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2003 Midsize SUV Buyer's Guide
by Steve Siler

Kia Sorento
Kia Sorento

The surprise overachiever in the mid-size SUV market right now is the value-priced Kia Sorento, a classy entry that has all the visual snap of certain luxury SUVs (the Lexus RX300 comes to mind) with the pricing advantage of a Korean-badged vehicle.

The Sorento is a true SUV, its body sitting atop a real truck frame. This gives it some credibility both on and off the road, as does its reasonable 8.2-inch ground clearance. That's all fine, of course, but we at RTM are most concerned with how well it can assist in a typical family's everyday transportative needs, the majority of which are executed on paved roads.

So how does it do? Quite well thank you, especially if you consider a little extra cash as a form of assistance in a given family's everyday transoportative needs. And next to most other mid-size SUVs, the Sorento gives its buyers just that-a bit of extra cash-no matter how well it's equipped. Indeed, it is the only one with a base price that starts anywhere near $20,000 (actually, it stickers at a bit less than $20K for 2WD base models, going up to the mid-to-high $20s for well optioned top-of-the-line 4WD models equipped). That's compact SUV dough for a genuine mid-sized SUV. What's more, all Sorentos come with a 192-hp V-6, curtain air bags, a CD player, a full-sized spare tire and of course, that stellar 10-year, 100K-mile powertrain warranty. ABS and leather seats are worthwhile (and similarly affordable) options.

So does it sound like we enjoy the Sorento? You bet. Especially considering the healthy savings that it offers next to the others in this class.