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2021 Kia Sorento Hybrid Review By Larry Nutson

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First-ever HEV

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

Kia America is seeing blockbuster sales. New sales records were set for three consecutive months in the first half of 2021. Kia’s U.S. mid-year sales are up 43.7-percent year-over-year. Most recently July also saw a new sales record for the month.

Kia offers a wide range of very popular utility vehicles (UV) one of which is the Sorento. For 2021 the Sorento is completely new. This fourth-generation Sorento now rides on a longer wheelbase and features a bold new exterior design, an elegant new interior and a new powertrain lineup with available turbo and first-ever hybrid engines.

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The new Sorento has improved driving dynamics, including acceleration, ride and handling, and noise vibration and harshness (NVH) all coming from its new architecture. The increased wheelbase by nearly 1.4 inches provides better ride comfort and also more interior space. Increased body structure stiffness and reduced overall weight contribute to a more pleasurable driving experience.

The 2021 Sorento is initially available with three powertrains, including a turbo hybrid (HEV). A plug-in hybrid (PHEV) will be introduced in the next model year. Sorento will be offered in five trims: LX, S, EX, SX, and SX-Prestige and available with either front-wheel (FWD) or all-wheel drive (AWD).

LX and S trims have seats for seven and are powered by a 191-HP 2.5-L 4-cylinder mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission in combination with either FWD or AWD. EPA test fuel economy ratings with FWD are 24 city mpg and 29 highway mpg. With AWD they are 23 city mpg and 25 highway mpg.

EX, SX, and SX Prestige trims have seats for six and are powered by a 281-HP turbocharged 2.5-L 4-cylinder mated to an 8-speed dual wet clutch transmission in combination with either FWD or AWD. The SX Prestige is offered only in FWD or as an off-road capable SX Prestige X-Line equipped with AWD. For FWD models the EPA test rating are 22 city mpg and 29 highway mpg. AWD models are EPA rated at 21 city mpg and 28 highway mpg.

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. EPA test fuel economy ratings are 39 city mpg and 35 highway mpg.

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 6-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.

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This is my second spin in the new Sorento having previously driven the SX Prestige X-Line AWD. This time around it’s the Hybrid EX finished in a very noticeable Runway Red with Gray interior trim. Base MSRP for this model is $36,590. The only option charge was $445 for the red color bringing the total to $38,205 including the $1,170 F&H charge.

With 227-HP and 258 lb.-ft. of torque from the HEV powertrain the Sorento has good acceleration and balanced performance. Kia says zero to 60 mph acceleration is in 7.7 seconds. I did a variety of driving and achieved and overall 38 mpg.

Driving dynamics are nicely balanced with a compliant ride and confident handling. Braking is smooth. Wind and tire noise are well managed and the cabin was comfortably more quiet than I expected. All in all, the typical crossover utility vehicle use pattern will be well met by the Sorento.

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

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An increased offering of Advanced Driver-Assist Safety (ADAS) systems, some segment-exclusive, 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.

a look at for more info and facts on the new Sorento. Sorento has over a dozen other compact UVs to compete against. There’s something out there for everyone and the new Sorento will make a good choice for many.

Happy motoring!

© 2021 Larry Nutson, the Chicago Car Guy