First-Generation Kia Sorento Photos and Model History
If for no other reason, the Throwback Thursday/Flashback Friday section on the Friendly Kia blog exists to remind us of the incredible strides Kia has undergone in only a short time. The last ten years have seen the brand move from purely an economic choice to one with compelling options in every class, many of them class-leading and class-defining.
Like many Kia vehicles with an extensive history, the Kia Sorento’s life has seen it evolve from a pragmatic SUV to the captivating family-hauler we know and love today. While you’ve no doubt seen the current 2019 Kia Sorento and its stunning design, available 290-horsepower V6 and standard Apple CarPlay/Android Auto integration, today we’re going to look back at the caterpillar which climbed into the chrysalis from which the 2019 Kia Sorento eventually emerged.
It’s time to look at the history of the Kia Sorento and how the model began:
Kia Sorento Model History
Like the Kia Sportage before it, the original Kia Sorento was quite different from the model we see on our roads today.
First appearing 17 years ago, in February of 2002, the Kia Sorento was a compact, body-on-frame SUV that was built on the frame of a truck (more about the difference here). At the time, the Kia Sorento served as an upgraded Kia Sportage, offering more standard features and better off-road capability, courtesy of its available low-range 4WD system.
As far as specs go, the original Kia Sorento came with a Hyundai-manufactured 3.5L V6 engine that output 192 horsepower and 217 lb-ft. of torque (compare that to 290 horsepower and 252 lb-ft. of torque in the smaller 3.3L V6 used by the 2019 Kia Sorento).
Pre-2005 Kia Sorento models were available with either a 5-speed manual transmission or 4-speed automatic. After 2005, drivers could opt for a 5-speed automatic with an early incarnation of Kia’s Sportmatic(r) sports shift system on board.
Despite the Spartan era of Kia’s history in which the Sorento was introduced, a base model (LX) would still get you a CD player, power-adjustable driver’s seat, side-curtain airbags, aluminum wheels and more. Upgraded features included satellite radio, heated front seats, a powered sunroof and more!
In 2007, Kia moved the Sorento’s standard engine from the Hyundai 3.5L V6 to a 3.3L V6 that output 235 horsepower and 226 lb-ft. of torque. This overhaul also saw the availability of a 3.8L Lambda V6 engine (similar to the one employed by the brand-new 2020 Kia Telluride. However, in this application, the engine put out only 263 horsepower (compared to 291 in the 2020 Kia Telluride) and 257 lb-ft. of torque (compared to 262 lb-ft. In the 2020 Kia Telluride).
Despite the model’s humble beginnings, the Kia we know and love was already beginning to take shape in this generation’s final years. In 2007, Kia made the 5-speed automatic transmission standard across all models. They also won the model’s first five-star crash-test safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
2009 saw the first-generation Sorento’s sundown as the model’s place it had found in the industry led it to be completely overhauled for 2010 as a midsize crossover with third-row seating. Still, the earliest Sorento models taught us to expect more from a compact SUV and let us have fun off-road in a Kia. For that, we’ll always have a place in our heart for this primordial beauty.
First-Generation Kia Sorento Images
First-Generation Kia Sorento: Always in Our Hearts
The first-generation Kia Sorento appeared at a time when Kia was showing but glimpses of the design and engineering powerhouse brand they would become. For that reason alone, we’ll always have a place in our hearts for the SUV that dared to do more.
Thankfully, we can see this heritage in the 2019 Kia Sorento – a vehicle that continues to deliver more bang for your buck, but also includes the confidence of dependability awards from J.D. Power, a Top Safety Pick + distinction from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and an industry-leading 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty.
It’s also got some solid off-road chops: