easier to live with on a daily basis. The Ford Explorer was one of the first trucks to start this trend, and it wasn't long before other manufacturer's followed suite, ushering in a new class of capable SUV's that also happened to fit inside a typical garage.
Kia's decision to introduce a new, larger SUV in 2003 reflected the company's desire to mimic the early off-road potential of their popular Sportage compact sport-utility vehicle while at the same time offering the cargo capacity, passenger room and power that buyers had come to expect from large and mid-size SUV's. While somewhat smaller than the other big SUV's on the market, the Sorento represented the biggest vehicle yet for the Korean car company. Buyers responded very positively to the Sorento, as it combined a low sticker price with the same general capabilities as the entry-level editions of several better-known trucks. With few other competitors in the economy segment of the sport-utility market, Kia were able to build considerable momentum with the Sorento, which also boasted an excellent safety rating.
Given the availability of a long and comprehensive manufacturer's warranty, the 2003 - 2007 Kia Sorento has enjoyed additional longevity as a secondhand vehicle. The used full-size SUV's competitive resale price found it on the shopping lists of many buyers intrigued by its excellent capabilities and attractive styling. This article examines the first generation of the Kia Sorento in order to inform shoppers about the features and characteristics that make it the best used full-size SUV currently available from the economy car manufacturer.
2003 - 2007 Kia Sorento
The Kia Sorento has undergone several minor changes since it was first introduced in 2003. A larger mid-size vehicle, the Sorento has seen upgrades made to its drivetrain as well as safety equipment, in conjunction with minor styling improvements. This solid truck is the largest used suv in the Kia lineup, and as such it benefits from a road presence not found in other vehicles from the Korean manufacturer.
The Sorento was initially released with a 3.5-liter V-6 engine that made 192 horsepower and 217 lb-ft of torque. This could be shifted through either a 5-speed manual transmission or a 4-speed automatic. In 2005 the automatic was upgraded to five forward gears and in 2007 an entirely new V-6 was installed under the SUV's hood. Like the original engine, this 3.8-liter unit was sourced from Hyundai, and it boosted the Sorento's grunt significantly to 262 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. The manual transmission was also removed from the list of available equipment the same year. Later Sorento's boast standard four-wheel drive with a torque management system for handling trickier low-traction situations, while early editions of the vehicle had all-wheel drive as an option only.
The 2003 - 2007 Kia Sorento's interior reflects Kia's habit of competing with more expensive vehicles by stuffing their modestly priced offerings full of standard equipment that would usually only be available as a costly option. Air conditioning, cruise control, a CD player, heated mirrors, a power driver's seat and a power sunroof are all available depending upon trim level. The Kia Sorento is comfortable for five passengers, but despite its size cargo capacity is roughly identical to that of the smaller Kia Sportage - something to keep in mind when cross-shopping.
The 2003 - 2007 Kia Sorento makes an interesting low-buck used full-size SUV option for those interested in breaking away from the Big Three, but still looking for the ruggedness of body-on-frame construction.