2021 Kia Sorento: More Attractive, Yet Less Capable

Strong points
  • Sharp new looks
  • Powerful turbo-four engine
  • User-friendly infotainment system
Weak points
  • No more V6
  • Reduced towing capacity
  • Hybrid and plug-in hybrid variants not ready yet
Full report

The Sorento has been a staple at Kia since 2002. While it debuted as a body-on-frame SUV, this family mover from Korea has become more and more refined over the years, largely contributing to the brand’s success in Canada.

Following the introduction of the fourth-generation 2021 Kia Sorento for the North American market in September, we at The Car Guide recently spent the better part of two weeks putting it to the test over 1,100 kilometres of highways, country roads and city streets. Below are our first driving impressions.

Photo: Antoine Joubert

All-around Package

The significantly refreshed exterior of the Sorento makes it look more attractive and less of a cookie-cutter SUV. The headlights and taillights are larger, while black wheels and accents add a sporty touch.

Despite the new design, it’s the same old story when it comes to the driving experience, which is kind of a letdown. If you were expecting more fun and bigger thrills behind the wheel, you’ll be disappointed. By the way, the auto start-stop system is quite seamless and likely won’t bother you, but throttle response needs fine-tuning.  

Inside, Kia designers did a nice job of modernizing the cockpit. Select trim levels feature a fully digital 12.3-inch instrument cluster, which looks sharp, while the infotainment system is displayed on an eight- or 10.25-inch touchscreen. The menus are simple and easy to use.

Photo: Antoine Joubert

We Miss the V6…

Slotting between the Sportage and Telluride, the Kia Sorento comes standard with all-wheel drive. For 2021, the engine selection has been completely revised. The base 2.4-litre four-cylinder and available 3.3-litre V6 have been replaced by a 2.5-litre mill on LX+ and LX Premium models (seven passengers), and a turbocharged variant on X-Line, EX, EX+ and SX models (six passengers).

The former generates 191 horsepower and 182 pound-feet of torque through an eight-speed automatic transmission, while the latter increases those numbers to 281 and 311, respectively. It also gets a dual-clutch transmission with eight forward gears.

Photo: Antoine Joubert

Still, we’re sad to see the V6 engine being dropped from the lineup. While not exceptionally refined, it has proven quite competent and reliable to this day, not to mention a strong weekend warrior with a towing capacity of up to 5,000 pounds. You won’t be able to pull such heavy loads with the new 2021 Sorento, even with the turbo (max. 3,500 pounds). What does Kia have to say about that? Buy a Telluride instead.  

The problem is that just because you need to tow 5,000 pounds doesn’t necessarily mean you want a three-row SUV or have $46,195 to spend, which is the Telluride’s base MSRP for 2021.

Photo: Antoine Joubert

As for fuel consumption, our tester averaged 10.4 L/100 km after two weeks, slightly more than the official rating of 9.9 L/100 km posted by Natural Resources Canada. For the record, a V6-powered 2020 Sorento with AWD burns 11.1 L/100 km. Such a small improvement in efficiency makes us regret the V6 even more.

Waiting for the Hybrid Variants

The biggest news with the fourth-generation Kia Sorento is arguably the addition of hybrid and plug-in hybrid variants. The former combines a turbocharged 1.6-litre engine with a 44-kilowatt electric motor to generate a total of 227 horsepower, while the latter gets a 66.9-kilowatt motor and provides a zero-emission range of about 48 kilometres. 

Photo: Antoine Joubert

The Sorento Hybrid and Sorento PHEV are scheduled to go on sale in Canada toward the end of 2021, both with all-wheel drive. Their future is much brighter than that of the diesel powerplant Kia once considered offering with its midsize SUV but never did.

How Much?

The new 2021 Kia Sorento starts at $33,995 in LX+ trim, to which you must add freight and delivery charges of $1,850. Standard content includes heated front seats, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility, as well as a number of advanced safety and driver assistance features.

Moving up to the LX Premium requires an extra of $2,500. At that price, you also get push-button start and wireless charging for your smartphone.

Photo: Antoine Joubert

Want the turbo? Then you need to spend a minimum of $39,495 for the X-Line model. Meanwhile, the top-line Sorento SX retails from $47,495. This is where you’ll find 20-inch wheels, leather seats, Bose premium audio and UVO Intelligence connected services.

Kia offers financing with an APR of 2.99 percent. Leasing for 36 or 48 months carries an APR of 3.99 percent, while the rate for a 60-month lease is 4.99 percent.

Verdict

Overall, the 2021 Kia Sorento is an impressive product with plenty of value and sharp new looks. We’re just disappointed by the loss of the V6 engine and the Sorento’s reduced capability. That being said, if you don’t need to tow a huge camping trailer, you should definitely check it out.

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