Any observer of the automotive industry has to be astonished at the strides made by Korean automakers like Kia. They have more positive momentum than any other automakers, and continue to be great buys for consumers driven principally by value considerations. However, times are changing, and the all-new Kia Sorento offers potential buyers a lot more than just a low price tag.
The Sorento is technically a mid-size SUV, which pits it against everything from a Mazda CX-7 to Mercedes’ M-class. This is one of the most crowded fields in the automotive world, so Kia has a pretty tough hill to climb.
The Sorento is interesting for a few reasons. First, it’s truck-based, rather than being a uni-body crossover like the Honda CR-V or Toyota RAV4. That means it’s a little more rugged than you might expect, and has better off-road capability.
To that end, the Sorento has something a lot of SUVs don’t – a real, live four-wheel-drive system. Instead of all-wheel-drive, which is used by SUVs from the Ford Edge to the Cadillac Escalade, this Sorento has no-nonsense four-wheel-drive with a bona fide low-range setting.
That four-wheel-drive makes the Sorento a lot tougher than most of the new SUV interpretations on the road today, and the rugged theme is continued under the hood. For 2007, the Sorento gets a 3.8-liter V-6 that makes 262hp and 260 lb.-ft. of torque. Those are pretty stout numbers, and this Kia V-6 exceeds the power output of the V8 in the Toyota 4-Runner.
It’s also got a 5-speed automatic with a manual-shift function, which means you can row through the gears on your own. Towing capacity for the Sorento is 5,000 lbs., and that applies to both two-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive models. As far as the powertrain goes, we give the Sorento pretty high marks. It’s actually a bit fun to drive with this manual shift function, and capable too. Fuel mileage is about what we expected, with a government rating of city/ highway.
The interior is well-appointed and mistake-free, with simple controls and design. It’s not dazzling, but it’s also not offensive. Our tester had leather and a sunroof, which is pretty much your starting point for SUV luxury.
Kia, like most Korean manufacturers, still markets its vehicles from a value standpoint. And, true to form, our Sorento delivered. Initially, it seemed a little pricey at $30K, but it did have the trifecta of leather, 4WD, and the bigger motor. For this amount of money in any other brand, you have to pick just two. We’d say that given its emphasis on towing and off-road use, this little Kia is more of a competitor to the American machines, for example the Ford Escape or Jeep Liberty, than the Japanese RAV4 and CR-V. However, it’s got more than enough luxury to take a bite out of the Japanese compacts as well. If you’re looking for a tough little value SUV without the budget feel, look no further.