2021 Kia Sorento Hybrid EX Review

Hybrid efficiency with style and room


Amos Kwon, Editor-In-Chief



Positives: Top-notch styling inside and out, impressive acceleration, premium interior room and materials.
Negatives: No all-wheel drive option, painful turbo lag, infotainment slow to respond to inputs.
Bottom Line: The Sorento Hybrid is a welcomed member of the Kia lineup. Roomy, attractive, easy to drive, and well-appointed, it's a great family vehicle that just happens to be efficient, as well.
The redesigned 2021 Kia Sorento is a huge change for the model. Not only does it look and feel premium, it's the first time the Sorento gets a hybrid trim level. Good for 227 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, it's certainly not lacking when it comes to get-up-and-go, not to mention the efficiency of an electric motor and a 1.6-liter turbo four-cylinder. We drove the new Sorento Hybrid in EX trim. Read our full impressions in our detailed review below.
 

Driving Experience

7.4

 

There's a lot to like about the way the Sorento Hybrid drives, including the robust power delivery and the excellent ride. One thing we didn't like was the lag off the line. It's just not reassuring, and it's the one aspect of the Sorento Hybrid that makes us want to look elsewhere.

Ride Quality: The ride is very comfortable, and at no point did the Sorento Hybrid feel unsettled. It's a good long hauler.

Acceleration: Acceleration is brisk (especially in Sport mode), and the Sorento Hybrid pulls harder than its 227 horsepower would indicate. That turbo lag off the line, however, is almost unforgivable. Mash the gas, wait a half second, and then it moves.

Braking: The regenerative braking system is actually quite good. The pedal feel is decent, and it brings the vehicle to a stop well.

Steering: There's no feedback in the steering, but it has some heft to it. It was nicely on center and responded well to steering inputs.

Handling: There's some palpable body roll, and the vehicle is tall, but it actually manages to pull off corners pretty well for an SUV.

Technology

8.2

 

Kia and Hyundai have made their infotainment systems attractive and easy to use. That said, there are some things about the infotainment system that are a bit annoying. Most of the Sorento Hybrid's controls are top notch, and we wish other brands would copy them.

Infotainment System: The 8" touchscreen might not be huge (compared to the optional 10.25" screen) but it's clear and easy to read. We just wish the responsiveness was better.

Controls: Controls in the Sorento Hybrid are really well thought out. The slim but long buttons that flank the touchscreen are easy to push while driving, and the rotary shifter is one of our favorites. The location of the heated seat switches is just about perfect, right on the top end of the center console edges. We just wish some of the climate controls weren't haptic feedback but regular buttons instead.

Styling

8.6

 

The newly redesigned Kia Sorento departs from its predecessor in a big way. Not only is it more refined than ever, it heads more in the direction of a rugged-looking SUV than a doughy crossover. While the last Sorento was decent, this one is a head-turner. The cabin is just as, if not more, surprising as the exterior.

Front: It's one of the best-looking front fascias on a crossover, really. The dark mesh grille, the quad-lens headlamps, and the wide clamshell hood all contribute to a nicely-styled and aggressive front end.

Rear: The twin vertical taillights and the creased tailgate come together for a handsome back end. Even the faux exhaust ports look good here.

Profile: The Sorento is well-proportioned from front to rear, and the side rear tapered glass looks great. We could do without the solid silver detail on the front fender that looks like an afterthought.

Cabin: The interior is handsome and very original. We like the textured metal on the dash that mimics the seat pattern. Grab bars on the door armrests and unique HVAC vents in the dash give it a special look and feel.

Comfort

9

 

Our two-row tester had tons of space in both rows and excellent materials quality. You'd be hard-pressed to find a mid-size crossover for this price with the same level of cabin comfort. The closest ones we can think of is the Hyundai Santa Fe that shares the same platform and the Ford Explorer.

Front Seats: The front seats are wide and accommodating. The SynTex seating surfaces could easily pass for leather.

Rear Seats: Our tester came with Captain's Chairs that don't have a pass-through (due to the lack of a third row). They're excellent with ample legroom at 41.7 inches, and the one-touchs slide and fold make for easy work.

NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): The Hybrid powertrain is relatively quiet, and the cabin is well-built. Wind noise at high speeds is negligible.

Visibility: The only demerit in terms of views is the side rear due to the thick and angled D-pillar. Otherwise, the seating position and window size allow for great visibility.

Climate: We really like the dual vent design with the top one handling side-to-side, and the smaller bottom vents managing up and down. Not only do they look cool, but they're practical. The heated and ventilated seats also work very well.

Safety

9

 

The Sorento was tested by the IIHS and the NHTSA and performed extremely well in crash tests. The standard safety tech set is deep and wide.

IIHS Rating: It attained the Top Safety Pick rating, just shy of the top tier. It suffered only due to poor headlights in some trim levels.

NHTSA Rating: It earned five stars from the Federal Government.

Standard Tech: The EX comes outfitted with Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist (Pedestrian Cyclist, Junction), Blind-Spot Collision-Avoidance Assist, Rear Cross-Traffic Collision-Avoidance Assist, Safe Exit Assist, Parking Distance Warning (Forward and Reverse), Rear Occupant Alert w/ Ultrasonic Sensors, and Smart Cruise Control w/ Stop & Go.

Optional Tech: None.

Storage/Cargo

8.8

 

The Sorento has thoughtful cubbies in both rows and ample amounts of rear cargo space. It's not as big as its Santa Fe brother, but it has more than enough room for road trips and vacations.

Storage Space: The center console has a large cubby at the front, two large cupholder, and an open compartment toward the back. The armrest is also well-sized, as are the door pockets. We like the mesh seat pocket on the rear Captain's Chairs, as well as the door cupholders and pockets in the second row door panels.

Cargo Room: There's 12.6 cubic feet behind the second row and a large 75.5 cubes with the seats folded flat.

Fuel Economy

8.8

 

Disregard our paltry efficiency since we drove it in Sport mode the whole time and only on short trips on local roads with a heavy foot. The Sorento should have no problem hitting its EPA estimates, and they're at the top of the segment.

Observed: 23.8 mpg.

Distance Driven: 62 miles.

Audio

7.9

 

The stock audio system sounds good, if not great. We didn't notice any distortion or tinny sound. It's a solid system that delivers when needed.



Final Thoughts

Although the takeoff on the Sorento Hybrid isn't worth writing home about, the power is generally pretty impressive. What's more important is the level of style, features, and safety tech you get for just shy of $40k. The Sorento Hybrid looks and feels premium. It's a great redesign in so many ways, but we would've liked to see an all-wheel drive option.
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