Review and photos by Lesley Wimbush

2005 Kia Sorento EX
Click image to enlarge

My nine-year old nephew – an eager co-pilot on many of my test drives is a genuine car-guy in the making. With a natural affinity for gadgets, he asks some surprisingly thoughtful questions, notices features that I miss, and provides me with incentive to give the manual more than a cursory once-over.

Diplomatically, after hearing that my next press ride would be the 2005 Kia Sorento, his reaction was a non-commital ‘oh’. Okay, so maybe the Kia name doesn’t rate high on the cool scale when you’re a nine year old boy with shelves of die-cast muscle cars, and a radio controlled import that’s already had an engine swap and suspension upgrade – but it scores big points for driveability, useability and value. Funny though, after a couple of rides in the Sorento, he gave it the coveted two thumbs up, primarily for the plush, heated leather seats and the numbers of buttons and speakers on the sound system.

Our test model, which I had for two weeks, was the Sorento EX Luxury edition. The upscale EX model includes every option available on the base LX, but with the addition of alloy wheels, two-tone body cladding, chrome exterior trim, power sunroof, fog lights, eight-way power driver’s seat, HomeLink programmable remote system, a Delphi premium AM/FM/CD/cassette audio system with 10 speakers and steering-wheel mounted audio controls, remote keyless entry system, rear flip open glass and panic alarm and a multi-meter including outside temperature gauge, compass, altimeter and barometer to the overhead console, automatic climate control, auto headlights, leather seats and available Torque-on-Demand system – including four-wheel drive, antilock brakes and a rear spoiler.

2005 Kia Sorento EX
Click image to enlarge

The Sorento is a really comfortable vehicle. Interior ergonomics were well thought out and simple. I liked the heated leather seats, which were just right even on long road trips. There was plenty of legroom, both up front and in the rear and head room wasn’t a problem for the tallest of passengers.

To my taste – the brushed aluminum used on the shifter console would have been infinitely preferable to the dreary artificial wood on the dash and steering wheel. Belonging to the school of thought that would take a good quality change purse over an entire set of cheap luggage any day – I’d even prefer a contrasting vinyl over synthetic wood. Instrument panel and gauges were nice enough, although the gauges when illuminated were a sickly lime-green.

The Sorento has seating for five people. Six cupholders and an under-seat storage tray are included. Cargo space totals 66.4 cubic feet when the 60/40 rear seats are folded down. It’s a fiddly process however. Headrests must be pulled off first, then stowed with the seats.

In 4×4 mode, the Sorento is impressively sure-footed in the most slippery of conditions. The Sorento was completely unfazed by the weather. Once I got used to the pitch and yaw of the rather pronounced body roll, the ride is really quite comfortable although on the soft side. Surprisingly – it rides even better over rough road than smooth pavement where the roll is less evident. The rack-and-pinion, power assist steering has a somewhat light feel, delivering excellent control.

2005 Kia Sorento EX
Click image to enlarge

The Sorento uses a truck-like body-on-frame construction with a nine cross-member ladder frame. The suspension consists of double-wishbone coil spring with gas strut damper and stabilizer bar in front, and 5-link, coil spring with gas damper and stabilizer bar in the rear. It rides on 2710 mm (106.7-inch) wheelbase and measures 4567 mm (179.8 inches) long in total.

With ground clearance being just over 200 mm (8 inches) and having a short front and rear overhang, navigating steep terrain isn’t a problem. It’s no off-road pretender – the Sorento was named the ‘Best SUV Value” by the Northwest Automotive Press Association last Fall at their annual Mudfest competition. Voted upon by 20 members of the Pacific Northwest automotive press, this award is Sorento’s third Mudfest honor in three years.

The biggest change for the 2005 model year is the new electronically controlled five-speed Sportmatic transmission, replacing the four-speed automatic. The test model came with Steptronic – a clutchless manual shifting system, which functioned well and is easy to use, but doesn’t work when 4WD is engaged. The Sportmatic transmission automatically downshifts from fifth gear to fourth gear in manual select mode, providing instant throttle response when passing. Large discs and ABS on all four wheels means that the Sorento stops when you want it to.

In fact, every Kia I’ve driven has had excellent stopping power. The engine is smooth and so quiet at idle, it’s hard to tell that it’s running. However, stomping on the gas produces a surprisingly irritated yowl, but the V6 engine is powerful and fairly economical.

The base model LX comes with air, power windows/door locks/heated mirrors, cruise control, eight-speaker CD sound system, full overhead console with sunglass storage, map lights and garage door opener pocket, four 12-volt power outlets, eight-way adjustable driver’s seat and 60/40 split flip-and-fold rear seats. Standard safety features include dual front airbags and front and rear side-curtain airbags, and three-point seatbelts and headrests to accommodate all occupants. All models have four-wheel disc brakes, 16-inch Michelin tires, and a full-size spare tire stowed away beneath the body. Side curtain-type airbags protect front and rear occupants.

Not only is it a practical vehicle with plenty of room, loads of comfortable options and easy to drive, it’s a good looking vehicle as well. And at thousands of dollars less than its competitors, the Kia Sorento looks even more attractive.

Technical Data: 2005 Kia Sorento EX

Base price (LX) $29,995
Base price (EX) $34,995
Options $2,600 (Luxury Package: heated leather seats, woodgrain trim, sunroof, 6-disc CD in dash changer)
Freight $1,150
A/C tax $100
Price as tested $38,845
Type four-door, five passenger mid-size SUV
Layout longitudinal front engine/all-wheel drive
Engine 3.5 litre V6, DOHC, 24 valves
Horsepower 192 @ 5,500 rpm
Torque 217 lb.-ft. @ 3,000 rpm
Transmission 5-speed automatic with Steptronic sport mode
Tires P245/70R16
Transfer case Torque-on-demand all-wheel-drive system, electronically controlled, 2-speed transfer case
Curb weight 1,990 kg (4,387 lbs.)
Towing capacity 1,587 kg (3,500 lb.)
Wheelbase 2,710 mm (106.7 in.)
Length 4,567 mm (179.8 in.)
Width 1,884 mm (74.2 in.)
Height 1,810 mm (71.3 in.)
Ground clearance 208 mm (8.2 in.)
Cargo capacity (seats up) 889 litres (31.4 cu. ft.)
  (seats folded) 1,880 litres (66.4 cu. ft.)
Fuel consumption City: 16.2 L/100 km (17 mpg Imperial)
  Highway 11.0 L/100 km (26 mpg Imperial)
Warranty 5 yrs/100,000 km
Powertrain warranty 5 yrs/100,000 km

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