2021 Kia Sorento

The Car Connection
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Aaron Cole Aaron Cole Managing Editor
March 18, 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.

The 2021 Kia Sorento still shuttles families in three rows of seats, but it’s not the largest crossover SUV available by the automaker anymore. That distinction goes to the fantastic Kia Telluride, the Korean automaker’s breakout hit last year and our Best Car To Buy 2020

This year, the Sorento gets a makeover to find itself among other crossovers Kia’s since introduced, and perhaps break out of the cookie-cutter crossover shape it’s been stuck with for the past few years. 

Kia hasn’t yet said how much it will cost, but the 2021 Sorento will likely arrive in the U.S. in late 2020. 

Review continues below

Style and performance

The new Sorento’s big continental energy replaces its dowdier minivan shapes from last year, complete with a creased hood, thin LED headlights, and sharper nose. The Sorento channels some of its look from the new Seltos, at least in the front. The lower front bumper is full of right angles and creases and it appears to challenge the Toyota Highlander for the biggest chin in 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 sticking up like a lone bottom tooth that may be different for different’s sake. 

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 a wide 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. The Sorento appears to have a rotary gear selector instead of the Telluride’s tall handle, and some interior accent lights around the doors and speakers. 

Kia hasn’t yet detailed all of the Sorento’s powertrains, but the automaker gave us hints on two. A 277-horsepower 2.5-liter turbo-4 borrowed from the Genesis GV80 crossover will be available and paired to an 8-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. A 1.6-liter turbo-4 paired to hybrid batteries and electric motors that makes 227 hp will be offered as well, paired to a 6-speed automatic transmission. Kia confirmed a plug-in hybrid is in the works, but it’s not clear if it’ll be related to the Sorento hybrid already announced, but with a bigger battery. Other engines, including a base inline-4, may appear but Kia is mum for now. 

Front-wheel drive will be standard on most Sorentos, although all-wheel drive will be available (or standard) on other trims. 

Comfort, safety, and features

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

There’s one extra inch between the wheels than the outgoing version, and the cabin has been moved closer to the engine than before. That should result in more interior space, which the Sorento lacked compared to direct rivals. We expect the seven-seat version to have a short third row that’s 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 32% more cargo volume in back. 

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. 

Kia hasn’t yet detailed standard equipment yet, but the available safety features include automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, active lane control, and a highway driving assistant. 

Other optional features include a head-up display, 12-speaker Bose sound system, and an ambient sound maker as well as mood lighting. The 2021 Sorento comes with at least seven USB ports, and the ability to pair two devices via Bluetooth, so one can take phone calls and the other can play music.  

It’s unclear how much the 2021 Sportage will cost when it goes on sale late this year, but it’s likely to be more than the outgoing model that started around $26,000.

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