While it may now be playing second fiddle to the big Telluride, this year’s North American Utility Vehicle of the Year, there are plenty of buyers still checking out the Kia Sorento – and likely more will be doing so in the months to come, now that the Korean carmaker has pulled the wraps off the 2021 remake of the 7-seat SUV.
The fourth-generation Sorento gets more than just updated styling, Kia claiming the new model adds a range of new technologies, an improved and roomier interior, increased off-road capabilities with the new X-line model, and a new turbo-hybrid that manages to eke out 37 mpg even while boosting performance.
“Sorento has always been one of Kia’s premier products,” Sean Yoon, president & CEO, Kia Motors North America & Kia Motors America, said ahead of the SUV’s formal Tuesday debut. “Its combination of style, utility, safety and comfort have made it a perennial customer favorite. This stunning new Sorento sets the bar in the compact SUV class even higher and represents the pinnacle of Kia design and engineering. We’re extremely proud to add it to our line-up of incredible automobiles.”
The unveiling comes a bit later than originally expected. The 2021 Kia Sorento originally was on the calendar at the Geneva Motor Show last winter. That event was scrapped due to the coronavirus and the global preview was pushed back to April. Today’s event brought the reveal of the U.S.-market Sorento.
Visually, the 2021 remake adopts a more aggressive look, picking up some key details, such as the broadened “tiger-nose grille” from the recently launched Seltos SUV. The larger grille is framed between new “eyeline” daytime running lights and standard LED headlamps. Though the roof remains fairly flat, the new Sorento’s greenhouse gives it a sportier, coupe-like appearance.
Overall, the Sorento grows by nearly half an inch in length, the wheelbase stretched 1.4 inches – most of that devoted to a much roomier interior. Passengers should like the fact that the SUV gains 10 mm in additional width. Meanwhile, the 2021 model’s weight drops by 119 pounds, or 3.1%, a factor that should result in better performance, as well as improved fuel economy.
The interior is not only more spacious but also more refined in appearance, adding new satin finishes and optional metal texture inlays and open-pore wood finishes. The cabin – which can be configured with six or seven seats — also features upgraded electronics. The base model comes with a conventional analog gauge cluster that can up upgraded to a 12.3-inch digital display. The stock 8-inch touchscreen, likewise, can be opted up to a 10.25-inch screen.
Kia’s UVO infotainment system now adds features such as cloud-based mapping that relies on real-time map updates, traffic information and historical data suggesting a driver’s preferred routing, Amazon Alexa and Google Home voice assistant integration, and real-time weather information for 25,000 cities.
The UVO Find My Car function even makes things easier by sending real-time pictures of the Sorento’s surroundings to a driver’s smartphone. The SUV, meanwhile, now gets 16 different advanced driver assistance systems, many of them standard, including new Blind Spot Collision Avoidance and Intelligent Speed Limit Assistance which adjusts the active cruise control automatically when speed limits change.
For 2021 the Sorento now is available in six trim levels, including the new, off-road oriented X-Line. It rides about an inch higher, with ground clearance of 8.3 inches. Along with exterior tweaks, including 20-inch alloy wheels and a bridge-style roof rack, the Sorento X-Line comes with standard torque-on-demand AWD with center locking differential and downhill descent control.
While many manufacturers are paring back on powertrain options, Kia is going the other direction. At launch, the U.S. version of the SUV will be offered with three different alternatives, but a plug-in hybrid will follow later in the model year:
- A 2.5-liter GDI inline-four paired with an 8-speed automatic. The engine makes 191 horsepower and 182 pound-feet of torque and is available in front or all-wheel-drive. Combined fuel economy climbs 2 mpg, to 27;
- A turbo version of the 2.5-liter package replaces the automatic gearbox with a wet-clutch DCT. It boosts output to 281 hp and 311 lb-ft of torque, and also is available in FWD or AWD. Towing capacity is 3,500 pounds. Fuel economy is up 3 mpg this year, to 25 combined;
- A turbo hybrid pairing a turbocharged 1.6-liter gas engine with a 44 kilowatt electric motor, combined output reaching a peak 227 hp. The 1.5 kWh lithium-ion battery will offer only brief electric-only operation but helps the Sorento deliver 39 mpg city, 35 highway, 37 combined. The Sorento Hybrid will be offered only in FWD;
- The PHEV version opts up to a 66.9 kilowatt electric motor boosting combined output to 261 hp. The plug-in’s 13.8 kWh battery, meanwhile, is expected to deliver a 30-mile all-electric range.
The 2021 Kia Sorento will go on sale later this year, pricing to be released shortly before the new model reaches showrooms. The base version of the outgoing 2020 SUV starts at $26,990.