Cars Worth Noting - 2003 Kia Sorento
I deliberately drove the Kia and Hyundai SUVs back-to-back and Iím glad I did. By climbing out of one and into the other, it illustrates how these sister brands are making parallel advances in refinement, while maintaining their own identities.
Whereas Hyundaiís unibody Santa Fe has a nimble, car-like feel, the Sorento is a full ladder frame truck that feels very at home towing a trailer or crawling off-road. Like the Hyundai, the Sorento sports a 3.5L V-6, but geared in such a way that it extracts power rather than speed. The 4,300-lb. Kia still jumps off the line, but after that it squats down and pulls rather than sprints.
And while the powertrain and chassis do a sterling job of cementing the image of a truck in my head, the interior does thankfully little to reinforce it. My EX model had supple leather seats that could have been taken out and sold in a furniture showroom, a perfect compliment to a luxurious IP with a leatherwrapped wheel.
The Kia also exhibits exceptional ride qualities thanks to good frame isolation, nicely tuned springs and gas shocks and a reasonably long 107-in. wheelbase.
At just a tick over $26,000, the wellequipped Sorento starts to ascend into a price range where competition is tough and the hairs on my neck start to bristle when I think about writing the check. But like the Santa Fe, the Sorento can be had at big discounts. If I were in the market for a mid-lux tank, I wouldnít hesitate.