The 2021 Kia Sorento crossover SUV strikes out in a new styling direction, and brings hybrid and plug-in models along for the adventure. The Sorento is a seven-seat crossover SUV that slots below the big Telluride in the Kia lineup. It’s a rival for vehicles like the Ford Explorer and VW Tiguan, as well as the related Hyundai Santa Fe. It’s great for families who need extra seats on occasion, and for those who want better fuel economy than non-hybrid SUVs.
For 2021 everything is new. The shape’s new, and it brings some more visual flair than the smooth, anodyne Sorento that it replaces. With the electric-razor grille, metallic finishes, and a cabin with exotically shaped vents, the 2021 Sorento sets new styling ground.
The driving experience is better in some ways, with more lively steering and braking than in the past. A trio of powertrain choices starts with a 191-hp inline-4, turbocharges that engine for 281 hp, or veers off into hybrid territory with a smaller turbo engine strapped with batteries and an electric motor. The coming plug-in hybrid intrigues us and will probably be the best and brightest performer,. All Sorentos have admirable ride quality and steering feel that is better weighted than before.
The hybrid checks in with EPA ratings of 39 mpg city, 35 highway, 37 combined. We saw very close to that in lots of high-speed interstate driving. With all-wheel drive, it’s rated at 36/33/35 mpg. Plug-ins score 79 MPGe or 34 mpg combined, and 32 miles of all-electric driving. For the naturally aspirated 4-cylinder, the EPA rates the Sorento at 24/29/26 mpg when it’s configured with the inline-4 and front-wheel drive; 23/25/24 mpg with the same engine and all-wheel drive. With the turbo-4 it’s 22/29/25 mpg with front-wheel drive or 22/27/24 mpg with all-wheel drive.
With slightly more interior space than before the Sorento can comfortably seat four adults, with a fifth in the middle bench seat position for short trips. We like Kia’s second-row captain’s chairs and their sliding seat tracks with more leg room or cargo room, the choice is yours. But the third-row seat has one of the lowest bottom cushions we’ve sampled. Better to fold it down and open up more than 75 cubic feet of cargo room.
The NHTSA gives the Sorento four stars overall, with a four-star rating for front-impact protection. But the IIHS calls it a Top Safety Pick when configured with optional headlights; the standard headlights are deemed “Poor.” Every Sorento has automatic emergency braking, active lane control, and adaptive cruise control. Most versions can also get parking sensors, blind-spot monitors with braking support, and a surround-view camera system.
Prices start at $30,565 for the Sorento LX and its LED headlights, cloth seats, and 8.0-inch touchscreen with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. We like the $36,165 Sorento EX for its turbo engine (or hybrid), second-row captain’s chairs, adaptive cruise control, and wireless smartphone charging. The $43,765 X-Line gets digital gauges, leather upholstery, 12-speaker Bose audio, and a surround-view camera system.
While Kia’s Sorento has been around for quite some time, it often got lost in the middle of the midsize SUV pack, not any more. The 2021 Kia Sorento brings new found edgy styling, competitive efficient powertrains, and class-leading technology. The Sorento easily vaults towards the top of its class punching way above its price point giving it the credentials to not get lost in the pack because it’s definitely worth a look.