2021 Kia Sorento

2020
The Car Connection
2020
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Robert Duffer Robert Duffer Senior Editor
September 22, 2020

Buying tip

The 2021 Kia Sorento goes on sale in late 2020.

The 2021 Kia Sorento crossover finds a new look but the same mission: it’s the smaller hauler compared to the Telluride.

What kind of vehicle is the 2021 Kia Sorento? What does it compare to?

The 2021 Kia Sorento three-row crossover SUV now comes with new turbocharged engines, an available hybrid, more interior space, and a new off-road leaning X-Line trim. It competes with the Toyota Highlander, Ford Explorer, Honda Pilot, and, perhaps most problematically for Kia shoppers, the larger, lovelier, Kia Telluride, which was our Best Car To Buy 2020

What's new for the 2021 Kia Sorento?

Review continues below

This year, the Sorento slims down while also getting stronger, roomier, and more efficient with the choice of four available powertrains.  

Style

The 2021 Sorento gets a makeover that breaks free of the bulbous minivan mold of its predecessor. It gets the creased hood from the Telluride, but broadens the grille with thin LED headlights that wrap around to the fender. The Sorento channels some of its look from the 2021 Seltos small crossover, at least in the front. The lower front bumper is full of right angles that challenge the Toyota Highlander for the biggest chin among family crossovers. 

Along the sides, the Sorento’s largely the same as the outgoing version except for a fin-like tab near the rear window. The Sorento’s wheelbase stretches 1.4 inches, and six different wheel designs ranging in size from 17 inches to 20 inches buff up the profile. 

The more assertive stance is most pronounced in the new X-Line SX-Prestige trim, which is raised 1.0 inches over the standard Sorento for better approach and departure angles off-road. It also comes with 20-inch alloy wheels and a roof rack.   

Around back, the Sorento flips its taillights 90 degrees and borrows liberally from the Telluride’s playbook. Upright taillights, a wide badge, and big rear window all read like Telluride Lite—not a bad thing. 

Inside, we see even more similarities with the Telluride including an available 10.3-inch touchscreen for infotainment, an available 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, and a terrain select knob. An 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility is standard. Interior accent lights around the doors and speakers, available quilted seats, metal or open-pore simulated wood inlays and vents shaped like lava lamps add some flair.

Performance

It seats seven standard, or six with available captain’s chairs in the second row. Five trims are offered in LX, S, EX, SX, and SX-Prestige, in addition to the X-Line built off the Prestige. Front-wheel drive is standard on the gas-only engines, but all-wheel drive is an option. 

The Sorento comes with four powertrains, but the plug-in hybrid won’t be available until some time in 2021. 

The base engine is larger than last year’s 185-horsepower 2.4-liter inline-4.The standard Sorento is powered by a 2.5-liter inline-4 that makes 191 hp and 182 pound-feet of torque with an 8-speed automatic. Kia estimates the base engine gets a 2 mpg combined bump to an estimated 27 mpg combined. 

Kia ditches the V-6 for a more potent 2.5-liter turbo 4 borrowed from the Genesis GV80 crossover and paired to an 8-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. It makes 281 hp and 311 lb-ft, and has a towing capacity of 3,500 pounds. Kia projects it to get 25 mpg combined, which would be an improvement of 3 mpg over the V-6.  

A 1.6-liter turbo-4 paired to 1.5-kwh battery pack and 44-kw electric motor that makes 227 hp will be offered as well, paired to a 6-speed automatic transmission driving the front wheels only. Kia targets 37 mpg combined for the hybrid. 

The plug-in hybrid available in 2021 will have a similar set up as the hybrid but with a 66.9-kwh electric motor that helps make 261 hp. It’ll have an estimated 30-mile electric range but will only be offered with all-wheel drive. 

Comfort, safety, and features

Kia says the bones for the new 2021 Sorento are new, and the crossover rides with a slightly longer and stiffer body than before—but still less than 190 inches from bumper to bumper. 

The longer wheelbase results in more interior space, which the Sorento lacked compared to direct rivals. We expect the two seats in the third row to be best left for small children. 

With all three rows in place, the old Sorento offered a scant 11.3 cubic feet of cargo space, which was smaller than most three-row crossovers. Kia said the new design created more leg room in the first two rows, more head room in the third row, and more cargo volume in back. 

Push-button releases on the second-row seats slide the seat forward for easy entrance into the third row, while a push-button on top of the seat enables third-row passengers of any age to get out with ease. Available captain's chairs in the second row are a first for the Sorento, but limit total passengers from seven down to six. 

We also don’t know if our gripes with the low seats in the second row have been addressed, we’ll update this space once we see it in person. 

Standard features include at least six USB ports, an 8.0-inch touchscreen, and driver assist  features including automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, active lane control, and a driver-attention monitor. 

Other optional features include a head-up display, 12-speaker Bose sound system, blind-spot monitors, automatic rear emergency braking, a highway driving assistant, remote start, and the ability to pair two devices via Bluetooth, so one can take phone calls and the other can play music. 

How much does the 2021 Kia Sorento cost?

Pricing will be announced closer to its on-sale date late this year. 

Where is the 2021 Kia Sorento made? 

The 2021 Sorento is manufactured in West Point, Georgia.

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