Search Cars for Sale

The Original Kia Sorento Was a Body-On-Frame SUV with an Available Manual Transmission

These days, the Kia Sorento is one of the most popular midsize family crossovers on the road, well-regarded for its long warranty, car like driving experience and reasonable pricing. But the Sorento wasn’t always a family crossover — and the original model was far different than the current one.

Indeed, the Kia Sorento went on sale way back in 2003, and the original model was very different from today’s crossovers. It used a body-on-frame design rather than an unibody design common to modern crossovers — a design more commonly used in pickup trucks and serious off-roaders. The original Sorento also offered 4-wheel drive, rather than typical all-wheel drive — another trait of a serious off-roader vehicle.

But that wasn’t all. Powering the Sorento was a 3.5-liter V6 that made an abysmal 192 horsepower — a laughable number by modern standards given the engine size — and fuel economy was rated at just 15 miles per gallon in the city and 18 mpg on the highway with the automatic. But, beginning with the 2004 model year, there was a manual, too. Yes, that’s right: the first Kia Sorento was a body-on-frame SUV with 4WD and a stick shift.

The manual didn’t last long, as the Sorento’s V6 was upgraded in 2007 to 3.8-liters and a more reasonable 262 hp, at which time the automatic was the only available transmission. But there are still some manual, first-generation Sorento models out there — about a dozen currently listed on Autotrader, though only one purports to have the dream combination of the manual transmission and 4WD.

Here’s Why the Koenigsegg Agera RS Is Worth $10 Million
I Bought the Most Unreliable BMW Ever Made
Autotrader Find: 1990 Subaru Legacy With a Landau Roof

Sign up for Autotrader newsletters

The best cars and best deals delivered to your inbox

Email Address 

By subscribing, you agree to our privacy policy

Where You Can Buy

Loading dealers...


  1. My dad owned 2 of these back when they were new (and cheap) and I can say the 3.5L was super duper slow. It was actually a decent SUV otherwise as the interior was pretty nice and it looked good. When the 3.8L was added it made it much better and was fast for what it was. 

Leave a Comment

Doug Demuro
Doug Demuro
Doug DeMuro writes articles and makes videos, mainly about cars. Doug was born in Denver, Colorado, and received an economics degree from Emory University in Atlanta. After graduation, Doug spent three years working for Porsche Cars North America. Eventually, he quit his job to become a writer, largely because it meant that he no longer had to wear pants. Doug’s work has been featured in a... Read More about Doug Demuro

Most Popular Articles

2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid: First Look

The 2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid jumps to the head of the hybrid class.

Best New Cars for 2022

Here is our list of the best new cars for 2022 (presented in alphabetical order by manufacturer).

Best New Car Deals: September 2022

This month's best new car deals include several attractive offers for qualified shoppers.

Search By Style

More Articles Like This