2021 Kia Sorento gets bold redesign, more power Featured

Posted On Sunday, 16 May 2021 22:24 Written by
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The 2021 Kia Sorento gets a solid redesign and some off-road credibility. The 2021 Kia Sorento gets a solid redesign and some off-road credibility. Photo courtesy of Kia

Kia has earned a lot of headlines in the past couple years, but most of it has been surrounding their Telluride SUV, which came in with a bang and took the industry by storm.

But now it’s time for another vehicle to make news: The 2021 Kia Sorento, which is assembled at Kia’s plant in West Point, Georgia.

Debuting a brand new generation of the vehicle, which is lighter and smaller than the Telluride, Kia is presenting another alternative for families that is just as versatile as the Telluride, but also more fun to drive and off-road capable.

Read on for a full report on what it has to offer to people shopping for the best new 3-row SUVs.

For those familiar with past versions of the Sorento, be prepared for a major upgrade in design.

The SX Prestige X-Line model of the Sorento is what I tested, and it features an aggressive design that is very appealing, including 20-inch matte finished alloy wheels, X-Line front and rear front bumper fascias, exclusive X-Line Roof Rails and aluminum sport pedals.

Inside, the design is among the best you’ll find in an SUV. Materials grow in quality as you go up the ladder, from cloth seat trim on base model, up to SynTex seat trim, and high-quality genuine leather on the SX Prestige trim level.

Seating for up to 7 is offered in the Sorento, with some versions offering 6 seats (with Captain’s Chairs in the second row). Versatility comes from one-touch sliding and folding 2nd row seats, and both the second and third can be lowered for maximum cargo space. The third row seats are best left for the kids, but the good news is they do recline.

Other interior highlights include a heated and leather wrapped steering wheel, attractive wood accent trim,
heated and ventilated front seats, a panoramic sunroof with power sunshade that comes in very handy on nice and sunny days.

Then there are the little things that enhance the experience, such as the smart power tailgate. Just stand behind the Sorento with your Smart Key and the tailgate opens automatically for you.


The Sorento I tested featured a 2.5-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder engine; which was paired with a 8-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. This transmission is new for 2021, and helps create smooth shifts and maximize power delivery. Its impact is clearly felt when driving the Sorento. Paddle shifters are also available for those who want to control the gears. 

Numbers on this engine are 281 horsepower and 311 lb.-ft. of torque. The Sorento’s two base models (LX, S) offer a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with 191 hp and 181 lb.-ft. of torque. The other models (EX, SX, SX Prestige and SX Prestige X-Line) offer the engine I tested. A hybrid version of the Sorento is also offered for those focused on maximizing fuel mileage.

FWD is standard on the Sorento, but AWD is offered. Towing capacity caps out at 3,500 pounds.

The Sorento is extremely smooth on the freeway, even at high speeds. There were times I drove long distances and didn’t even realize how fast I was going. So be careful on the open road.

It gets going very quickly for its size, with a zero to 60 time under 7 seconds. This was one of the best driving experiences I have had in an SUV in a long time. It’s fast, braking is sold, corners well, very sporty for its size. And on top of it all, it’s very quiet inside. Really the whole package as far as driving experience goes.

The driver of the 2021 Sorento can choose their driving mode to best fit the occasion. Choices are the fuel-saving ECO mode, SPORT, COMFORT, SMART or CUSTOM. Snow mode is also offered and is helpful in winter climates.

For those who like to do a little off-roading, there’s good news about the Sorento: It features up to 8.2 inches of ground clearance (6.9 inches on FWD models, 8.2 inches on AWD), front and rear skid plates, and improved approach/departure angles, plus a helpful roof rack for any gear you may want to bring.


Jumping right into the infotainment setup, there is an 8-inch touchscreen on lower trim levels (LS, X, EX), and a 10.25 touchscreen on higher trim levels (SX, SX Prestige, SX Prestige X-Line). The larger screen is very wide, looks amazing, and is easy to use. Voice commands were understood very well by the vehicle, including for navigation. And the touchscreen controls were also easy to use and well-designed.

