2021 Kia Sorento three-row SUV flexes a new bod and hybrid engines

September 22, 2020

The 2021 Kia Sorento three-row crossover SUV shakes off its portly minivan shape for a slimmer, stronger look. Equipped with four new engine choices, including a hybrid and a plug-in hybrid coming later in 2021, the redesigned Sorento is lighter, roomier, more powerful, and more efficient.  

The looks of the Sorento have evolved. The new crossover's nose is closer to the Seltos, with a creased hood, horizontal grille, stretched LED headlights, and angular front bumper. Along the sides, the Sorento doesn't much hide its spacious interior, although an odd triangular kickup next to the rear roof pillar continues Kia's recent adventurous streak for design. Wheel choices range from 17 to 20 inches, while the new X-Line trim lifts up an inch for better off-roading and comes with 20-inch alloy wheels and a roof rack. Around back, the Sorento borrows liberally from the bigger Kia Telluride, including vertical taillights, wide badge, and lower bumper with dual exhaust port outlines.

"There's no doubt that the ruggedness of Sorento's big sibling Telluride played a role in the new design direction," Michael Castiglione, Kia's senior design manager, said in a virtual briefing. 

The 2021 Kia Sorento will come standard with a larger 2.5-liter inline-4 base engine that makes 191 horsepower and 182 pound-feet of torque. Kia says it will get 27 mpg combined, or 2 mpg more than the outgoing 2.4 liter. Replacing the V-6 engine is a more potent and more efficient 2.5-liter turbo-4 borrowed from the new Genesis GV80 crossover that makes 281 hp and 311 lb-ft with an 8-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission powering the front wheels. It improves by 3 mpg to an estimated 25 mpg combined. All-wheel drive is optional on both gas models. 

2021 Kia Sorento

2021 Kia Sorento

2021 Kia Sorento

2021 Kia Sorento

2021 Kia Sorento

2021 Kia Sorento

The hybrid comes with a 227-hp 1.6-liter turbo-4 paired to an electric motor and six-speed automatic transmission in front-wheel drive only. Kia estimates 37 mpg combined. Available later in 2021 will be a plug-in hybrid with a similar engine as the hybrid but with a larger electric motor that helps deliver 261 hp and 30 miles of all electric range. 

The hybrid battery pack will be located under the floor to minimize the impact on interior space. In both seven-seat and six-seat configurations, cargo volume has increased but Kia didn’t specify by how much. The new Sorento is only incrementally longer than the version it's replacing, but the 2021 Sorento's wheelbase is about an inch longer than its predecessor and the engine compartment is more compact and its overhangs are shorter. This leads to more leg room for passengers in the first two rows, and more head room for the third-row passengers, Kia said. The second-row seats can slide forward and back by about 2 inches more than the outgoing model. 

Kia has improved the technology as well, to add to the family appeal. Two devices can be connected via Bluetooth, so one phone can be used to take calls while the tween's phone can play the music. While an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility is standard, a 10.3-inch touchscreen is available, along with a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster on certain trims. A head-up display, 12-speaker Bose sound system, up to eight USB ports, and an ambient sound maker as well as mood lighting complete the feature options for the 2021 Sorento. 

The family hauler is loaded with active safety features, ranging from automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection to adaptive cruise control. Kia will specify standard equipment and pricing when the Sorento goes on sale late this year. 

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