Review: Kia Sorento (2003 – 2009)


Has the hardware and ability for serious off-roading. Easy-going, pleasant drive. Useful tow car. Owners like them. Excellent value.

Doesn't handle as well as a RAV-4 or X-Trail.

Kia Sorento (2003 – 2009): At A Glance

"Friendly" is a good word to describe the Kia Sorento. It's like a big (surprisingly BIG) huggy bear of a car. Women drivers in particular will love its muscular, protective hunkiness coupled with its gentle nature. At parking speeds, the speed-sensitive power steering is finger-light, and the four-speed autobox makes it a doddle to drive. Even the five-speed manual has an easy, positive gearchange and a light clutch.

KIA Sorento 2.5 2003 Road Test

What does a Kia Sorento (2003 – 2009) cost?

List Price from £33,650
Buy new from £30,152
Contract hire from £291.24 per month

Kia Sorento (2003 – 2009): What's It Like Inside?

Length 4567–4590 mm
Width 1884–1885 mm
Height 1804–1805 mm
Wheelbase 2710 mm

Full specifications

Inside, the width impresses. There's about a foot between the front seats with a voluminous armrest cubby, cupholders and oddments trays. The dash is simple and understandable. The radio with its single slot CD player and four CD store is set high up in your line of sight. Fit, finish and quality of the plastics is very good indeed, and definitely not a poor relation to anything from Europe or, in the case of the X5 and ML, from America. It's so good that the cockpit photo alongside is of the cheaper XE interior, not that of the wood and leather XS. A thoughtful touch is that both driver and passenger seats fully recline into two single beds, which could be very handy for long trips or off-road expeditions.

Child seats that fit a Kia Sorento (2003 – 2009)

Our unique Car Seat Chooser shows you which child car seats will fit this car and which seat positions that they will fit, so that you don't have to check every car seat manufacturer's website for compatibility.

Which car seat will suit you?

What's the Kia Sorento (2003 – 2009) like to drive?

Out on the road it's no sports car, not even a 4x4 pretending to be a sports car like the BMW X5 ‘Intimidator', but performance is perfectly adequate. Off the road, and this is a genuine ‘off-roader', it so outclasses the X5 I can imagine Sorento owners kindly throwing a tow-line to X5 drivers in distress. It's the kind of car that brings out the best in a person's character.

While it doesn't have diff locks, it does have a limited-slip rear diff and an electronically selectable low range, which is essential for steep hills and descents. On the test-drive it handled everything a course around an eroded slag-heap could throw at it, never once showing any sign of temperament from its suspension, its drive-train, its steering or its engine.

Back on the road, it's a good long-distance cruiser and XS models, whether automatic or manual, have decent cruise control; something I'm no fan of on Britain's crowded roads but do admit it could be handy on a long cross-continental haul. Gearing works out at about 27mph per 1,000rpm in the manual and about 29mph per 1,000 in the auto.

Get it on a twisty road or a roundabout and you find its limitations quickly. This is, after all, a big 4x4 with a live rear axle. But handling is more in the class of a Shogun than an old Discovery and you can make decent progress.

This is a big 4x4 that looks like a monocoque Lexus RX300 but actually has a ladder chassis beloved of caravan and trailer towers everywhere. The maximum towing weight is a high 2,800kg. But for caravan towing purposes, using the 85% rule, its high vehicle weight of 2,056 to 2,102kg allows you to safely tow up to 1,787kg, the weight of a substantial twin-axle bungalow on wheels. Fully aware of this, KIA has equipped all UK market Sorentos with self-levelling suspension as standard. So a towing hook is likely to become a very popular accessory.

The KIA Sorento kicks off at a very reasonable £17,995: £1,000 less than the Nissan X-Trail 2.2DI Sport 6-speed, and less than half the price of the average X5. For this you get an awful lot of standard kit (read below) and five massive alloy wheels with sensible, bump-absorbing 245/70 R16 tyres. Go searching for the hidden 5th (spare wheel) and you're in for another surprise.

A large wet tray under the load area floor for your fishing oilskins, diving BCDs, inflatable dinghy or whatever else suits the sort of lifestyle the Sorrento can get you to. It's a friendly car that's going to make an awful lot of friends.

Engine MPG 0-62 CO2
2.5 CRDi 33–36 mpg 12.0 s 204–228 g/km

Real MPG average for a Kia Sorento (2003 – 2009)

Real MPG was created following thousands of readers telling us that their cars could not match the official figures.

Real MPG gives real world data from drivers like you to show how much fuel a vehicle really uses.

Average performance


Real MPG

22–35 mpg

MPGs submitted


Diesel or petrol? If you're unsure whether to go for a petrol or diesel (or even an electric model if it's available), then you need our Petrol or Diesel? calculator. It does the maths on petrols, diesels and electric cars to show which is best suited to you.

What have we been asked about the Kia Sorento (2003 – 2009)?

Every day we're asked hundreds of questions from car buyers and owners through Ask Honest John. Our team of experts, including the nation's favourite motoring agony uncle - Honest John himself - answer queries and conudrums ranging from what car to buy to how to care for it as an owner. If you could do with a spot of friendly advice before buying you're next car, get in touch and we'll do what we can to help.

Ask HJ

Best used 4x4 for towing?

We are looking for a used car to tow a horse box long distances. The vehicle must be capable of pulling 2000kg plus. We have a budget of around £5000 and have been looking at the Kia Sorento 2.5 diesel (2004 to 2006 model) as it seems to fit the bill in terms of towing capacity. Would you recommend buying this car?
This model Sorento is starting to fall apart. Reliability definitely not guaranteed. But it is at least a chain cam engine. Can't guarantee reliability of any big 10 year old 4x4 in this sort of price bracket.
Answered by Honest John
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What do owners think?

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