First Drive: Not All Changes on the Redesigned 2021 Kia Sorento Are Improvements

Midsized three-row SUV looks to be more efficient, but low-speed drivability and ride comfort have regressed

2021 Kia Sorento Consumer Reports

The redesigned 2021 Kia Sorento has rugged new styling and offers buyers a choice of three powertrains, including a turbo hybrid version. The Sorento could be a good option for buyers who can’t quite swing the extra cost of the larger Kia Telluride or who would prefer a more maneuverable vehicle that’s a bit smaller than most three-row midsized SUVs. But while the new Sorento is still a capable and mostly pleasant vehicle, we believe it has lost some of the charm of the previous model, which did almost everything well.

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The fourth-generation Sorento is built on an all-new platform that Kia says is lighter, yet it has a 1.4-inch longer wheelbase to bring more interior room. The styling quotient has been ramped up with sharper lines that give it a bolder, more rectangular look. Lower trims come with a 191-hp, four-cylinder engine, and higher trims get a new 281-hp, turbocharged four-cylinder. There’s also the first-ever Sorento Hybrid, which combines an electric motor with a turbo four-cylinder and gets a thrifty EPA rating of 37 mpg combined. The non-hybrid Sorento models range between 24 mpg and 26 mpg combined, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, depending on the engine choice and whether front- or all-wheel drive. Kia says a plug-in hybrid version is coming for the 2022 model year.

Prices for the Sorento start at $29,390 (before the $1,170 destination charge) for the base front-wheel-drive LX and top out at $42,590 for the SX Prestige X-Line 2.5T with all-wheel drive. Pricing for the Sorento Hybrid, which comes with only front-wheel drive, begins at $33,590. We bought a 2021 Sorento EX AWD priced at $38,725 for our test program and rented a Sorento Hybrid from Kia to add to our first impressions.

If you’re a Consumer Reports member, our initial expert assessment of the Sorento EX AWD we purchased for our test program is available to you below. After we log more than 2,000 break-in miles on our Sorento, we’ll put it through more than 50 tests at the CR Auto Test Center, including those that evaluate acceleration, braking, fuel economy, handling, car-seat fit, and controls. CR members will get access to the full road-test results as soon as they’re available.

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What we bought: 2021 Kia Sorento EX AWD
Powertrain: 281-hp, 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine; eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission; all-wheel drive
MSRP: $36,790
Total options: $765. Sapphire blue paint ($445), carpeted floor mats ($210), cargo net ($50), wheel locks ($60).
Destination fee: $1,170
Total cost: $38,725

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