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New for the model year, the 2021 Kia Sorento is more than just a compact SUV. With a newly extended wheelbase and list of four powertrains to pick from, the Sorento is becoming a strong contender in this segment. Third-row SUVs in the compact segment are kind of a complexity since they offer relatively little space, but the revamped Sorento shows just how bound and determined Kia is to make their formula work. Is it one that might work for you? Read on so that you can find out.
What's New for 2021?
The 2021 Kia Sorento marks the entry into the fourth generation of the Sorento. This year brings with it four powertrain options, including a plug-in hybrid and a regular hybrid. Also, there is now a longer wheelbase that creates more space inside of the cabin. This vehicle gives you the style of the Telluride for a more accessible and affordable price.
Top 10 Reasons to Buy a 2021 Kia Sorento – The Pros
1. Better Fuel Economy Numbers Than Before
Fuel economy numbers have been massively pumped up for this year, and, of course, that is due in part of the addition of two new hybrid powertrain options. The Sorento's old V6 has been dropped from the line-up, leaving the 2.5-L 4-cylinder base engine and its new turbocharged version as the gas-only versions. On the base trim, you can get up to 24 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway. Of course, many people are going to be interested in the hybrids. The standard hybrid will get you an EPA estimated 39 mpg in the city and 35 mpg on the highway. The plug-in hybrid has about 30 miles of pure-electric range and gets a combined 37 mpg. Dare we say, these hybrid powertrains are going to give the Sorento a competitive edge this model year.
2. A Spacious Cabin
The extension of the wheelbase to 110.8 inches (over last year's 109.4 inches) gives the cabin more room for third-row occupants. Overall, the cabin feels spacious for a compact-style third-row SUV. Kia seems to know just what to do with limited space, and the extra space that was added makes a difference for third-row occupants.
3. The New Turbo 2.5-L 4-cylinder Engine
The new 2.5-L 4-cylinder turbo engine is a much more balanced option than the former V6. This new option generates a power output of 281 hp and 311 lb-ft of torque. It puts the old 3.3-L V6's 290 hp and 252 lb-ft of torque to absolute shame, and nobody will miss that engine. The turbo 4-cylinder is ultra responsive and provides drivers with an engaging ride. It pairs well with the 8-speed dual-clutch transmission too.
4. The Traditional Hybrid Engine
The traditional hybrid engine is a front-wheel drive exclusive model that pairs a turbo 1.6-L 4-cylinder engine with a 44-kW electric motor. Together, they generate 227 hp and work in conjunction with a 6-speed automatic transmission. It is more affordably priced than the plug-in, and it certainly caters to first-time hybrid buyers who don't want to deal with buying a plug-in. For a traditional hybrid, it runs smoothly and has a lot of power under its hood while still providing a solid fuel efficiency.
5. The Plug-in Hybrid Engine
Okay, the plug-in is really where it's at. This variant takes the traditional hybrid's gas engine but instead uses a 66.9-kW electric motor in order to get 261 hp. Given its 13.8 kWh, the plug-in can get about 30 miles of pure electric range when running on a full charge. If you are someone who drives 15 miles or less a day for work, just think of how much money this could save you on gasoline.
6. An Interior Design That Rivals the Telluride
The Kia Telluride is stunning; there's no doubt about that. The Sorento used to be a bit more basic, and we had our fingers crossed that Kia would give this model a massive make-over for 2021. They did not disappoint. The Sorento's interior is full of high-quality materials that look and feel amazing. The embossed leather on the line-topping SX Prestige trim level is superb, but even the base trim's upholstery is nothing to scoff at. What you see in the higher trim levels is enough to rival actual luxury SUVs. We're impressed.
7. An Available 12.3-inch Digital Instrument Panel
If the analog instrument panel isn't enough for you, opt for the super cool, high-tech 12.3-inch digital instrument panel. It is reminiscent of what you find in luxury rivals like Mercedes-Benz, and it is really fun to use once you work your way through its short learning curve. Many of the Sorento's direct competitors don't offer anything like this. Advantage: Kia.
8. Plenty of Standard Infotainment Features
Kia is really upping the ante when it comes to gadgetry, and we're digging it. Not only do you get a ton of standard features, but they actually work well! An 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system comes standard, but you can opt up for a more high-tech 10.25-inch screen to accompany the 12.3-inch digital instrument panel. This dual-display looks great side-by-side and does a nice job of succinctly displaying different information. The Sorento is very much current-gen with a glance toward the future.
