Kia's 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. For 2008, there's a new V-6 engine in the base LX Sorento.
For 2007, Kia bumped the Sorento's V-6 engine up to 3.8 liters. That engine is still available on the uplevel EX, but LX models now have a new 3.3-liter V-6. 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.
Rear-wheel drive is standard, and two types of four-wheel drive are available.
The Sorento looks much like Kia's smaller Sportage SUV. Shared Sportage styling cues include a multi-slat grille, narrow air dam and larger headlights with orange borders.
Both the LX and EX have 16-inch wheels, but 17-inch wheels are optional. The Sorento EX includes fog lights, while an EX Luxury Package trims the door handles in chrome.
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.
Under the Hood
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. The new 3.3-liter engine makes 242 hp and 228 pounds-feet of torque. It is the only engine available in the LX for 2008.
Rear-wheel drive is standard, while part-time four-wheel drive is optional. 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 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 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.