New turbo engine, no V-6, and a plug-in hybrid variant: meet the 2021 Kia Sorento

LISTEN 04:43

The Sorento came to market in 2002 and has since been one of Kia’s top-selling models in the US of A. We’re taking a closer look at the 2021 Sorento, a car that has come a long way from its inception to the all-rounder mid-size SUV it is today.

Right now, the Sorento comes with three powertrains, including a hybrid, and we’re told a plug-in hybrid is expected to show up next year. The 2021 Kia Sorento goes on sale in the U.S. by the end of 2020, so let’s see what it brings to the table.

Powertrains for everybody

2021 Kia Sorento
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The base engine is a 2.5-liter naturally-aspirated GDI unit with 191 horsepower and 182 pound-feet of torque. It can be twinned to either an AWD or FWD configuration and it returns 27 mpg estimated combined.

The same mill is offered in a turbocharged state, making 281 horsepower and 311 pound-feet of torque, with either FWD or AWD. Sending power and torque to the wheels is an eight-speed wet dual-clutch gearbox, allowing for up to 3,500 pounds to be towed. On the fuel economy front, this powertrain returns about 25 mph estimated combined.

2021 Kia Sorento Exterior
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2021 Kia Sorento specifications
Engine LX 2.5 S 2.5 EX 2.5T SX 2.5T SX Prestige 2.5T SX Prestige X-Line 2.5T
Type 2.5L 4-cylinder Gasoline Direct Injection (GDI) engine 2.5L 4-cylinder Gasoline Direct Injection (GDI) engine 2.5L 4-cylinder turbocharged Gasoline Direct Injection (GDI) engine 2.5L 4-cylinder turbocharged Gasoline Direct Injection (GDI) engine 2.5L 4-cylinder turbocharged Gasoline Direct Injection (GDI) engine 2.5L 4-cylinder turbocharged Gasoline Direct Injection (GDI) engine
Displacement (cc) 2,497 cc 2,497 cc 2,497 cc 2,497 cc 2,497 cc 2,497 cc
Bore x Stroke (mm) 88.5 X 101.5 88.5 X 101.5 88.5 X 101.5 88.5 X 101.5 88.5 X 101.5 88.5 X 101.5
Compression ratio 13.0:1 13.0:1 10.5:1 10.5:1 10.5:1 10.5:1
Max. power (hp @ rpm) 191 hp @ 6,100 rpm 191 hp @ 6,100 rpm 281 hp @ 5,800 rpm 281 hp @ 5,800 rpm 281 hp @ 5,800 rpm 281 hp @ 5,800 rpm
Max. torque (lb-ft @ rpm) 181 lb.-ft. @ 4,000 rpm 181 lb.-ft. @ 4,000 rpm 311 lb.-ft. @ 1,700 - 4,000 rpm 311 lb.-ft. @ 1,700 - 4,000 rpm 311 lb.-ft. @ 1,700 - 4,000 rpm 311 lb.-ft. @ 1,700 - 4,000 rpm
Max. Speed (mph) - - - - - -
FWD 124 124 131 131 131 -
AWD 124 124 131 131 - 131
Acceleration Performance (sec) - - - - - -
0 - 100 kph (FWD) 9.5 9.5 7.4 7.4 7.4 -
0 - 100 kph (AWD) 10 10 7.6 7.6 - 7.6
80 - 120 kph (FWD) 6.8 6.8 4.4 4.4 4.4 -
80 - 120 kph (AWD) 7.1 7.1 4.6 4.6 - 4.6

Next up is the hybrid Sorento, which mixes a 1.6-liter, four-cylinder turbo gasoline engine with a 44-kilowatt (60 horsepower) electric motor powered by a 1.5-kWh battery pack. All in all, the system produces 227 horsepower sent exclusively to the front axle. Kia estimates fuel consumption at 39 mpg city, 35 highway, and 37 combined.

