as tested: $44,285
This week, we review the all-new 2021 Kia Sorento, delivered in top-class SX Prestige X-Line AWD trim and featuring everything new, from exterior and interior to under the hood.
This fourth generation Sorento is built on a larger platform that extends wheelbase and overall length. Trim models for 2021 include entry LX, and then move upward to S, EX, SX, and SX Prestige. The off-road enhanced X-Line addition is only available on the top trim.
All Sorento models include front-wheel-drive as standard and AWD optional, except for the SX Prestige X-Line model, (our tester) which features AWD as standard. Additionally, from LX to SX, every Sorento built comes with three rows of seating, something not always seen in the midsize class.
Considering Sorento is still a fairly new member of the SUV class (introduced in 2002), a bit of Kia history is noteworthy as it dates all the way back to 1944. Back then, South Korea-based Kia was merely a manufacturer of chassis parts for bicycles. In 1951, Kia started building its own bicycles and by 1957 partnered with Honda to build small, engine-powered bikes. Then in 1962, Kia ventured into the small truck market and built trucks for Mazda before finally building its own cars in 1974 at a plant also utilized by Italian brand Fiat and French builder Peugeot. Due to political infighting in 1981, Kia car assembly stopped although Kia continued to build light-duty trucks.
Built in West Point, our Sorento SX X-Line arrives with room for six passengers thanks to second row captain seats (seven with second row bench seat), a great looking all-new exterior and most impressive tri-color cabin. The new ’21 style upgrade features its signature tiger-nose front grille with LED lights all around. The X-Line trims feature a one-inch higher lift for better AWD ground clearance while out back is a well designed new motif with rectangular triple rear lighting and special badges. The tailgate is power operated and even though rear cargo space is limited with the third row seating up, when the seats are lowered it opens up nicely with room to spare.
Standard is a 10.25-inch Navigation display with Apple Car Play and Android Auto (standard on all trims). Most impressive is Kia Drive Wise Driver Assist Technology, although only available on the top trim. Included are safety enhancements like Forward Collision-Avoidance, Assist-Cyclist and Assist-Junction Turning (your dealer will explain), Blind-Spot Collision Rear with Rear Cross Traffic, Safe Exit Assist, Smart Cruise Control with Stop and Go, Lane Keep and Lane Follow Assist, Highway Driving Assist, Parking Distance Warning-Reverse, and Rear Occupant Alert with Ultrasonic Sensors. This is an outstanding package of high-tech safety that Kia deserves credit for.
However, remember that all Sorentos include high-tech safety from forward collision braking to lane keep assist to automatic high beam. The Drive Wise Assist is an enhancement to many of the standard safety features.
Under the hood, L and LX entry models are fitted with 191-horse, 181-torque 2.5-liter four-cylinder engines with EPA ratings of 24 city and 29 highway. If you want a four-cylinder with AWD, fuel mileage drops a bit in the city to 23 and 25.
Powering the EX and SX models is the new 281-horse, 311-torque turbocharged 2.5-liter 4-cylinder that not only delivers great fuel mileage at 22 city and 29 highway front drive and 21 city and 28 highway AWD, it will accelerate to 60-MPH in about 6.5-seconds. Sorento hybrid models will be available soon and we’ll have more on these models soon. The biggest change for ‘21 is the discontinuation of the V6 engine in the Sorento line, although both of the four-cylinders deliver better fuel mileage compared to the V6’s 18/24, respectively. A main drawback is tow capacity, as it drops from the V6’s 5,000-lbs. to four-cylinder’s 3,500 lbs.
The ‘21 Sorentos rely on an eight-speed automatic and the AWD versions come with full-time 4x4 systems featuring locking center differentials and dual-clutch 8-speed automatics. (No CVTs here). SX X-Line models ride on quality 20-inch Bridgestone tires on beautiful matted alloys that put a finishing touch on the all-new exterior layout, which is more boxy than last year’s model and more SUV looking, too. (I like the boxy designs more than the aerodynamic looking models).
Our top line AWD SX X-Line Sorento starts at a base price of $42,590 and features just about every bell and whistle as standard fare. However, we stress to readers that the entry level seven-passenger Sorento L starts at $29K, and comes well-equipped sans some upper level amenities and higher tech safety equipment. Underneath, all Kia trims feature four-wheel independent suspensions with MacPherson struts up front and a multi-link setup out back. The result is comfortable rides and good handling. All AWD models come with skid plates for off-road protection. Five Star government safety crash ratings are expected although testing has yet to be completed on the 2021 models.
Notable standard features on our tester include a 12-speaker Bose surround sound stereo with SiriusXM, voice command navigation, heated and ventilated seats, push button start, Six Drive Modes (Normal, Smart, Custom, Eco, Sport and Comfort), paddle shifters, heated steering wheel, turn signal video display (nice), premium leather seating, and panoramic sunroof. There are over 30 other standard features awaiting your inspection on the upper SX models, including a notable 12.3-inch Supervision digital info display.
Our SX X-Line featured a recommended Rust colored, leather perforated tri-tone interior for just $200 more, carpeted floor mats for $210, and carpeted cargo with seat back protection for $110. These ancillary options brought the final tally to $44,285 with $1,170 delivery included.
In summary, this all-new 2021 Kia Sorento is a fine-looking, three-row SUV that makes for a great midsize choice. It’s really a great vehicle.
Likes: Value, new generation, 100,000-mile warranty, new engines.
Dislikes: Engine a bit noisy, no SiriusXM on LX models, tow capacity drops from discontinued V6 capability.
—Greg Zyla is a syndicated auto columnist.