9. Second-row Captain's Chairs Are Now Available
Want to have easier access to the third row and only need seating for six? Second-row captain's chairs are now optional. They do open up more space in the second row and allow for passengers to more easily get through to the third row as needed. Having the option available is a nice gesture on Kia's part, even if a lot of buyers might just stick with the traditional seven-seater set-up.
10. Numerous Trim Levels to Choose From
Buyers get a lot of choices with the 2021 Kia Sorento. Four powertrains, two seating options, multiple packages... And, of course, the numerous trim levels. There are five standard trims to choose from: the base LX, S, EX, SX, SX Prestige, and SX Prestige X-Line. Front- or all-wheel drive is an option on most of them; the X-Line is AWD-only. The Hybrid is available as the S and EX, and it is FWD-only. The plug-in model is AWD-only.
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Reasons Not to Buy a 2021 Kia Sorento – The Cons
1. No Complimentary Scheduled Maintenance
While Kia offers generous warranty coverage (a five-year/60,000-mile basic warranty and a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty), there is no complimentary scheduled maintenance. Huh. Most automakers offer this, including top rivals like Hyundai, Toyota, Subaru, and Chevrolet. More automakers are jumping on this bandwagon since it is bringing buyers to the lot, so it is a bit baffling as to why Kia - a manufacturer with such an amazing warranty offering - does not include this for their customers.
2. The Dual-clutch Transmission
In everyday driving scenarios, the dual-clutch transmission that comes on some of the trim levels lacks in refinement. Its smoothness just does not match that of the Telluride and is not what you should expect from a family-friendly SUV. It falls short of our expectations for Kia, and we hope that Kia will tweak the DCT to make the gear shifts smoother for drivers. The SX FWD especially shows issues with shuddering coming through the seats and pedals while driving at slower speeds.
3. The High Floor Behind the Second Row
If it were not for the high floor height behind the second row, we would say that the third row is downright spacious for a vehicle in this segment. Unfortunately, coupled with the tiny side windows, this high floor design compromises the Sorento's ability to be a fully functional carpooler.
4. A Somewhat-stiff Ride Quality
Depending on which wheels you equip, you could end up with a moderately stiff ride quality. Roll off the lot with 20-inch wheels and you could find that your ride is a little too stiff for the liking. Sticking with the 18-inch wheels might suit you a lot better if ride comfort is of the utmost importance. The 20-inchers don't exactly create a harsh ride quality, but for a long road-trip, they just are not ideal. The 18-inchers are better suited for that.
How It Stacks Up to the Competition:
2021 Kia Sorento vs. 2021 Kia Telluride
We can't go through this review without directly comparing the Sorento with the 2021 Kia Telluride. We've mentioned it enough times, so we might as well, right? The Telluride is the Sorento's most direct competition, and the sibling rivalry is fierce. The Telluride comes with a spacious interior design geared toward hauling larger families. It also has a V6 engine with a ton of power and a respectable max towing capacity. With its impressive levels of comfort, the whole crew can load up and take a long road-trip in this SUV without the seats becoming stiff. The only downsides? You cannot upgrade the powertrain, and there are not a lot of small item storage areas inside of the cabin.
2021 Kia Sorento vs. 2021 Hyundai Palisade
If you have more of a preference for Hyundai, you might want to check out the 2021 Hyundai Palisade. It offers three spacious rows where adults can comfortably sit. That's right, you can fit two adults in the third row! Its V6 engine is packed wiht power, and it has the ability to tow quite a heavy load. On top of that, you get a ton of standard high-tech features equipped and enough options left over for customizing. However, the Palisade gets expensive the higher up you go in trim levels. It also appears as though Hyundai slapped some cheap physical controls on from its less-expensive vehicles as a cost-cutting measure. Also, as with the Telluride, you can only get the V6.
The 2021 Kia Sorento is one of the year's top compact third-row SUVs. Its remodel marks a massive shift for Kia. They are no longer that 'economy vehicle' company. While their vehicles are affordable, they aren't making cheap, raggedy vehicles by any stretch of the imagination. The Sorento offers multiple high-powered and fuel-efficient options that are decked out in high-quality materials and high-tech gadgets.
• Why buy a 2020 Kia Sorento? w/ pros vs cons