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.