Bouncing along in the acclaimed Kia Sorento |

Bouncing along in the acclaimed Kia Sorento

special to the daily
Special to the DailyThe 2007 Kia Sorento.

At just a smidge over $30,000, fully loaded, the Kia Sorento (named, I guess, in a slightly misspelled tribute to the Italian seaside village) has got loads of selling points.

Like its sister company Hyundai, Kia is working very hard to overcome a history that associated the brand name with poorly-made, entry level econoboxes. To that end, the new Sorento mixes comfort, good looks and a load of power into a package of which the original inspiration is none too shabby.

Kia’s attention to detail has earned the Sorento top ratings in Strategic Vision’s 2007 Top Quality Index, which focuses on the first 90 days of ownership; the vehicle also received the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s five-star crash rating.

Both of which are sterling accolades. I was, as a result, a bit befuddled by the acclaimed Sorento’s annoyingly springy suspension and overly squishy rear seating – but for those seeking a more economical and, in all likelihood, more reliable mode of transport, the new Kia’s got many of the bases covered, so maybe I was being just a bit picky. You do get a 10 year, 100,000 mile warranty, to boot, plus a reasonable 22 mpg highway rating.

And for $30K, the Sorento does come with a very impressive assortment of goodies. Start with a powerful 3.8 liter V-6 producing 262 horsepower (more than a V-6 Highlander or Explorer) and add the flexibility of full-time all-wheel-drive, including a switchable low range. Then comes a list of many items other competitors offer as expensive options: heated leather seats, nice 16-inch alloy wheels with premium Michelin tires, keyless remote entry, a power sunroof, a luggage rack and a very nice Delco Electronics six-CD changer stereo system.

You even get fancy touches such as simulated wood grain inserts in the cabin, aluminum plates over the rocker panels and a trip computer in the headliner.

Kia’s iteration on the luxury SUV is rather cleanly and smoothly executed, with the exception of chunky body cladding, and the result is a fine looking vehicle that is ready for extended voyages.

That said, actual highway travel did render one rather quick observation – the Kia folks have got to work on the suspension. From the minute I first headed out in the Sorento, it bounced and jogged over potholes and pavement breaks like a freaking pogo stick. Major ruts and bumps taken at highway speed threatened to literally bounce the Sorento into the next lane. I drove a similarly priced (but much more austerely equipped) Mazda CX-7 a week after the Kia and the difference in ride quality was astounding – something I can’t quite explain.

Acceleration and braking in the Sorento were no problem, and I was confident that the Kia would have plenty of power for the hills and some light off-roading duties from the Torque On Demand 4WD system. That suspension springiness just happened to be a major bummer.

Likewise, the rear seating also seemed to lack much underlying support, which could be troublesome for your passengers.

So … certainly a mixed bag. Affordable, with nice looks, great equipment, acclaimed reliability and safety, but just a bit jumpy. Try one for yourself and see if I got a tester with bum shocks and struts, or if that’s truly the Sorento way.

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