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2021 Kia Sorento: First Look

  • The Kia Sorento midsize three-row crossover is all-new for 2021.

  • The new platform underpinning the 2021 Sorento is designed to accommodate hybrid and plug-in hybrid powertrains.

  • The new Sorento has some design cues borrowed from the bigger, more premium Telluride.

Kia is on a roll with one surprisingly good offering after another with home runs like the all-new 2020 Telluride and the redesigned 2020 Soul. The next entry in the Korean brand’s revamped SUV lineup is an all-new 2021 Kia Sorento which Kia says is “at the heart of Kia’s comprehensive global SUV lineup.” This is an important vehicle for the brand that has been winning over skeptical drivers over the last few years and it comes with plenty of updates, making it look like a very promising midsize crossover.

We should mention that the all-new 2021 Sorento that has been unveiled is for the European market, so everything you’re about to read applies to the Euro-spec Sorento. We don’t expect a lot of major changes for the U.S. version other than the unlikely availability of the diesel engine on our shores.

A Smaller Telluride

In some ways, the all-new Sorento appears to be a smaller, more affordable version of the Telluride, which is a very good thing because we love the Telluride. It has a stylish new design that echoes a few design cues of the bigger Telluride, especially in the back. Kia calls the design concept “refined boldness,” which is a pretty accurate way to describe the look of the new Sorento, which manages to look sporty, rugged and refined all at once.

The interior of the new Sorento is quite sophisticated, with a premium design, high-end materials and the latest technology in a versatile SUV. We were wondering if the new Sorento would still offer three rows of seats now that we have the bigger three-row Telluride and the answer is yes — it’s available with either five or seven seats. The 2021 Sorento is roomier than the outgoing model and Kia says that with all seven seats in place, the cargo hold is 32 percent bigger compared to its predecessor. Also, it’s now easier to get into the third row with second-row seats that slide forward farther and a new grab handle inside the C-pillar, making it easier to climb in. Third-row passengers also get a longer armrest with a cupholder and a smartphone tray.

New Engines

The Sorento’s new platform is specifically designed to accommodate hybrid and plug-in hybrid powertrains without cutting too much into interior space. This is the first time ever a hybrid Sorento will be available. The first one we’ll see is a conventional hybrid powered by a 1.6-liter turbocharged engine mated to an electric motor producing a total output of 227 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. The other engine option in North America will be a 2.5-liter turbocharged non-hybrid engine making 277 hp and 311 lb-ft of torque. We don’t have any technical details about the upcoming plug-in hybrid model yet, but Kia says the PHEV will be available in Europe “late in 2020.” As of this writing, all fuel economy numbers are unknown.

Both of the engines that have been confirmed for North America will be big upgrades over the rather underpowered base 4-cylinder that comes in the outgoing Sorento making 185 hp and 178 lb-ft of torque. The available V6 in the current Sorento is rated at 290 hp and 252 lb-ft of torque and we expect more driving excitement from the upcoming turbocharged 4-cylinder with its significant torque upgrade over the outgoing V6.

“The Most High-Tech Kia Ever”

Kia is making the bold claim that the 2021 Sorento is the most high-tech Kia ever. This claim comes from the wide array of available technology we’ll see in the new Sorento. We don’t know yet what will come standard in the U.S.-spec model, but some of the available tech includes seven USB ports (one for each passenger, including in the third row), a 10.25-in infotainment system (upgradable from a standard 8-in unit), a 12.3-in digital instrument cluster, mood lighting and even a “Sound of Nature” feature which creates relaxing ambient soundscapes in your SUV. Luckily, there’s a driver attention warning alert so you won’t fall asleep from being so relaxed while driving your Sorento.

Not surprisingly, there’s a ton of safety tech like smart cruise control, lane-following assist, highway driving assist, a surround-view monitor and it will be the first Kia to offer “Remote Smart Parking Assist,” which allows you to pull your Sorento in and out of tight parking spots remotely from your phone like what we’ve seen in the 2020 Hyundai Sonata.

How Much Does it Cost and When Can I Get One?

Unfortunately, since we only have information on the Euro-spec Sorento, we don’t have any details as of this writing about pricing or availability. Kia says it will go on sale in Europe from the third quarter of 2020 and we can reasonably expect it to be in American showrooms by the end of 2020. As for price, we’re expecting a starting MSRP in the high-$20k range. Find a Kia Sorento for sale

Eric Brandt
Eric Brandt is an author specializing in Oversteer content, new car reviews, and finding the best car, truck, and SUV deals each month. Born and raised in Wisconsin, Eric can often be found exploring the north woods on his 1983 Honda Gold Wing when the weather allows it. Father of four, husband of one, and unapologetic minivan enthusiast. Eric mastered driving stick by having a 3-cylinder Chevy... Read More about Eric Brandt

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