2021 Kia Sorento Preview

Jack R. Nerad and Christian Wardlaw | Sep 22, 2020
  • Complete redesign with new, more expressive exterior styling
  • Added size compared to previous-generation Sorento, with more interior space
  • Multiple powertrain choices including conventional, hybrid and plug-in hybrid
  • Completely revamped infotainment and driver-information systems
  • Full collection of Kia’s advanced driving assistance systems
  • Built in West Point, Georgia
  • On sale in U.S. in the fourth quarter of 2020

Introduction - Find the best Kia deals!

The redesigned 2021 Kia Sorento represents a complete remake of the company’s popular midsize 3-row crossover SUV. Built on an entirely new, larger platform that promises more interior space, the 2021 Sorento will be Kia’s most high-tech vehicle ever, says the automaker.

Available in LX, S, EX, SX Prestige, and X-Line SX Prestige trim levels, the 2021 Sorento will offer a choice between four powertrains and front-wheel or all-wheel drive. In addition to normally aspirated and turbocharged 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engines, a new Sorento Hybrid and Sorento Plug-in Hybrid will arrive in showrooms during calendar year 2021.

The new 2021 Sorento will also have a long list of advanced connectivity, driver-assistance, and infotainment technologies. For example, available twin digital widescreen displays highlight the completely revamped interior, which Kia says was partially influenced by spacecraft in science fiction movies.

2021 Kia Sorento SX Blue Front Quarter Action

Kia will build the all-new Sorento in its West Point, Georgia, factory, and it will go on sale before the end of the year. The base price is likely to be about $28,500.

Exterior Features - Find the best Kia deals!

The 2021 Sorento's exterior design gives the crossover a more confident and sophisticated look, resulting in a more dramatic appearance than the previous version of the Sorento, which was attractive but largely nondescript. The new Sorento incorporates sharp lines and deep creases, and new vertical taillights resemble those of its Telluride sibling. Fresh paint colors and six wheel designs ranging from 17 inches to 20 inches in diameter are available.

2021 Kia Sorento X-Line SX Prestige Green Rear Quarter View

Less than an inch longer and wider than the previous edition, the 2021 Sorento looks larger because of shorter front and rear overhangs and a near 1.4-inch wheelbase stretch. Yet, the SUV’s vehicle architecture is both lighter and structurally stronger than before.

The hood is longer too, giving more emphasis to Kia’s signature "tiger nose" grille. The grille is broader and features integrated LED headlights, and the lights have a new "tiger eyeline" LED daytime running light signature, virtually assuring that owners will include Survivor’s "Eye of the Tiger" on the audio system's playlist. Turn signal indicators are integrated with the running lights.

Despite the changes, the new SUV still resembles the current version of the Sorento. Among the similarities are the slanted rear roof pillar and the gray cladding over the wheel arches. The new Sorento also follows other recent Kia models, such as the Telluride, by displaying the nameplate in bold individual letters across the rear liftgate. 

Interior Features - Find the best Kia deals!

Kia says the 2021 Sorento’s 7-passenger interior represents a sea change in quality and design, and from the looks of it, they're right. 

2021 Kia Sorento SX Black Interior Dashboard

Blending satin-like surfaces with available metallic or open-pore wood trim, the cabin looks neither busy nor over-designed. The optional leather seats are particularly striking with an imaginative and appealing embossed quilt pattern. 

As much as the seats command attention, the biggest draw inside the Sorento is the available twin digital display setup that dominates the dashboard. Both options, the 12.3-inch-wide digital instrument cluster pairs with a 10.25-inch touchscreen infotainment and navigation system. Haptic-feedback buttons on either side of the infotainment screen control the system's multiple functions. 

According to Kia, the new Sorento will be more comfortable. Second-row legroom improves by 3.6 inches, and the seats slide forward to add third-row legroom or extra cargo space. Kia says new LATCH anchors in the third-row seat enhance the Sorento’s people-carrying capabilities.

Kia claims cargo volume is best in class, but the automaker provided no official measurements. Based on the European-specification version, the Sorento holds approximately 24.7 cubic-feet of cargo (24.3 for the PHEV) behind the second-row seat, while maximum volume measures as much as 74.2 cubic-feet.

Optional Features - Find the best Kia deals!

Kia has not clearly defined each version of the new Sorento but, based on what’s offered in the outgoing version of the SUV, as well as Kia’s other models, we can make some educated guesses.

Inside, the Sorento is likely to offer a choice between cloth, Sofino simulated leather, and genuine leather upholstery. Heated front seats, heated rear seats, and a heated steering wheel are also good bets, as well as ventilated front seats. An available panoramic glass roof will bathe the cabin in natural light, and Kia has confirmed that buyers can choose between a second-row bench seat and captain’s chairs.

A head-up display is also likely to land on the options list, along with Kia’s smart tailgate feature, which detects the proximity of the key fob and automatically opens after a few seconds. Expect an available Mood Lighting system in 64 different shades of color, too, one that emits soft ambient downlighting from beneath the dashboard and door trim, creating a lounge-like feeling.

