Kia adds two hybrid options to its smaller three-row Sorento crossover, plus new off-road-oriented X-Line.
Kia unveiled the North American-spec Sorento as part of a dedicated video event Tuesday afternoon. It marks a significant departure for the brand’s mid-size crossover, with dramatic new looks, an all-four-cylinder engine lineup, and not one but two hybrid options.
This fourth-generation Sorento first broke cover in the before times (it was February). This is our first look at the trims it will have on this side of the globe however, though unsurprisingly the basic looks don’t change much. Kia has given the SUV the latest evolution of its Tiger Nose, with an “eyeline” daytime running light (DRL) signature and a wide grille. There’s a serious K5 sedan vibe to the front, while the rest of the body carries hints of the runaway-hit Telluride. There’s a connection to the upcoming Sedona minivan as well, in the shark-fin trim aft of the rear doors. Wheel sizes run from 17-inch sets to model-first 20-inchers.
Like the rest of the Kia lineup, however—and Hyundai for that matter—the Sorento manages to look related to its siblings without being a carbon copy.
Under the skin, the Sorento uses Kia’s N3 platform. The basic dimensions haven’t changed much, though the wheelbase is now 1.4 inches (35 mm) longer to provide more rear legroom. More important is a weight reduction of 119 lb (54 kg) over the existing generation. Kia also says the Sorento exhibits reduced road noise, with improved dynamics courtesy of the stiffer platform. That same platform has also allowed the Korean brand to install new engines into the Sorento’s nose.
Engine lineup includes hybrid and PHEV
For 2021, the Sorento will exclusively run four-cylinder engines, leaving the Telluride as the only V6-powered SUV in its lineup. It starts with the familiar 2.5-liter four-cylinder, found elsewhere in the Kia lineup. Here it produces 191 hp and 182 lb-ft, filtering through an eight-speed automatic transmission to either the front or all four wheels. A turbo engine with the same displacement adds a full 90 horses to the corral, totalling 281 hp. Torque is up even more, to 311 lb-ft. This engine pairs with an eight-speed transmission as well, though it’s of the dual-clutch variety. Kia will offer the turbo 2.5-liter on front- and all-wheel drive Sorentos. It’s also estimating a combined 25 mpg for the 2.5T, a 3 mpg improvement over the current V6 model. The non-turbo will achieve an estimated 27 mpg.
Of note, the turbo-four will be rated to a maximum of 3,500 lb for towing. That’s 1,500 lb less than the existing V6.
Where things get interesting is the availability of two hybrid models. The regular hybrid model pairs a smaller 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with a 44-kW electric motor. Combined output is 227 hp, channeled exclusively through the front wheels via a six-speed auto. Kia is aiming for 37 mpg combined with this pairing, with 39 mpg in the city.
SEE ALSO: 2020 Hyundai Venue Review
Joining the lineup later next year is a more powerful plug-in hybrid. It uses same ICE component as the no-plug powertrain, but with a more powerful 66.9-kW electric motor. There’s also a larger battery (8 kWh versus 5 kWh) and standard all-wheel drive. Combined power is up to 261 hp, with a 30-mile zero-emissions range.
The plug-in model will be something of a segment first, as no other non-luxury brand offers a similar setup in a smaller three-row form.
The Sorento’s interior gets a tasteful upgrade, with higher trims featuring quilted leather seating and open-pore wood trim. The dash features four vertically-stacked air vents, all trimmed in satin chrome and having just a hint of Star Wars about them. Buyers will now get the option of second-row captain’s chairs in addition to the usual bench seat.
Kia naturally has stuffed the Sorento full of all its latest tech gadgets, of which there are many. For starters, there’s an available 12.3-inch digital instrument panel. Blind View Monitor is also available, which shows a camera feed from the side of the Sorento when the turn signal is activated. Other goodies include a 360-degree camera view, a standard 8.0-inch central infotainment screen (or optional 10.25-inch unit), simultaneous Bluetooth connections for two phones, available wireless charging, and eight USB ports in all trims bar the base LX (it gets six).
A new feature can also send images of the car’s surroundings to your Kia phone app, if you’ve lost it in a particularly crowded parking lot. Hey, we’ve all had it happen.
Trims and availability
Kia says the 2021 Sorento will be available at dealerships before the end of the year. It will arrive with five trims: LX, S, EX, SX, and SX-Prestige. The top-shelf SX-Prestige AWD model will also offer an X-Line package, which adds a center locking differential, hill descent control, and an inch-higher ride height (to 8.3 inches). The X-Line also features its own 20-inch alloy wheels and a unique roof rack.
Kia will release pricing closer to the Sorento’s on-sale date.
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