The new-for-2021 Kia Sorento’s bolder and more chiseled appearance are no accident; the redesigned SUV rides on a new platform with a 1.4-inch longer wheelbase and slightly stretched overall length. Along with fresh styling, those minor changes gives the Sorento a bolder and more chiseled appearance. As a whole, the 2021 Sorento is much more angular than the somewhat lozenge-like outgoing Sorento. And from some perspectives, there are hints of its larger Kia SUV counterpart, the award-winning Telluride.
The interior looks like a step up from before. Details like the ambient lighting, textured trim, and big digital displays should make top trims of the Sorento feel like a more premium vehicle. Those touches are reserved for higher-end trims, but the wrapped steering wheel, console storage bins, and neat two-in-one air vents will likely be standard on all Sorentos.
A torquey turbocharged engine and two hybrid powertrains are among the Sorento’s engine options, along with a naturally aspirated four-cylinder base engine with just under 200 hp. Six- or seven-passenger configurations are available, as are trim packages intended to give a more sporty, luxurious, or adventurous feel. With so many variations available, it seems that Kia wants the Sorento to have a wider appeal than it ever has before.
What We Think
The new Sorento is worth consideration if you’re shopping for a midsize SUV, but there are some things to look out for. Opting for the more powerful 2.5T engine yields impressive passing power and response, but the powertrain almost demands AWD as the standard FWD setup can’t quite cope with the extra grunt. The dual-clutch automatic transmission paired with the turbocharged option lacks refinement, too. Ride quality is firm but not harsh, even on optional 20-inch wheels.
Inside, buyers will be impressed with the Sorento’s new-found wealth of digital real estate. There’s a lot of screen space here. The third row is usable but pretty tight—this is more of a 5+2 than a proper seven-seater—but that comes down more to the high floor and small rear windows than legroom.
Learn more about the 2021 Kia Sorento in our pros and cons review here.
Performance and Fuel Economy
The Sorento’s standard engine is a 2.5-liter I-4 producing 191 hp and 182 lb-ft of torque. The powerplant is connected to an eight-speed automatic transmission and has FWD as standard or AWD optionally. Fuel economy numbers read 24/29 mpg city/highway with FWD or 23/25 mpg with AWD.
An available turbocharged 2.5-liter I-4 makes 281 hp and 311 lb-ft of torque. This engine is paired to an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic; FWD is standard, and AWD is optional. Efficiency isn’t far behind the naturally aspirated powertrain; 21-24/28-29 mpg. In MotorTrend testing, an AWD Sorento with this engine needed just 6.3 seconds to hit 60 mph.
The Sorento hybrid uses a 1.6-liter turbo-four and 44-kW electric motor powered by a 1.5 kWh battery. This setup makes 227 hp combined, all sent through the front wheels by a six-speed automatic. This hybrid setup has been EPA-rated at 39/35 mpg.
A plug-in hybrid model uses the 1.6-liter turbo-four but joins it to a more-powerful 66.9-kW motor powered by a larger 13.8-kWh battery. Combined output is 261 hp, distributed to standard AWD through a six-speed automatic. Kia estimates 30 miles of all-electric driving range from the Sorento plug-in hybrid.
The Sorento earns a 2021 Top Safety Pick from the IIHS, but only with the upgraded LED headlights included with the SX and SX Prestige. All other variants get the lowest possible Poor headlight rating for inadequate visibility.
Standard driver-assist and active safety features include forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, lane keep assist, rear-seat occupant alert, and automatic speed limit adaptation. Systems like adaptive cruise control, video blind-spot monitoring, rear and side cross-traffic alert, and rear automatic braking are available.
Cargo Space and Interior Room
The Sorento is a three-row SUV and can seat six or seven passengers depending on the middle row’s configuration. The standard second row configuration is a three-across bench seat, but individual second-row captain’s chairs are available. In either case, the third row is a two-seat bench.
Kia says the Sorento’s new platform provides improvements to interior volume and passenger space, but it’s still smaller than the three-row Telluride or the new Carnival minivan. Legroom is rated at 41.4 inches up front, a generous 41.7 inches in the second row, and 29.6 inches in the way-back. Cargo volume measures 12.6 cubic feet behind the third row, 38.5-45.0 cubic feet behind the second depending on the seat positioning, and 75.5 cubes with all the seats folded down.
An 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen is standard, and a 10.3-inch unit is optionally available. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Bluetooth connectivity are included. A 12.3-inch all-digital gauge display is optional or included depending on trim and shows the view from the available blind-spot monitoring video cameras. The entry-level trim has six USB ports, while all others have eight ports between the three rows; a wireless charging pad is available. If you can’t park immediately at your destination, the Sorento’s available built-in navigation system can provide walking directions to it if it’s nearby. Optional premium tech features include a 360 degree-view camera system and 12-speaker Bose audio setup; a semi-autonomous parking system will also likely be offered. Driver profile settings, as well as monitoring and control of vehicle functions, can be managed from the Kia Access smartphone app.
Can the Kia Sorento Go Off-Road?
The Sorento might not have the solid axles and massive tires of dedicated off-road SUVs, but its available X-Line package brings more rugged styling and improved capability for driving on unpaved surfaces. When equipped on the SX-Prestige trim, the X-Line package has an 8.3-inch ride height—one inch more than standard—which improves approach and departure angles. Its AWD system gains a locking center differential, a snow mode, and hill descent control. Style-wise it gets distinctive exterior details, black 20-inch wheels, and a robust roof rack. The X-Line package won’t turn the Sorento into a true rock crawler, but it should improve its capabilities on loose and uneven terrain.
The 2022 Sorento Looks a Little Bit Different
Just one year after it was introduced, the Sorento receives a tiny—but significant—styling update. The 2022 Sorento will wear Kia’s new badge, which is no longer just “Kia” in an oval and now instead a funky, highly stylized depiction of the word. We’re still warming up to the new logo, but its angular geometric form seems to suit the Sorento’s bodywork. That could be the main change between the 2021 and 2022 models, but it’ll serve as an unambiguous way to tell them apart. We got our first look at the 2022 Sorento at the 2021 Chicago Auto Show.