The 2021 Kia Sorento Is a Three-Row SUV That Delivers Up to 37 MPG

According to Kia, it's the most efficient in its class. And this isn't even the plug-in version.

Those who follow automotive news from outside North America may have seen this one already but Kia has an all-new Sorento for 2021. In addition to a fresh design, it’s bringing along class-leading fuel economy, a new, outdoorsy X-Line trim and, eventually, a plug-in hybrid variant.

On first impression, the fourth-gen Sorento doesn’t really look like any other Kia. Okay, maybe there’s a little Seltos resemblance in the front end but, mostly, Kia has side-stepped car-design-by-photocopier and for that, we tip our caps. It looks sharper-edged and more angular than the Telluride which it presumably slots underneath and, styling-wise, it leans more toward SUV than crossover. 

Mind you, the three-row Sorento hasn’t gone full ladder frame truck (that’s coming later, apparently) but is built on a new N3 unibody platform that’s apparently lighter, stronger and more refined than that of the old Sorento. The wheelbase is now 1.4 inches longer while overall weight is down 119 pounds, or 3.1 percent. 

At launch, the 2021 Sorento will be available with three different powertrains. An unassisted 2.5-liter four-cylinder making 191 horsepower moves base Sorentos around while a turbocharged 2.5-liter four-pot effectively replaces the old V6. The turbo engine makes 281 hp, is hooked up to a segment-exclusive wet-clutch DCT and is capable of towing up to 3,500 pounds. Environmentalists, meanwhile, will likely opt for the 1.6-liter turbo hybrid good for 227 hp and, according to Kia, a best-in-class 37 miles per gallon combined—out-sipping the Toyota Highlander Hybrid which returns 36 mpg in front-wheel-drive form. While the unelectrified 2.5-liter Sorentos can be had with either all-wheel-drive or front-wheel-drive, the hybrid is exclusively front-wheel-drive. 

Those looking to use even less fuel, however, will want to wait for the upcoming plug-in hybrid Sorento. Due out for the 2022 model year, it’ll also use a 1.6-liter turbo albeit one paired to a 66.9-kilowatt electric motor and a 13.8-kilowatt-hour battery. Kia says it’ll come with 261 combined hp, AWD and an estimated 30 miles of silent, electric-only driving. 

Also new for this generation is a more rugged X-Line trim level which features an inch of extra ground clearance, better approach and departure angles, revised AWD tuning with snow mode and a sturdier roof rack. The top-shelf X-Line SX-Prestige Sorento even gets a center locking differential and downhill descent control. 

Available with either six or seven seats, the Sorento’s interior is said to be more spacious than before. A 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster is available while the center infotainment display can measure up to 10.25 inches and feature haptic feedback. Also, it’ll connect with up to two phones via Bluetooth at the same time. When the available wireless charging pad is occupied, a total of eight USB ports can be found throughout the rest of the cabin. Kia is leaving no device behind.

Another family-friendly piece of tech is the new Sorento’s standard Rear Occupant Alert which detects if any children or pets have been locked in the back seat and honks the horn and turns on the four-ways if it thinks there are, a feature which could easily prevent quite a few tragedies once summer rolls around again. Speaking of tragedy prevention, the Sorento can be had with up to 16 different ADAS systems including Forward Collision Warning, Intelligent Speed Limit Assist and Safe Exit Assist that warns of oncoming traffic when exiting the vehicle. 

The 2021 Kia Sorento will go on sale later this year. Official pricing has yet to be announced but we don’t expect it to stray too far from the current model which starts around $27,000.


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