It’s no secret that we love the Kia Telluride, our 2020 SUV of the Year, and we’re glad that the smaller Sorento will take a page from its playbook and adopt some of its bold design cues. Now, we’re learning specs for the overhauled 2021 Kia Sorento that’s coming to the United States, including details on a new hybrid variant.
Like the Telluride, the new Sorento has a boxy, prominent front end, and the expansive new grille makes its mug appear even wider. The headlamps, now integrated into the grille, offer “tiger eye” LED daytime running lights, which signify the “intense impression of the lines around a tiger’s eyes.” By pushing the A-pillar back slightly, Kia gave the Sorento a more windswept design. We can see the Telluride’s influence in the strong character lines, the vertical taillamps, and the model name spelled out in bold lettering across the SUV’s rear end.
The midsize SUV sits on a new platform that is lighter and stronger. The new platform allows Kia to stretch the crossover’s wheelbase by nearly 1.4 inches, allowing for more interior space. Overall weight is down slightly by 119 pounds, and the average tensile strength has improved by 4 percent. Thanks to the new architecture, Kia can accommodate both hybrid and plug-in hybrid powertrains.
The plug-in hybrid Sorento won’t be available until next year. But a traditional hybrid is available at launch. It consists of a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine and a 59-hp electric motor, which work together to produce a combined peak figure of 227 hp. Kia states the Sorento hybrid is the most powerful of its kind in its class and estimates the model will manage fuel economy figures of 39 mpg city, 35 mpg highway, and 37 mpg combined.
Previously, the Sorento offered 2.4-liter four-cylinder and 3.3-liter V-6 engine options. For 2021, those have been replaced by two different four-cylinder options, each displacing 2.5 liters. The first makes 191 hp and 182 lb-ft of torque, which it routes to the drive wheels by way of an eight-speed automatic transmission. Fuel economy is estimated at 27 mpg combined—up 2 mpg from the old base engine. The second one, a turbocharged unit, delivers 281 hp and 311 lb-ft of torque and relies on an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox. At 25 mpg combined, this mill is 3 mpg more efficient than the previous V-6. Towing capacity maxes out at 3,500 pounds on this model. Both new engines are available with either front- or all-wheel drive.
When it finally arrives, the plug-in hybrid Sorento will be able to travel 30 miles on pure electricity, per Kia. It makes use of a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine and a 90-hp electric motor, which nets a combined peak output of 261 horses. All-wheel-drive is standard, as is a six-speed automatic.
Kia is offering the new X-Line trim for Sorento buyers in search of something a little more rugged. This variant increases ground clearance by an inch and improves the crossover’s approach and departure angles to better help it travel off the beaten path. The Sorento X-Line also gets an all-wheel-drive system with a center locking differential, downhill-descent control, X-Line-specific 20-inch wheels, and a beefier roof rack. The X-Line kit is available on the upscale SX-Prestige trim. Other available 2021 Sorento trim levels include LX, S, EX, and SX.
The Sorento’s new interior looks fantastic. There’s a rotary shifter, available 10.3-inch touchscreen infotainment system, and an optional 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster. Buyers can also get supple leather seats, as well as metal inlays or open-pore wood accents. Kia notes the new Sorento offers more legroom and cargo room than before. Both six- and seven-seat configurations are available.
Standard safety features include a forward-collision warning system, lane-keep assist, lane-departure warning, and rear-occupant alert. Additionally, blind-view monitors help drivers switch lanes more easily by providing a video view of adjacent lanes in the instrument cluster.
The 2021 Kia Sorento is expected to go on sale later this year. Prices have not yet been announced, but we expect the SUV to start above the current model’s $28,110 base price.