2021 Kia Sorento X-Line SX Prestige AWD Review

A premium SUV without the premium price

Amos Kwon, Editor-In-Chief

Positives: One of the best looking SUVs around today, stunning premium interior competes with more expensive models, powerful turbo engine, dual-clutch transmission provides quick shifts, pretty good third row space for adults.
Negatives: Some turbo lag on take-off, steering could use more feedback, infotainment slow to respond to inputs.
Bottom Line: The Sorento now qualifies as one of the best crossovers for sale today thanks to its handsome styling that screams premium, well-appointed interior, powerful engine, and tremendous standard feature set.
There's no question the old Sorento was a good crossover, but it was due for a redesign. Kia started with a fresh sheet and went to town because the fourth-generation Sorento goes above and beyond in terms of style, amenities, and trims. For the first time, there's a 39-mpg hybrid version which we recently tested. This time around, we're in the top trim gas version known as the SX Prestige X-Line, which has a powerful 281-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder engine and gobs of standard features. It's one of the few small crossovers with three rows of seats. We drove it for a week to see just how good the redesigned Sorento is. Read on for our full review.

Driving Experience



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.




Kia definitely has one of the better-looking infotainment systems out there, but there's still room for improvement.

Infotainment System: The SX gets a large 10.25" screen that's well-positioned and clear and easy to read. The funky '80s graphics are a little kitschy for our tastes, but it's a unique look that some will love. The screen's responsiveness isn't great, and you have to wait while performing inputs.

Controls: Controls in the Sorento are well thought out. Everything's well situated up higher on the dash, so your eyes don't have to travel down to operate them. We like the traditional shifter, but it takes up space compared to the Sorento Hybrid's nice rotary shifter.




Our tester looks downright British with its dark green paint and rust-colored interior leather upholstery. Even more significant is the totally new design of the Sorento that makes it look sophisticated and rugged, all at once. Kia really gave it a unique look inside and out that separates it from the small crossover pack in the best of ways. It certainly gives the bigger brother Telluride a run for its money. The addition of X-Line trim gives it even more upscale look.

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.

Profile: The Sorento is well-proportioned from front to rear, and the side rear tapered glass looks great. The X-Line badge on the faux front fender vent helps it look better than the plain one on the Hybrid model. The dark chrome wheels and matching window trim look superb.

Cabin: The interior is handsome and very original. Materials quality is excellent. The faux wood trim that's also found in the Telluride is just ok, though. Grab bars on the door armrests and unique HVAC vents in the dash give it a special look and feel.




The gas version gets three rows of seating (compared to the hybrid), and this time there's more space than before.

Front Seats: The front seats are wide and accommodating. The quilted leather seats are sublime and look like they belong in a pricier vehicle.

Rear Seats: Our tester came with Captain's Chairs that provide a pass-through for third row access. They're excellent with ample legroom at 41.7 inches, and the one-touch slide and fold make for easy work. The third row seats actually fit adults, a pleasant surprise that trumps competitors like the VW Tiguan, Mitsubishi Outlander, and even the Lexus RX350L.

NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): The driving experience is quiet and well-dampened. The cabin is well-built with no creaks or rattles. 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 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 SX comes outfitted Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist-Cyclist, Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist - Junction Turning, Blind-Spot Collision-Avoidance Assist-Rear, Rear Cross-Traffic Collision-Avoidance Assist, Safe Exit Assist, Smart Cruise Control w/ Stop & Go, Lane Keep Assist & Lane Following Assist, Highway Driving Assist, and Parking Distance Warning-Reverse.

Optional Tech: None.




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 row three, 45.5 behind row two, and a large 75.5 cubes with the two rows folded flat.

Fuel Economy



24 combined isn't super-impressive (get the Hybrid if you want more power AND better efficiency), but it's decent for a high-powered turbo four SUV that seats up to seven people. We drove it Sport mode most of the time, so our numbers were definitely lower than the EPA estimates.

Observed: 17.6 mpg.

Distance Driven: 91 miles.




The SX comes with the premium Bose system. We really enjoyed listening to it, and it's great that it's standard equipment on the top trim Sorento. Bass and clarity were excellent, and there was no distortion at higher volumes.

Final Thoughts

The Sorento transitions from a good, somewhat dated crossover in the last version to one of the best in the segment. Kia is really knocking things out of the park with its SUV lineup that includes the Telluride, the new Seltos, the Sorento, and the upcoming Sportage. The Sorento combines great looks, good driving manners, and a rich interior, as well as solid safety scores. The only competitors in this size with three rows that can hold a candle to it are the sister Hyundai Santa Fe, and the Mazda CX-9. The Sorento should be at the top of your shopping list.

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