2021 Kia Sorento

2021 Kia Sorento First Look Review: One Heck Of A Follow-Up

by Jared Rosenholtz

Automakers strive for success with each new model reveal, but sometimes a massive hit can make it tough on the next car to live up to the hype. In the case of the Telluride, Kia posted massive sales, proving that a Korean automaker can build a world-class midsize three-row SUV. Now it's time for the sequel, which can often be challenging to execute after a surprise blockbuster hit.

The 2021 Kia Sorento arrives on the market, looking ready to slot in just below the Telluride in Kia's lineup as the smaller midsize option. Kia has learned what buyers crave in an SUV and is prepared to offer it in a slightly tighter package. If the Telluride was 'Star Wars: A New Hope,' this Sorento looks like it could bethe brand's 'Empire Strikes Back', the sequel to outdo the original.

Is the 2021 Kia Sorento a good SUV?

  • Exterior Design 9 /10
  • Performance 8 /10
  • Fuel Economy 8 /10
  • Interior & Cargo 10 /10
  • Infotainment & Features 10 /10
  • Reliability 9 /10
  • Safety 10 /10
  • Value For Money 9 /10
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2021 Kia Sorento Models

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
2.5-liter Turbo 4 Cylinder Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
2.5-liter Turbo 4 Cylinder Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
2.5-liter Turbo 4 Cylinder Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
2.5-liter Turbo 4 Cylinder Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
2.5-liter Turbo 4 Cylinder Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive

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2021 Kia Sorento 1 Kia
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Exterior Design: More Than Baby Telluride

The all-new Sorento is much more than just a shrunken-down Telluride. Designed at Kia's Irvine, California studio, the Sorento mimics the Telluride's rugged design language while incorporating unique styling elements and going in a different direction. Sharp, modern lines give the Sorento a classy aesthetic, and elements such as the "tiger nose" grille and "eyeline" DRLs provide a bespoke fascia. Strong character lines give the vehicle an imposing stance, especially in the halo X-Line SX-Prestige trim level with beefier wheels and a taller suspension setup. Kia has managed to give the Sorento a look all its own without having it feel out of place with the rest of the lineup. Wheel sizes range from 17 to 20 inches - the largest ever for the Sorento.

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Interior: Are We Sure It's Not A Genesis?

The Telluride deserved praise for offering a premium interior at mainstream prices, and it looks the Sorento will do the same, and then some. The Sorento's cockpit comes filled with high-quality materials such as bright satin finishes, available metal texture or open-pore wood inlays, quilted leather, and inviting ambient lighting. All of the controls look intuitively laid out, meaning there should be plenty of space and little learning curve.

In terms of technology, the Sorento looks ready to lead its class. Available features include a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster with Blind View Monitor, surround-view cameras, up to eight USB ports, an eight-inch or 10.25-inch infotainment display with connectivity for up to two smartphones, and a Bose Premium sound system with 12 speakers. The Sorento will seat five passengers comfortably with room for two more in a pinch, and based on the photos, we'd question why you'd ever need to spend more on a BMW X5 or Mercedes-Benz GLE.

2021 Kia Sorento 8 Kia
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Powertrain: Turbo + Hybrid

Kia kept us in the dark on powertrains following the European debut, but it was worth the wait because the Sorento will come with a staggering four options to choose between with no V6 in sight. A base 2.5-liter four-cylinder sends just 191 horsepower and 182 lb-ft torque to either front-wheel- or all-wheel-drive through an eight-speed automatic transmission. An optional turbocharged version makes a more satisfying 281 hp and 311 lb-ft going through a new eight-speed dual-clutch with the same drivetrain options.

For the first time ever, Kia also plans to offer the Sorento as a hybrid in two forms. The standard hybrid is FWD-only with a 1.6-liter four-cylinder turbo engine and a 44 kW electric motor. The two combine to produce 227 hp and achieve an estimated 39/35/37 mpg city/highway/combined. A plug-in hybrid version will be AWD-only and adds a larger 66.9 kW electric motor, bumping the total output to 261 hp and adding a 30-mile electric-only range.

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Pricing & Competition

Kia has not announced pricing just yet, but the Sorento has always been an excellent value proposition over its competitors. Buyers can choose from five trim levels, including the LX, S, EX, SX, and SX-Prestige, plus the flagship SX-Prestige AWD model with the X-Line package. We expect this new Sorento to start below $30,000, but quickly exceed $40,000 with options. Only the base, turbo, and turbo-hybrid powertrain will arrive at launch, with the PHEV model reserved for the 2022 model year.

The Sorento jumps into battle against other smaller mid-sizers like the GMC Acadia, Hyundai Santa Fe, and Nissan Murano. With a fabulous exterior design, a luxurious interior, strong tech features, and numerous engine options, the Sorento looks poised to take its segment by storm.

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2021 Kia Sorento Dashboard Kia
2021 Kia Sorento 19 Kia
2021 Kia Sorento 20 Kia

Kia Sorento Popular Comparisons

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$28,000 - $41,500
Price Range (MSRP)
Kia Sorento