Under the Hood - Find the best Kia deals!

In standard specification, the 2021 Kia Sorento has a 191-horsepower, direct-injected, 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine delivering 182 lb.-ft. of torque. It uses an 8-speed automatic transmission to power the front or all four wheels, and the available AWD system includes a center locking differential and torque-vectoring capability. Kia estimates this engine will provide up to 27 mpg in combined driving.

For better acceleration, or to enjoy 3,500 pounds of maximum towing capacity, you’ll want the optional turbocharged 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine. Replacing the 3.3-liter V-6 engine of the previous Sorento, this turbo four generates 281 horsepower and 311 lb.-ft. of torque. A sophisticated 8-speed wet dual-clutch automatic transmission (DCT) powers the front wheels unless the buyer specifies AWD. Kia says this engine will deliver up to 25 mpg in combined driving.

Next up, a new Turbo-Hybrid powertrain is available. It’s based on a turbocharged 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine, and Kia pairs it with a 44-kW electric motor and a 1.5-kWh lithium-ion polymer battery pack that's located under the floor, with minimal impact on cabin or luggage space. A 6-speed automatic transmission powers the front wheels, and this version of the Sorento produces a total of 227 horsepower and 258 lb.-ft. torque. Kia expects the Sorento Hybrid to return 37 mpg in combined driving. Unfortunately, the Sorento Hybrid is unavailable with AWD.

Arriving sometime in 2021, the Kia Sorento plug-in hybrid uses the same turbocharged 1.6-liter 4-cylinder and 6-speed automatic, but swaps in a 66.9-kW electric motor and 13.8-kWh battery. It comes only with AWD, develops a combined total of 261 horsepower, and supplies an estimated 30 miles of electric driving before switching to gas-electric operation.

Choose the new 2021 Sorento X-Line SX Prestige for a downhill descent control system, a Snow driving mode, an inch of extra ground clearance (to 8.3 inches), and improved approach and departure angles. This version of the SUV also has a stronger and more useful roof rack.

Safety - Find the best Kia deals!

Kia will pack the 2021 Sorento with safety equipment. Leading the list are Kia's advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), designed to help reduce many of the inherent hazards of driving.

Standard equipment will include adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go capability and intelligent speed limit assistance, including for upcoming curves. Additionally, every 2021 Sorento will include forward collision warning with pedestrian detection, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, lane-keeping assistance, and lane-centering assistance. The 2021 Sorento also comes with a driver monitoring system, a Leading Vehicle Departure Alert to let the driver know when traffic ahead has cleared, and an ultrasonic rear-seat reminder system with smartphone notification.

Options include cyclist detection, blind-spot warning, active blind-spot assistance including for when exiting a parallel parking space, a camera-based Blind View Monitor, and rear cross-traffic warning with automatic braking. Passenger safe-exit assistance, automatic high-beam headlights, and a surround-view camera are also available, and an upgrade for the forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking system works at intersections to help prevent a driver from making an unsafe left turn.

Highway Driving Assist is also available. This is Kia's Level 2 semi-autonomous driving technology, and, when active, it controls acceleration, braking, and steering at speeds up to 110 mph. The system uses camera and radar sensors to maintain a safe distance from the car in front, while monitoring road markings to keep the Sorento in the center of its lane.

One of the most interesting safety features announced for the European Sorento is Kia's first multi-collision brake system, which enables the SUV to mitigate the severity of secondary collisions. It automatically applies the brakes when the airbags deploy during an initial collision, further protecting occupants from secondary frontal or side impacts. It works like post-collision braking systems offered by other automakers.

Technology - Find the best Kia deals!

While an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system is standard in the new Sorento, complete with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, it is the available 10.25-inch touchscreen infotainment system and 12.3-inch high-resolution digital instrument cluster that fill Kia’s new SUV full of big-screen wonder.

Highlights of the infotainment system include Bluetooth pairing of two phones at once and compatibility with both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. A wireless smartphone fast charger is also available, along with a 12-speaker Bose premium sound system.

Kia's UVO telematics system provides information via the Sorento's touchscreen and to owners' smartphones. The system displays live traffic information, weather forecasts, points of interest, and details regarding potential on- and off-street parking. UVO also enables drivers to send route directions to their car before a journey and to check the location of their vehicle at any time, even when they're in it, complete with surround view images of the SUV. A new UVO feature is Last Mile Navigation, a smartphone navigation assistant that helps you to find your destination even if you’ve had to park a distance away. 

There are up to eight USB ports in this SUV, including two charging sockets integrated into the backs of the front seats, so all seven passengers can keep their mobile devices charged and don't have to communicate with one another. Speaking of communication, drivers can project their voice to rear passengers through the stereo speakers, limiting yelling during family road trips. Parents can also use Quiet Mode to listen to music in front while kids are sleeping in back.

Kia is the source of the information in this article. It was accurate as of September 22, 2020, but may have changed since that date.

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