2021 Kia Sorento Exterior
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Coming next year, the AWD-only plug-in-hybrid Sorento will up the ante with the same 1.6-liter mill but paired to a 66.9-kilowatt (90 horsepower) electric motor powered by a larger 13.8-kWh battery. Overall system output is 261 horsepower, and as per Kia, the Sorento PHEV can travel on electricity alone for about 30 miles.

2021 Kia Sorento Hybrid specifications
Engine S 1.6T Hybrid
Type 1.6L 4-cylinder turbocharged Gasoline Direct Injection (GDI) Hybrid engine
Displacement (cc) 1,598 cc
Bore x stroke (mm) 75.6 x 89.0
Compression Ratio 10.5:1
Horsepower 177.2 HP @ 5,500 rpm
Torque 195.4 lb.-ft. @1,500-4,500 rpm
Ignition system Distributorless (Plug Top Coil Type)
Valve system Swing Arm Type
Electric Motor -
Type Permanent Magnet Synchronous Motor
Horsepower 60.1 HP @ 1,600-2,000 rpm
Torque 194.7 lb.-ft. @0-1,600 rpm
Hybrid System Performance Combined -
Horsepower 227 HP
Torque 258 lb.-ft.
Cooling capacity (liter) 3.1L (engine only)
Lubricant oil capacity (liter) 4.8L (with filter)
Max. Speed (mph) 120
Acceleration Performance (sec) -
0 - 100 kph 8.6
60 - 100 kph 4.7
80 - 120 kph 5.8

Trim levels and features

2021 Kia Sorento Exterior
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Kia is splitting the Sorento range into five trims. These are LX, S, EX, SX, and SX-Prestige. There’s also the so-called X-Line optional package that adds AWD and one extra inch of ride height, as well as 20-inch alloys and a roof rack. Regardless of what model you pick, the third row of seats is standard, but you can pick captain’s chairs for the second row.

In recent-time Kia fashion, the Sorento’s cabin is tech galore. Every model comes with eight USB ports (except for the LX, which has “only” six), and there’s an eight-inch infotainment screen across the board, which can be upgraded for extra money with a 10.3-inch display. Also for extra money you can have your instrument cluster turned into a 12.3-inch digital screen.

2021 Kia Sorento
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Material quality has been vastly improved, too. There are now bright satin finishes around the cockpit, metal inlays and open-pore wood trim (optional, though), as well as quilt-pattern leather (also optional).

Kia’s N3 platform underpins the 2021 Sorento, and that brings a handful of notable improvements. The 1.4-inch longer wheelbase translates to more space inside, but overall weight also drops by 3.1% (or 119 pounds).

2021 Kia Sorento Exterior
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On top of these gains, Kia tells us that average tensile strength is now 4% better than in the previous Sorento and that the new platform equals “improved driving dynamics, including acceleration, ride and handling” as well as better comfort of the acoustic ilk through the reduction of NVH (noise, vibration, and harshness).

Price and availability

2021 Kia Sorento Exterior
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The 2021 Sorento has a starting MSRP of $29,390. That’s a sizeable increase over the old 2020 model, which started at $26,990.

It’s not surprising, however, that the new Kia Sorento will ask more from your wallet - it just got a technology upgrade inside the cabin and under the hood and if we are to take Kia’s word for it, it should drive and handle better than its predecessor, too.

Kia assembles the 2021 Sorento in the U.S. at its KMMG plant in Georgia, alongside the likes of Telluride and K5.

Tudor Rus
Tudor Rus
Assistant Content Manager - Automotive Expert - tudor@topspeed.com
Tudor’s first encounter with cars took place when he was only a child. Back then, his father brought home a Trabant 601 Kombi and a few years later, a Wartburg 353. At that time, he was too young to know how they worked and way too young to drive them, but he could see one thing – each of them had a different ethos and their own unique personality. As time went on, he started seeing that in other cars as well, and his love for the automobile was born.  Read full bio
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