Kia's 2003 Sorento was the Korean automaker's first foray into midsize sport utility vehicles. At less than 182 inches long, the Sorento technically is a compact SUV, but interior dimensions are comparatively closer to midsize SUVs such as the Toyota Highlander, Ford Explorer and Toyota 4Runner.
Although the old Sorento's 3.5-liter V-6 was not the most powerful engine among its competitors, its price — under $20,000 for a reasonably equipped Sorento LX — was competitive. For 2007, Kia bumps the Sorento's V-6 to 3.8 liters, yielding a 36 percent power increase. Additional safety equipment, more standard features and a mild face-lift are also on the bill. Though Kia lists the same competitors as before, shoppers might also consider some recently upsized compact SUVs such as the Toyota RAV4 and Mitsubishi Outlander.
Trim levels remain the same, with base LX and uplevel EX models. Rear-wheel drive is standard, and two types of four-wheel drive are available. The 2007 Sorento hits showrooms in fall 2006.
The Sorento's updated fascia looks much like Kia's smaller Sportage SUV. Shared Sportage styling cues include a multi-slat grille, narrower air dam and larger headlights with orange borders. The revisions add 0.9 inches to the Sorento's length, for 180.7 inches total. Wheelbase, width and height remain the same.
Both the LX and EX have 16-inch wheels. An LX Sport Package upgrades to 17 inch wheels while also adding running boards and a rear spoiler. The Sorento EX includes fog lights, while an EX Luxury Package trims the door handles in chrome.
For 2007, the Sorento's dashboard incorporates updated audio and climate controls as well as new instrument gauges. LX models include standard power accessories, remote keyless entry and a 10-speaker CD audio system. Amenities increase with each trim level, topping out with the EX Luxury Package, which includes dual-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery and a moonroof.
Rear seats fold in a 60/40 split. Cargo volume behind the seats measures 31.7 cubic feet. That's notably less than a similarly configured RAV4 (36.4) or Highlander (39.7). The Explorer beats all three, with 45.1 cubic feet behind its second-row seats.
All three competitors have optional third-row seats, which the Sorento lacks.
The 3.8-liter V-6 generates 262 horsepower and 260 pounds-feet of torque, a healthy gain over the previous 3.5-liter V-6's 192 hp and 217 pounds-feet of torque. It's not as dramatic an upsurge as Kia might have you expect, as peak torque now arrives at 4,500 rpm instead of the previous 3,000 rpm, but it's a welcome increase nonetheless.
Rear-wheel drive is standard, while part-time four-wheel drive is optional on the LX, LX Sport Edition and EX. It includes a shift-on-the-fly provision and a low-range transfer case. With the EX Luxury Package, Sorento owners get Kia's Torque-on-Demand system. Similar to all-wheel drive, Torque-on-Demand automatically transfers power if it detects wheel slippage. It also includes a low-range transfer case.
Kia discontinued the Sorento's five-speed manual, leaving a five-speed automatic as the sole transmission. It now offers a sequential-shifting mode.
Thanks to the larger engine, towing capacity increases from 3,500 to 5,000 pounds when properly equipped. That puts the Sorento past the V-6 RAV4 and Highlander (both 3,500 pounds) and close to the truck-based V-6 Explorer (5,210 pounds).
Four-wheel-disc antilock brakes are standard, as are an electronic stability system and active front head restraints. Side curtain-type airbags cover the interior, and a knee airbag underneath the steering wheel aims to prevent drivers from sliding under the seat belt in a frontal collision.