2021 Kia Sorento

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2021 Kia Sorento Test Drive Review: Putting The 'Sport' Back Into SUV

First introduced to the United States back in 2002, the Kia Sorento is now entering its fourth-generation with an all-new model for 2021. For the first time since the Borrego bowed out of the market, the Sorento now has another SUV model - the Telluride - positioned above it in size. With its place in Kia's lineup changed, the 2021 Sorento arrives sporting a different value proposition than before. Kia positions this new model as a smaller midsize SUV with a small third row for occasional use, making it a 7-seater in a segment dominated by mostly-two-row competitors such as the Chevrolet Blazer, Ford Edge, Nissan Murano, and the Hyundai Santa Fe with which it shares an engine and platform. The new Kia Sorento is offered with either a 2.5-liter four-cylinder producing 191 horsepower or a turbocharged option with 281 hp. A hybrid and plug-in hybrid will be available too, giving the new Sorento a breadth of appeal few can match. Kia sent us two Sorento trims to review, the SX-Prestige with and without the X-Line Package.

Read in this review:

9.2
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2021 Kia Sorento Changes: 🚙What’s the difference vs 2020 Sorento?

The 2021 Kia Sorento is all-new, with more dramatic styling that puts it truly in line with the rest of the contemporary range. It's now bigger and more comfortable, and there's a hybrid powertrain offered for the first time. A plug-in hybrid with more power is also on the way, although this may arrive as a 2022 model. This is the first time Kia has ever offered a turbocharged engine in a US-market Sorento, and it's the first time this model has ever boasted a dual-clutch transmission.

Pros and Cons

  • Sporty K5-inspired styling
  • Potent engine option
  • Hybrid is seriously economical
  • Plenty of safety equipment
  • Spacious cabin
  • Non-turbo engine is a little weak
  • Off-road capability is over-advertised
  • Cargo with seats up is limited
  • Third row is tight
  • Missing features found in the Telluride

Best Deals on 2021 Kia Sorento

2021 Kia Sorento Trims

See trim levels and configurations:

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
LX
2.5L Inline-4 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$29,390
S
2.5L Inline-4 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$31,890
Hybrid S
1.6L Turbo Inline-4 Hybrid
6-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
$33,590
EX
2.5L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$34,990
Hybrid EX
1.6L Turbo Inline-4 Hybrid
6-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
$36,590
See All 2021 Kia Sorento Trims and Specs

2021 Sorento Exterior

2021 Kia Sorento Front View CarBuzz
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Dimensions

  • Length 188.9 in
  • Wheelbase 110.8 in
  • Height 66.7 in
  • Max Width 74.8 in
  • Curb Weight 3,794.0 lbs

Exterior Colors

  • Passion Red Tintcoat +$445
  • Glacial White Pearl +$445
  • Sapphire Blue +$445
  • Runway Red +$445
  • Snow White Pearl +$445
  • Silky Silver
  • Aurora Black
  • Platinum Graphite
  • Gravity Blue
  • Steel Gray
  • Aruba Green
  • Gravity Grey
  • Ebony Black
  • Crystal Beige
  • Everlasting Silver
See all 16 colors

2021 Sorento Performance

2021 Kia Sorento Rear Angle View CarBuzz
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Engine and Transmission

  • Engines
    1.6L Turbo Inline-4 Hybrid, 2.5L Inline-4 Gas, 2.5L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
  • Transmissions
    6-Speed Automatic, 8-Speed Automatic
  • Drivetrains
    AWD, FWD

Handling and Driving Impressions

Based on Kia's latest successes with the K5, Seltos, and Telluride, we expected the new Sorento to offer stellar performance. It didn't disappoint, and overall, the Sorento behaves like a car. The steering feels tight, especially in Sport Mode, while the chassis delivers well-balanced body control and a compliant ride. Kia offers Comfort and Eco Modes, though Smart Mode is our favorite because it can swap profiles based on how the car is being driven. Opting for the all-wheel-drive X-Line adds a Snow Mode, but we didn't have a chance to use it as conditions were warm for the duration of our test drive. It's not the quietest vehicle in its segment, but the Sorento's excellent driving dynamics belong up there with much pricier offerings. The Sorento may be a mid-size vehicle, but excellent tuning helps it feel smaller out on the road, almost like a compact crossover.

