The 2021 Sorento comes with a bold exterior, plush interior, and a set of new engine options including a highly-efficient plug-in hybrid

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The 2021 model year marks the fourth generation of the Kia Sorento. The previous generations were soft, curvy, and rounded, but the 2021 model is boxy, sexy, and a lot sharper. The company has pinned the SUV on a new platform, and has introduced new hybrid and plug-in hybrid engine options. The cabin feels fresh, more spacious, and can be had with captain chairs in the second row. All in all, the family SUV is a huge improvement over the outgoing model. The 2021 Kia Sorento recently arrived at TopSpeed headquarters and we have to say, it is pretty darn impressive.

2021 Kia Sorento Drivetrain and Fuel Economy

2021 Kia Sorento - Driven Drivetrain
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The fourth-gen Sorento is built on the third-gen N3 architecture that is lighter and stronger than the second-gen of the same platform. This has allowed the company to take up weight-saving measures, which results in the new Sorento being 119 pounds lighter than the outgoing model.

The Kia Sorento is offered with two engine options in four different states of tune. First up is the 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine. In the naturally aspirated form, it makes 191 horses at 6,100 rpm and 181 pound-feet of twist at 4,000 rpm.

The turbocharged iteration of this engine churns out 281 horses at 5,800 rpm and 311 pound-feet of torque between1,700- and 4,000 rpm. Both options come with an eight-speed automatic gearbox. Power is sent to the front wheels as standard, but you can opt for an all-wheel-drive system in both cases.

2021 Kia Sorento specifications
Engine 2.5L 4-cylinder Gasoline Direct Injection (GDI) engine 2.5L 4-cylinder turbocharged Gasoline Direct Injection (GDI) engine
Displacement (cc) 2,497 cc 2,497 cc
Bore x Stroke (mm) 88.5 X 101.5 88.5 X 101.5
Compression ratio 13.0:1 10.5:1
Max. power (hp @ rpm) 191 hp @ 6,100 rpm 281 hp @ 5,800 rpm
Max. torque (lb-ft @ rpm) 181 lb.-ft. @ 4,000 rpm 311 lb.-ft. @ 1,700 - 4,000 rpm
Transmission 8-Speed Automatic Transmission 8-Speed Automatic Transmission
2021 Kia Sorento - Driven Drivetrain
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A 1.6-liter, four-cylinder turbo hybrid engine is also available. It comes with a 44 kW electric motor, and combined, the powertrain makes 227 horses. The motor draws power from a 1.5 kWh battery pack. Power is sent only to the front wheels via a six-speed automatic gearbox. You can’t have the all-wheel-drive system on this model.

The same mill can be had with a more powerful motor and a bigger battery pack. This one is a plug-in hybrid version that features a 66.9 kW motor. The powertrain dishes out 261 horses combined. The power output is rated at 261 horses. It is mated to a six-speed automatic gearbox and an all-wheel-drive system. The motor is powered by a 13.8 kWh battery pack.

2021 Kia Sorento Hybrid specifications
Engine 1.6L 4-cylinder turbocharged Gasoline Direct Injection (GDI) Hybrid engine
Displacement (cc) 1,598 cc
Horsepower 177.2 HP @ 5,500 rpm
Torque 195.4 lb.-ft. @1,500-4,500 rpm
Electric motor Permanent Magnet Synchronous Motor
Horsepower 60.1 HP @ 1,600-2,000 rpm
Torque 194.7 lb.-ft. @0-1,600 rpm
Combined power 227 HP
Combined torque 258 lb.-ft.
Max. Speed (mph) 120

What Is The Sorento’s Fuel Economy?

2021 Kia Sorento - Driven Exterior
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The 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine delivers 23 miles in the city, 25 on the highway, and 24 miles combined for every gallon of fuel consumed. The same engine with a turbocharger returns 21 mpg in the city, 28 mpg on the highway, and 24 mpg combined.

The 1.6-liter hybrid delivers 39 mpg in the city, 35 mpg on the highway, and 37 mpg combined. The Sorento can be driven for 30 miles on electric mode only. For most folks, this should be sufficient for their daily drives.

The SUV can gulp 17.7 gallons of fuel in one go.

2021 Kia Sorento Exterior Design

2021 Kia Sorento - Driven Exterior
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The fourth-gen Sorento comes with Kia’s modernized “tiger nose”. This is a new design cue that we’ll be seeing on most of its upcoming products. The daytime running LEDs under the headlights add a lot of character to the face. Apart from this, the front fascia also includes a sharp bumper with fog lights in the air damn. LED headlights are offered as standard, whereas signature LED forward lighting is optional.

The side profile quite proportionate. The base LX trim comes with 17-inch wheels, mid S and EX with 18-inch wheels, and the top SX and SX Prestige 20-inch wheels. For an SUV this big, even 20-inch wheels look a size smaller. The rear looks very handsome and muscular. The vertically slotted tail lamps look sweet (does it remind anyone of the Mustang GT500?) The 2021 Kia Sorento can tow up to 2,000 pounds on the LS and S trims, and up to 3,500 pounds on the other three top trims.