The UVO link telematics system offers several advanced connected vehicle features, such as:
— Connected Routing system that calculates the optimal route using real-time maps, and predicted upcoming traffic patterns
— Voice control of the vehicle’s climate, seat and steering-wheel heating, audio system, and other functions
— Advanced notifications including Engine Idle Notification, Automatic Engine Shut Off and Rear Occupancy Alert. (i.e. … Rear Occupancy Alert can send push notification alerts via the UVO link app if movement is detected inside the vehicle

New UVO features include:
— On-demand Find My Car: Surround View Monitor uses the vehicle cameras to capture images of the vehicle’s surroundings and then share them via the Kia Access UVO app
— Last Mile Navigation: Provides walking directions to the driver’s final destination if the vehicle is parked between 0.1 and 1.2 miles away

The Sorento includes 3 free months of SiriusXM satellite radio, and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay phone mirroring on all trim levels. A 6-speaker sound system comes on on most trim levels, but the SX Prestige gets 12 speakers and offers a very sharp sound. USB ports are located throughout the vehicle, and some models get a wireless phone charger.

Moving on to how Kia keeps you and your family safe, the Sorento offers the usual bevy of airbags, a rearview camera with dynamic guidelines, and 16 Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems that are either standard or available.

Among the most critical are:
— Forward Collision Avoidance-Assist w/ Pedestrian Detection, Cyclist Detection and Junction Turning (Front camera and radar can detect vehicles when turning at intersections, helping you avoid collisions)
— Lane Departure Warning and Lane Keeping Assist (Monitors your position and makes sure you don’t deviate from your lane through corrective steering)
— Blind-Spot Collision-Avoidance Assist w/ Parallel Exit Assist: This system can apply the brakes if it detects a vehicle in your blind-spot.
— Rear Cross-Traffic Collision-Avoidance Assist: Radar sensors scan for passing vehicles as you back up and can apply the brakes to avoid a collision.
— Smart Cruise Control w/ Stop and Go: Keeps a safe distance between you and the vehicle you are following.
— Anti-Lock Braking System: If skidding under braking is detected, ABS modulates brake-force to reduce skidding, allowing for reduced braking distances and quicker control of the vehicle.


The Sorento’s official numbers for an AWD vehicle are 21 city/28 highway/24 combined. With FWD, you get 22/29/25. My real-life experience was lower than these official numbers, as I averaged 20 mpg during my time in the vehicle.
The hybrid version of the Sorento claims to get 37 mpg.


The Sorento I tested was priced just over $44,000, and was near the top of the price range. The base price starts about $30K, and these numbers are competitive for the segment.

Another feather in Kia’s cap is industry-leading warranties that may lead to people choosing the Sorento.
These include:
— 10-year/100,000 mile limited powertrain warranty
— 5-year/60,000 mile limited basic warranty
— 5-year/60,000 mile roadside assistance plan


With each new redesign, Kia continues to improve on the Sorento, and this latest upgrade reaches new heights. With a drive quality that’s hard to match, and tremendous safety features, the Sorento is a contender for one of the best SUVS available in 2021.


AutoTechReviews.com can be found on Twitter @AutoTechReview, or stay updated at the AutoTechReviews Facebook page.

Matt Myftiu can be found on Twitter @MattMyftiu.

Additional Info

  • Vehicle: 2021 Kia Sorento
  • Price as tested: $44,285 (starts at $30K) 
  • Best feature: Powerful and smooth driving experience; redesign brings a sharp interior design and bold exterior 
  • Rating: 4.5 out of five stars  
  • Who will want this vehicle?: Buyers seeking a 3-row SUV that’s powerful, attractive and off-road capable.
Matt M. Myftiu

Matt Myftiu has been a journalist for two decades with a focus on technology, NASCAR and autos.

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