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2021 Kia Sorento Review By Larry Nutson

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2021 Kia Sorento
Appealing and Sensible

By Larry Nutson
Executive Editor and Bureau Chief
Chicago Bureau
The Auto Channel

The first quarter of 2021 is behind us as we all continue to move slowly through the pandemic tunnel with us now seeing some light at its end. Auto industry sales have been slowed a bunch over the last year but things are now opening up.

Kia Motors America (KMA) had its best-ever month and an all-time high for first quarter sales. Through March 2021, Kia sales are up 9-percent over the previous first quarter high set in 2016. Kia’s midsize 3-row Telluride SUV has helped bring in a lot of those sales.

Kia’s other, slightly smaller, 3-row SUV, the Sorento, has just received a complete work-over. First introduced 18 years ago as a 2003 model this all-new fourth generation Sorento has lots of newness and a lot of more of this and more of that.

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Along with a new, fresher and more edgy exterior look the interior gains elegance and new technology. The new Sorento rides on a lightened and strengthened architecture, a platform shared with the new K5 sedan. A 1.4-inch longer wheelbase yields more legroom in the oft-used second-row while the two-person third-row is still great for those smaller in stature.

Driving dynamics, ride and handling, and noise vibration and harshness (NVH) are all improved with this new platform. The new platform brings a choice of three all-new powertrains, including a hybrid, each paired with specific trim levels.

LX and S trims feature a 191-hp 2.5-L 4-cylinder paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission with selectable drive modes. EX, SX, and the SX Prestige trims have a 281-hp turbocharged 2.5-L mated to an 8-speed dual-clutch transmission with selectable drive modes. LX, S, EX and SX trims are front-wheel drive with all-wheel drive an option. The SX Prestige is offered only in front-wheel drive or as an off-road capable SX Prestige X-Line equipped with all-wheel-drive (AWD).

S and EX trims are also available as a hybrid (HEV) that uses a turbocharged 1.6-L 4-cylinder paired with a 44-kW electric motor for a total system output is 227-hp. The hybrid engine is paired with a 6-speed automatic and is offered only with front-wheel drive.

The decision on which engine a buyer might need, or want, will be related to seating configuration needs and wants. LX and S trims are 7-passenger with a three-person second-row bench. EX, SX and SX Prestige trims are six-passenger with two center row captain’s chairs.

2021 Sorento base prices for each trim range from $29,390 to $40,590, plus a $1,170 freight and handling (F&H) charge. All-wheel drive adds $1,800 to base prices.

For my 2021 Kia Sorento drive experience I was behind the wheel of a SX Prestige X-Line AWD with a base price of $42,590 and finished in Aruba Green with Black interior trim. Added were the X-Line Rust interior package ($200), carpeted floor mats ($210) and a carpeted cargo mat with seat back protection ($115) bringing the total to $44,285 including F&H.

The X-Line provides increased off-road capability with increased ride height (8.2 inch. v. 6.9 inch. of ground clearance), increased approach, departure and break-over angles, unique front and rear bumper fascias, unique roof rack, and matte trim and wheel finishes.

Design and styling being subjective, I was pleased with the overall looks of the new Sorento. I’m not a green car person but the dark overall appearance of the X-Line was to my liking. I also liked the rust-colored seat and door trim that brightened the interior, harmonized well with the wood trim and provided a luxury look. There was a rich look to the Sorento drove.

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I prefer second-row captain’s chairs for the individual “space” they provide along with the openness down the center. The Sorento’s push-button tilt and slide feature was easy to handle for third-row access. Plus, the seats slide to vary legroom between the two rear seat rows.

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Up front there’s plenty of room, a well laid out instrument display, a large 10.25 inch touchscreen, wireless charging, lots of USB chargers, convenient center-mounted HVAC controls flanked by dual vents, lever-type transmission selector and rotary mode switch.

More Advanced Driving Assistance Systems (ADAS) are now standard, including Forward Collision Avoidance Assist, Lane Keeping Assist, Lane Departure Warning and Rear Occupant Alert. Available are new Blind Spot Collision Avoidance Assist - Parallel exit, new Passenger Safe Exit Assist and new Blind View Monitor.

Cargo room behind the third-row seat is 12.6 cu.ft. With the third-row folded, the volume varies between 38.5 and 45.0 cu. ft, depending on the position of the second-row seats. A nice option with captain’s chairs is the ability to fold only one seat. Cargo space maxes out at 75.5 cu.ft. with both rows folded.

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The Sorento is rated to tow up to 3,500 lbs. with the tow package.

The 2.5-L turbo engine with its 311 lb.-ft. of torque delivers good acceleration from stop as well as good mid-range passing and highway merging. I like dual-clutch automated manual transmissions and the Sorento’s performed quite well. Driving dynamics are nicely balanced with a compliant ride and confident handling. Braking is smooth. All in all, the typical crossover utility vehicle use pattern will be well met by the Sorento. Wind and tire noise are well managed and the cabin was comfortably more quiet than I expected.

Depending on the combination of engine and front- or all-wheel drive EPA fuel economy ratings range from 21 to 24 city mpg and 25 to 29 highway mpg. The Sorento HEV EPA ratings are 39 city mpg and 35 highway mpg.

Check out the new Sorento at Sorento has made its presence known and is already the recipient of a number of industry awards.  Kia was ranked number one among mass-market brands by J.D. Power in the 2021 Vehicle Dependability Study (VDS).

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The new 2021 Sorento’s fresh looks help make it stand out from the competition. The new power train and technology features should attract more buyers. The interior is comfortable, refined and has a premium look. For those who actually only need seating for four and decent cargo room I believe the SX trim is a good choice. If you need more space for people and things the Kia Telluride might be better.

2021 Larry Nutson, the Chicago Car Guy