2021 Kia Sorento - Driven Exterior
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It is available in nine different exterior shades:

  • Ebony Black
  • Sapphire Blue
  • Passion Red
  • Crystal Beige
  • Sparkling Silver
  • Everlasting Silver
  • Gravity Gray
  • Glacial White Pearl
  • Aruba Green

How Big Is The Sorento And How Much Does It Weigh?

2021 Kia Sorento - Driven Exterior
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The 2021 Sorento measures 189.4 inches in length, 74.8 inches in width, and 66.7 inches in height. The all-wheel-drive configuration on the top trim is 70.3 inches tall. The wheelbase measures 110.8 inches. The front-wheel-drive models sit 6.9 inches off the ground whereas the all-wheel-drive models have a ground clearance of 8.2 inches.

2021 Kia Sorento exterior dimensions
Wheelbase (in.) 110.8 in.
Length (in.) 189.0 in.
Width (in.) 74.8 in.
Height (in.) 66.7 in.
Height (in.) with roof rack 66.9 in.
Overhang, front/rear (in.) 36.4 in. / 41.7 in. 
Track (in.), (front/rear) 65.0 in. / 65.4 in.

The approach and departure angles are rated at 16.8 degrees and 22.1 degrees, respectively.

2021 Kia Sorento - Driven Exterior
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The front-wheel-drive Sorento weighs between 3,715- and 3,999 pounds depending on the trim, whereas the all-wheel-drive model weighs between 3,855- and 4,120 pounds.

2021 Kia Sorento weight
Curb Weight LX 2.5 S 2.5 EX 2.5T EX X-Line 2.5T SX 2.5T SX Prestige 2.5T SX Prestige X-Line 2.5T
FWD (4x2) - - - - - - -
Minimum (lbs.) 3,715 lbs. 3,715 lbs. 3,856 lbs. - 3,856 lbs. 3,856 lbs. -
Maximum (lbs.) 3,794 lbs. 3,794 lbs. 3,999 lbs. - 3,999 lbs. 3,999 lbs. -
AWD (4x4) - - - - - - -
Minimum (lbs.) 3,856 lbs. 3,856 lbs. 3,931 lbs. 3,931 lbs. 3,931 lbs. - 3,931 lbs.
Maximum (lbs.) 3,935 lbs. 3,935 lbs. 4,120 lbs. 4,120 lbs. 4,120 lbs. - 4,120 lbs.

2021 Kia Sorento Interior Design and Technology

2021 Kia Sorento - Driven Interior
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The cabin feels quite fresh, too. The digital instrument cluster behind the steering wheel measures 12.3 inches, which the biggest ever in a Kia. The layout overall is quite neat and sorted. There are no rough edges or cost-cutting measures, so it feels premium overall. The drive selector is placed on the center console in the form of a rotary knob. The top SX Prestige trim can be had in six different upholstery options:

  • Grey Genuine Leather
  • Black Cloth
  • Grey Syntex Leather
  • Black Syntex Leather
  • Black Genuine Leather
  • Rust Genuine Leather
2021 Kia Sorento - Driven Interior
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On the tech front, the 2021 Sorento comes with a 10.25-inch touchscreen on the center console. The lower models feature an eight-inch touchscreen. It runs on the UVO infotainment system that also supports Amazon Alexa. The top trim even comes with a Bose 12-speaker high-performance audio system. For extra moolah, you can have the wireless charger too.

Is The Sorento Spacious?

2021 Kia Sorento - Driven Interior
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The Sorento offers headroom of 40.3 inches, shoulder room of 59 inches, hip room of 55.5 inches, and 41.4 of legroom in the first row. In the second row, the Sorento comes with 39.1 inches of headroom, 58 inches of shoulder room, hip room of 55 inches, 41.7 inches of legroom. The third room headroom is rated 36.8 inches, shoulder room at 53 inches, hip room at 42.5 inches, and legroom at 29.6 inches.

2021 Kia Sorento interior dimensions
Head room Leg room Shoulder room Hip room
Front (in.) 40.3 in. 41.4 in. 59.1 in. 55.6 in.
Middle (in.) 39.1 in. 41.7 in. 58.1 in. 55.1 in.
Rear (in.) 36.8 in. 29.6 in. 53.0 in. 42.5 in.

How Much Cargo Space Does The Sorento Offer?

2021 Kia Sorento - Driven Interior
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Behind the third row, the Sorento offers 12.6 cubic feet of space. Flip the third row and you have 45 cubic feet of cargo space that you can use. Fold the second row too and you have 75.5 cubic feet of cargo space available at your disposal.

2021 Kia Sorento Pricing

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The 2021 Kia Sorento sees a slight hike, around $2,500, compared to the previous model. The new range starts at:

  • LX - $29,390
  • S - $31,890
  • EX - $34,990
  • SX - $37,990
  • SX Prestige - $40,590

Is The Kia Sorento Better Than The Hyundai Palisade?

