Kia’s surprisingly popular SUV receives minor changes for 2005: a five-speed automatic with manual shift mode replaces 2004’s four-speed, the EX Luxury receives a six-CD changer, and all models receive a body-coloured, chrome-lined rear garnish, advanced airbags instead of threshold bags, enhance corrosion protection on major parts, and a dimmer switch that now adjusts the clock as well.

All Sorento models are powered by a Hyundai-derived 3.5-litre V6 that could use just a little more grunt. Construction is body-on-frame, and two four-wheel-drive systems are available: the LX uses an electronic shift-on-the-fly part-time unit, while the EX gets a Borg-Warner torque-on-demand all-wheel-drive system that sends 100 per cent power to the rear wheels until it detects slippage, in which case the electromagnetic clutch engages the front axle and splits the torque 50/50.

The LX is equipped with a five-speed manual transmission (the new automatic is optional), four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, 16-inch alloy wheels, air conditioning, roof rack, power windows, locks and heated mirrors, keyless entry, fog lamps, variable intermittent wipers with de-icer, cruise control, CD player with eight speakers, rear 60/40 folding seat, tilt wheel and height-adjustable driver’s seat.

The EX adds automatic climate control, CD/cassette with ten speakers and wheel-mounted controls, six-way adjustable power driver’s seat, leather-wrapped wheel, woodgrain trim, chrome door scuff plates, and rear spoiler. The EX Luxury adds leather heated seats and power sunroof.

The Sorento is nicely-styled and the interior is very well done, but performance and handling are not up to those of the competition. Its wide stance gives it stability around corners, but its steering is lighter than it should be. For its body-on-frame truck construction, it should be able to haul more than it does: the V6-powered Jeep Liberty matches the Sorento’s 3,500 lb towing capacity, and the Jeep’s a unibody.

The Sorento is made in Hwasung, South Korea.

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