The 2021 Kia Sorento Took Good Notes From The Telluride

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Photo: Kia

The 2021 Kia Sorento, a large-medium sized SUV, bowed today and a lot of the look is clearly cribbed from the successful full-sized Kia Telluride. It totally works, too. I’d count on seeing quite a few of these on American roads soon.

Kia is calling this fourth-gen Sorento a “compact SUV” but it’s a three-row vehicle that’s supposed to rival vehicles like the Toyota Highlander and Honda Pilot for family utility.

The most obvious changes for 2021 are cosmetic, the vehicle’s much pointier and a little meaner-looking than the current Sorento but generally I’d call this car handsome. Kia is promising ride quality and rigidity improvements over the current Sorento with terms like “average tensile strength is improved by 4 percent,” and “body-in-white weight reduced by 5.6 percent.” That do anything for you? Me neither, but I’m sure it will be nothing less than decent to drive and ride in.


There’s now an X-Line model meant to stoke a sense of off-roadiness with an 8.3-inch ride height (interestingly Kia’s press release did not use the term “ground clearance”) plus all-wheel drive with a center locking differential for traction and and downhill descent control.


Kia’s objective with that was probably to pull some people who might have also been looking at Honda Passports and Subarus. But the Korean car company is actually casting a pretty wide net with the new Sorento, as it’s clearly trying to differentiate between trim levels pretty aggressively. Besides the tough one, there’s also a shiny one and a hybrid.


More substantially, Kia’s promising that the new Sorento’s shape has the “versatility to accommodate alternate drivetrains, such as hybrid and plug-in hybrid (available in calendar year 2021)” so that’s cool.

Meanwhile, the opening powertrain options are actually pretty broad as well. I’ll just copypasta Kia’s breakdown of the Sorento’s propulsion configurations here:

2.5-liter GDI four-cylinder

  • 8-speed automatic transmission
  • 191 horsepower and 182 lb-ft torque
  • FWD or AWD
  • AWD system uses torque-vectoring with center-locking differential to provide extra power to rear wheels in slippery conditions
  • Estimated combined (city and highway) 27 mpg (2 mpg increase over previous Sorento)

2.5-liter GDI four-cylinder turbo

  • “Segment exclusive” 8-speed wet dual clutch automatic transmission
  • 281 horsepower and 311 lb-ft torque
  • FWD or AWD
  • 3,500 pounds towing capability
  • Estimated combined 25 mpg (3 mpg increase over previous V6 Sorento)

1.6-liter GDI four-cylinder turbo hybrid with 44 kW electric motor

  • 6-speed automatic transmission
  • 227 horsepower
  • 5 kWh battery
  • FWD
  • Estimated 39 MPG city / 35 highway / 37 combined

1.6-liter GDI 4-cylinder turbo plug-in hybrid with 66.9 kW electric motor (available in 2021)

  • 6-speed automatic transmission
  • 261 horsepower8 kWh battery
  • Estimated 30-mile all-electric range
  • AWD

All those figures are straight from Kia, in case that wasn’t clear. There’s also a long list of drive-aid tech and safety features, plus a large infotainment screen and a gloriously wide-spreading sunroof. If you want to get into more details, check out Kia’s site directly.


Anyway I think it is clear that this is a decent-looking SUV and will probably sell in droves if Kia can keep the price reasonable. Should be a good rival against some of the other popular mediumish sized family transport vehicles I mentioned earlier in this post.