2021 Kia Sorento offers more tech and an available hybrid drivetrain

The gasoline-electric model promises 37 mpg combined, but the plug-in variant that's set to arrive next year should be even more efficient.

Craig Cole Former reviews editor
Craig brought 15 years of automotive journalism experience to the Cars team. A lifelong resident of Michigan, he's as happy with a wrench or welding gun in hand as he is in front of the camera or behind a keyboard. When not hosting videos or cranking out features and reviews, he's probably out in the garage working on one of his project cars. He's fully restored a 1936 Ford V8 sedan and then turned to resurrecting another flathead-powered relic, a '51 Ford Crestliner. Craig has been a proud member of the Automotive Press Association (APA) and the Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA).
Craig Cole
4 min read
2021 Kia Sorento

The new Sorento goes on sale later this year. 


The 2021 Kia Sorento made its North American debut on Tuesday. The fourth-generation SUV gets a complete redesign, riding atop a new platform, offering more technology than ever and, of course, wearing updated duds.

The Sorento, which was first introduced in 2002, has always been a cleanly styled, attractive SUV. Thankfully, designers stuck to the same script for 2021, as the new model is both chiseled and handsome. Front and center is a modernized take on signature tiger-nose grille, which is flanked by angular lamp assemblies. Piercing through darkness, LED headlights are standard. The vehicle's flanks are uneventful but punctuated by six different wheel designs, with rims ranging from 17 to 20 inches in diameter. As for the Sorento's rear, it has some interesting details, including its name spelled out in blocky letters at the bottom of the liftgate. Overall, this three-row SUV looks a bit like a pumped-up Seltos crossover with a few elements from the extremely popular Telluride sprinkled in for good measure -- and this is not a bad combination.

Inside, the new Sorento looks seriously sharp. Its dashboard is nicely sculpted, housing a variety of display screens. It offers beautiful diamond-quilted leather with contrast piping and satin-finished bright trim for a bit of pop. Metal inlays and open-pore wood furnishing are also on the menu. If this cabin is anything like the Telluride's, Kia will have knocked it out of the park.

Supporting that suave bodywork and elegant interior is a new vehicle architecture. Well, new for the Sorento at least. The N3 platform, which underpins the Kia K5 and Hyundai Sonata sedans is lighter, stronger and more versatile than before. Average tensile strength is up by 4% while the vehicle's overall weight has been cut by 3.1%. That may not sound like much, but it equates to 119 pounds. Not bad for an SUV with a 1.4-inch longer wheelbase and a roomier interior. The N3 architecture should grace the Sorento with better driving dynamics and greater refinement, but perhaps more importantly, it enabled engineers to install a range of different powertrains.

2021 Kia Sorento

This vehicle's interior is seriously nice, with interesting materials and loads of tech.


When the 2021 Kia Sorento goes on sale later this year, drivers will have three propulsion systems to choose from. The base offering is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder that delivers 191 horsepower and 182 pound-feet of torque. It's paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission and can be had with either front- or all-wheel drive with torque-vectoring tech and a locking center differential for extra off-road capability. This combination should return 27 miles per gallon combined.

Stepping up from that base engine, a 2.5-liter turbo-four will also be offered. This is the replacement for the outgoing Sorento's optional V6. Expect a potent 281 hp and 311 lb-ft of twist. An eight-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission is its dance partner. Expect 25 mpg combined and a respectable towing capacity of 3,500 pounds. And yes, you get a choice here, too. Front- or all-wheel drive is on the menu.

For economy-minded motorists, the Sorento will be available with a hybrid powertrain, as well. This front-drive-only combination consists of a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine and a six-speed automatic transmission. A 1.4-kilowatt-hour battery pack stores and releases electrons as needed to deliver strong fuel economy. Expect 39 mpg city, 35 mpg highway and a whopping 37 mpg combined. Not bad for a drivetrain with 227 hp.

2021 Kia Sorento

That front end brings to mind the smaller Kia Seltos' face, and that's not a bad thing. 


That's it for the powertrains that will be available in the Sorento this year, but there will be more. In 2021, a plug-in hybrid model will also be offered. It features a 1.6-liter engine and a six-speed gearbox, but it will also have a 13.8-kWh battery pack onboard that provides an estimated all-electric driving range of 30 miles. The plug-in hybrid Sorento will come with all-wheel drive and brandish an impressive 261 hp.

As you'd expect for a new vehicle introduced two decades into the 21st century, this Kia offers plenty of technology. Features like a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, an ever-helpful surround-view camera array and a blind-spot viewing system that sends video feeds from adjacent lanes to the instrument cluster are all available. Depending on model, the Sorento comes with either an 8-inch or a 10.2-inch touchscreen infotainment system. Wireless charging, rear cross-traffic alert and a 12-speaker  Bose sound system are on the menu, too. Kia's Highway Driving Assist, basically adaptive cruise control with lane centering, is offered as well. And with up to eight USB charging outlets, everyone's mobile devices can remain fully juiced, no bickering or fighting over ports necessary.

The tastefully redesigned 2021 Kia Sorento will be offered in five different trim levels: LX, S, EX, SX and SX-Prestige. This means the vehicle should appeal drivers with a wide variety of budgets. Unfortunately, pricing information isn't available right now, but will be announced closer to its on-sale date.

The 2021 Kia Sorento looks like a Telluride crossed with a Seltos

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Watch this: Why you should check out the 2021 Kia Seltos