If we had only one fault with the Sorento, it's the massive torque steer found on front-wheel-drive models with the turbocharged engine. 311 pound-feet is a lot of torque to send only towards the front wheels, and the Sorento's tires are simply not up to the task. Right through to third gear, aggressive acceleration will see the tires chirping. Adding AWD solves the problem, but the extra weight slows things down marginally.

2021 Sorento Interior

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Seating and Interior Space

  • Seating capacity
    7-seater
  • Front Leg Room 41.4 in
  • Front Head Room 40.3 in
  • Rear Leg Room 41.7 in
  • Rear Head Room 39.1 in

2021 Sorento Trunk and Cargo Space

2021 Kia Sorento Third Row Seats CarBuzz
2021 Kia Sorento Trunk Space CarBuzz
2021 Kia Sorento Maximum Trunk Space CarBuzz

2021 Sorento Safety and Reliability

Warranty

  • Basic:
    5 Years \ 60,000 Miles
  • Drivetrain:
    10 Years \ 100,000 Miles
  • Corrosion:
    5 Years \ 100,000 Miles
  • Roadside Assistance:
    5 Years \ 60,000 Miles

US NHTSA Crash Test Result

  • Overall Rating
  • Frontal Barrier Crash Rating
  • Side Crash Rating
  • Rollover Rating

Verdict: 🏁Is the 2021 Kia Sorento a good SUV?

Learning from the success of the Telluride, Kia has built another stellar SUV. The 2021 Kia Sorento enters to fill a void in the market left by smaller mid-size SUVs that do not offer an optional third row. Though it's not as practical as the Telluride, we think buyers who prefer a smaller vehicle footprint will appreciate the Sorento and its third row that comes in handy in a pinch. Combined with sporty styling, a well-arranged interior, and stellar driving performance, and the Sorento shapes up as a compelling package.

The similarly-size Hyundai Santa Fe offers the same engines bundled in a differently-styled package, but without an option for a third row. Likewise, the Kia Telluride offers more available features and more passenger/cargo space, but it's more expensive and thirstier than the Sorento. Think of the Sorento as a Goldilocks vehicle positioned between the two-row compact crossovers and the three-row midsize SUVs, and it makes perfect sense.

Check out other Kia Sorento Styles

2021 Kia Sorento Comparisons

Hyundai Santa Fe Hyundai
Kia Sportage Kia
CompetitorHorsepowerMPGPrice (MSRP)
Kia Sorento191 hp24/29 mpg$29,590
Hyundai Santa Fe 191 hp25/28 mpg$27,700
Kia Sportage 181 hp23/30 mpg$24,090

2021 Kia Sorento vs Hyundai Santa Fe

The Hyundai Santa Fe shares its underpinnings with the Kia Sorento, and like the Sorento, has been redesigned for 2021. However, this is a five-seater with plenty of space for all occupants, instead of a seven-seater with a cramped third row. Like the Sorento, a 10.25-inch touchscreen infotainment display and a 12.3-inch digital driver display are new, and like the Sorento, a hybrid version is available too. The other engine offerings offered with the Sorento also do duty in the Santa Fe, and pricing is very similar, so which should you buy? We like the exciting and unique styling of the new Santa Fe and feel that this car looks and feels more premium. But ultimately, this is a simple choice: if you need seven seats, get the Sorento. If you don't, get the Santa Fe.

See Hyundai Santa Fe Review

2021 Kia Sorento vs Kia Sportage

The Sportage is basically a smaller version of the Sorento, but you wouldn't say so by looking at it. It has styling that is reminiscent of Kia's past design language, but that doesn't make it a bad vehicle in any way. What does put it behind the Sorento is its towing capacity of only 2,000 lbs, while the Sorento can manage up to 3,500. This is because the Sportage comes with either an older 2.4-liter four-pot with 181 hp or a 2.0-liter turbo with a maximum of 240 horses. Still, you do get the option of AWD, but the six-speed auto is a little frantic when you have the weaker engine. Overall, the Sorento is a more capable car, but with a smaller footprint that makes parking easier and a base price that is more than $6k cheaper than that of the Sorento, the Sportage is still an attractive offering.

See Kia Sportage Review

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2021 Kia Sorento Video Review

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