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The Hyundai Palisade is Kia Sorento’s cousin and also an SUV that could eat into the Sorento’s sales. The Palisade technically takes on the Kia Telluride, but the new Sorento is such an improvement that it can match up with the Palisade. Despite having the same genes, they are quite different on the outside and under the skin. The Palisade is underpinned on the Kia Telluride’s platform. The 2021 model feels a lot premium. Hyundai has upped the scale by equipping a top-spec Calligraphy trim in the lineup.

The Palisade is powered by a 3.8-liter V-6 engine that makes 291 horses. The Sorento makes 10 horses few from its four-pot turbo mill, but you can expect it to be more agile and sprightly than the Hyundai SUV. Power is sent to the front wheels as standard via an eight-speed automatic gearbox, but you can opt for an all-wheel-drive system, too. The Palisade beats it in the towing department, however, as it can tow up to 5,000 pounds – 1,500 pounds more than the Sorento.

The 2021 Hyundai Palisade starts at $33,860, around $4,000 more than the Kia Sorento.

Kia Sorento vs Hyundai Palisade
Kia Sorento Hyundai Palisade
Engine 2.5L 4-cylinder turbocharged Gasoline Direct Injection (GDI) engine 3.8-liter 6-cylinder
Displacement (cc) 2,497 cc 3.8 liters / 3,778 cc
Bore x Stroke (mm) 88.5 X 101.5 87 X 96
Compression ratio 10.5:1 13.0 : 1
Max. power (hp @ rpm) 281 hp @ 5,800 rpm 291 @ 6,000 RPM
Max. torque (lb-ft @ rpm) 311 lb.-ft. @ 1,700 - 4,000 rpm 262 @ 5,000 RPM
Transmission 8-Speed Automatic Transmission 8-speed Automatic
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Read our full review on the Hyundai Palisade

Is The Kia Sorento Better Than The Mazda CX-9?

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If you are looking at a driver-centric three-row SUV, then the Mazda CX-9 should be on top of your list. On purely handling and driving dynamics, the CX-9 beats both its rivals convincingly. The CX-9 comes with a 2.5-liter, turbocharged engine under the hood. It makes 250 horses and 320 pound-feet of torque. Power is sent to the wheels via a six-speed manual gearbox. The power outputs aren’t that great, but that works in the case of fuel efficiency.

The SUV comes loaded to the brim in terms of specs and features. Just like the other two, the CX-9 also features a 10.3-inch touchscreen infotainment system. While the Korean SUVs offer optional leather packages to up the premium feels, Mazda has taken a different approach. It offers packages like the Carbon Edition that add to the sporty factor. That said, it isn’t as spacious as the Sorento or the Palisade despite being the longest. There are soft plastic touches with brushed aluminum to make it feel very upmarket.

The 2021 Mazda CX-9 starts significantly higher than the Sorento at $35,335.

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Kia Sorento vs Mazda CX-9
Kia Sorento Mazda CX-9
Engine 2.5L 4-cylinder turbocharged Skyactiv-G 2.5Turbo
Displacement (cc) 2,497 cc 2,488 cc
Bore x Stroke (mm) 88.5 X 101.5 89 x 100
Compression ratio 10.5:1 10.5 : 1
Max. power (hp @ rpm) 281 hp @ 5,800 rpm 250 hp @ 5,000 rpm
Max. torque (lb-ft @ rpm) 311 lb.-ft. @ 1,700 - 4,000 rpm 320 lb-ft @ 2,500 rpm
Transmission 8-Speed Automatic Transmission 6-speed automatic

Read our full review on the Mazda CX-9

2021 Kia Sorento Driver-Assistance Features

2021 Kia Sorento - Driven Interior
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The 2021 Sorento comes with a suite of safety features. Some of them include:

  • Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist
  • High-beam Assist
  • Lane Departure Warning
  • Lane Keeping Assist
  • Parking Collision-Avoidance Assist
  • Surround View Monitor
  • Rear Cross-Traffic Collision Assist
  • Safe Exit Assist

2021 Kia Sorento Warranty

2021 Kia Sorento - Driven Exterior
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The Sorento’s warranty package consists of:

  • 10-year/100,000-mile limited powertrain warranty
  • 5-year/60,000-mile limited basic warranty
  • 5-year/100,000-mile limited anti-perforation warranty
  • 5-year/60,000-mile roadside assistance plan

Source: Photo Credit: Phil Daix

Sidd Dhimaan
Sidd Dhimaan
Senior Editor, Truck Expert, EV Expert - sidd@topspeed.com
Sidd joined the Topspeed.com team in 2017 as an intern and in less than a year he earned a full-time position as an associate editor and junior automotive expert. Fast forward to today, and he is currently serving as a senior editor, pickup truck expert, and EV expert.  Read full bio
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