I worked as a mechanic for several years so have personally maintained my cars and those of my family for over 35 years. I was never enthusiastic about owning an off-make like Kia; however, we inherited one w/90k miles and thought we'd give it a try. Bottom line is that this vehicle has the highest cost of ownership of any car I have owned. I spent more on it in the first six months than on my '99 Civic over the entire 15 years - which I sold when this lump of um... "trash" came along. Listing of issues: brakes, electronics, alignment, brakes again, engine gaskets, primary electric, climate control, interior finishes. Had to replace all brake calipers and resurface/grind rotors, which lasted about 5k miles before they warped again (despite following recommended wheel torques; I think the rotors are made from flimsy, untempered sheet metal...). The braking system causes vehicle to steer poorly, requiring more effort, when slowing to turn into a driveway, parking lot, or intersection. Interior materials are cheap - the carpeting in cargo area split and zippers peeled away from rest of materials during routine cleaning/vacuuming. Both key fobs malfunctioned, running down the battery after cycling the door locks overnight. The radio is also a real treat. FM band picks up 5-10 stations in the area for about a mile before they fade out, while the AM band sounds like a Geiger counter in a fallout zone. Engine is designed such that oil remains against the gaskets in the upper end - which causes them to become brittle and shrink, which over time fills the interior with choking oily fumes. The plastic (non-repairable) inlet port on the radiator broke and required replacement. I have had to replace headlight bulbs twice (and no, I didn't touch the bulbs with bare hands). The engine coil packs began to blow - one after the other - over the course of a week, requiring replacement of the entire set, as well as associated components. The air conditioner compressor has begun to leak (the car is from Washington state so it wasn't used much) and has required specialized repair and sealing materials. This is just a partial list; however, I figure the cost in just materials over past year comes out to about $4 per mile - and that's not considering the abysmal fuel economy, which hovers between 15.5 and 17.5 - shocking b/c it's worse than an Escalade, Navigator, or Expedition. SO - I can say I am neither satisfied nor impressed by the performance, reliability or overall value of my '03 Kia Sorento. Trade-in value was less than amount spent on it but I was glad to get it gone. I will NEVER own another Kia.
This car/suv is the worst car i have ever owned, AC/fan/heating unit was replaced for 1100$ at 30,000, power steering went out at 34,000 and cost 800$, headlights go out every month and its hard and time consuming to replace, now the engine has a dropped valve with a bent camshaft at 72,000 miles. These cars love belts and timing belts THEY EAT THEM!!!!!!! this car gets the worst mpg. Its rattles a lot and it idles poorly. Also if you own a Sorento check your oil every 800 miles it eats it. when you put your foot to the floor it will stay in 4th gear at 5,000rpm stays at 88mph and when you go into semi-auto you can't up shift it is a 5 speed trans.
I bought my 2003 Kia Sorento EX 4x4 automatic brand new in 2003. I was the original owner and as of this posting (2017) had $130K. I've since sold the Sorento in favor of a Toyota 4Runner because the new Sorento is no longer a body-on-frame truck platform. The new Sorento is a unibody car platform. I wanted something more rugged and durable and the 4Runner is a true SUV. I took great care of the Sorento which is the main reason it lasted 130k miles. The engine, transmission, and suspension, steering have been solid as a rock. Even after 130k miles, all the rubber suspension bushings looked like new condition! I've only had a few issues. The transfer case stopped shifting into 4x4 due to lack of use, but still operated in 4x2 mode. One engine sensor needed replacing, along with normal hoses, and the fuel temperature senor and thermostat which I replaced myself. It also needed new shocks, which is normal for the age. (Get Bilstein shocks, they are the BEST shocks!). Other than that it has been a workhorse, and reliable. The engine has considerable low end torque so it appears fast for 190 HP. It is spacious inside, with plenty of cargo room. With the proper wet traction tires the Sorento feels very safe and controlled in the rain. Without the 4x4 feature and proper snow tires it is terrible in snow and ice. As a used vehicle the first generation Sorento is a great bargain. Just make sure the timing belt and water pump have been replaced. The BIG Achilles heel for the Sorento is the Crank shaft pulley bolt. There is a recall due to it being weak. If it breaks or timing belt breaks, either can destroy the engine. There is a new, stronger crank shaft bolt replacement. If considering a Kia Sorento of this era, talk to Kia service to determine the cost to replace the timing belt, water pump, crank shaft pulley bolt, and drive belts if they have not already been replaced reciently. Talk to Kia about that crank shaft pulley bolt recall. UPDATE: six months after I sold the Sorrento - After driving my 4Runner for a while I now realize how stiff and harsh the Sorrento suspension springs really were. With the first generation Sorento you will feel every bump, every pothole, every imperfection in the road. However, the trade-off with a tight suspension is that you will gain precise, controlled steering. The Sorrento does not wander or weave and tracks straight on the road even in a torrential downpour. If you want safety and handling more than ride comfort then the first generation Sorento is for you. I must say though that the new Bilstein shocks that I installed enhanced the precise accurate steering but did not compromise ride quality. The very stout and stiff stock Sorento suspension springs are what causes the harsher ride. In contrast my 4Runner lumbers down the road and somewhat bobs and weaves in high winds however the the trade-off here is ride quality is smooth and comfortable. So it's a trade-off with vehicles - Precise, tight handling with a harsher ride, or pillowy soft ride and mushy handling. So, In conclusion, a well-cared-for, first-generation Kia Sorrento is a good vehicle choice.
I bought this car as a third owner in 2011 with 138000 miles. The car was poorly maintained. Thats what I got for the price I bought it for. But I am so glad I bought this car. I had to change the brakes and tires, some bulbs, oil change, and I had to change the spark plugs. The car started running like new. I had no major problems with the car, just maintenance. I had my check engine light on for a couple of months but later on I found out it was because of a faulty throttle position sensor which was easy to change. After that, the check engine light went away till this day. I had a A/C leak but I managed to find the leak and fixed it myself.
I like how the car runs. Its fast, and powerful. I have the EX model which comes with wood trimming, power seats, sunroof, tinted windows.
I would suggest that they would improve the quality of the side mirrors, the color faded away. The door handles inside have chipped. The sunroof won't slide back. Those are the items that need improvements.
This Sorrento was a replacement for my previous vehicle. It was used and abused. Previous owner did no maintenance on it. Spent a couple of hours under the hood cleaning MAF sensor, throttle body. Had my buddy replace the oil and all the tires. Not to mention complete brake fluid change( no charge for any of it. For which I am eternally grateful) it now runs like a champ. Roomy , comfortable, fun, and a pleasure to drive. Still needs to have a few little things done. The fact it ran as good as it did considering what wasn't done in it 255,000 miles of service is testament to its build quality. Called KIA about recalls. Booked in same day.
True 4x4. Body on frame construction. No blind spot when driving.