The base price in Canada for the 2021 Kia Sorento is $33,995 in Canada, $29,390 in the US.
The new Sorento is larger where it counts compared to the previous generation.
On paper and in the steel, the new Sorento is incredibly appealing.
The midsize SUV segment is the category in which a mainstream automaker must dig deep in order to compete. The competition is fiercer than it’s ever been and there are no second chances. And this is why and when first impressions count for everything. Enter the first impression specialist: The all-new 2021 Kia Sorento.
Try as you might, no matter how you approach the new Sorento, there are no grey zones, no loopholes, nothing left up to chance. Kia loaded up the new Sorento with more design, technologies, features, and performance than ever before, and frankly, all of this makes the midsize three-row SUV nearly impossible to beat. This is a reason why we tested both a $39,495 X-Line and a $47,495 SX.
Out with the V6, in with the Turbo
The base LX versions of the 2021 Sorento are powered by a naturally-aspirated 2.5-litre 4-cylinder engine which should prove to be adequate, but the real fun starts at the X-Line. The $39,495 mid-trim model is the first to include the boosted T-GDI 2.5-litre 4-cylinder which renders almost all V6 engines obsolete. With 281 horsepower and a whopping 311 lb.-ft. of torque, it positions the Sorento among the quickest in its segment that is increasingly featuring turbocharged 4-cylinder engines.
AWD is standard in Canada and with the 2.5T comes an 8-speed dual-clutch transmission. This gearbox brings with it nuanced blessings. On the upside, like most DCTs, shifts are can either be seamless under mild loads or can be shockingly fast when the mood takes the driver. The downside is that towing capability is negatively affected. Previously, the Sorento could pull up to 5,000lbs however now, it is limited to 3,500lbs. There’s another potential issue: We noticed a significant amount of clutch shudder on the SX when it crept forward from a stop.
Overall, the power is far more entertaining than expected. In fact, spirited driving is practically encouraged, and in many ways. The N3 platform and adjoining fully-independent suspension are distinctly sport-tuned minimally sacrificing all-out comfort but the compromise is more than acceptable. Even the X-Line, with its “theoretical” 1.3 inches of extra ground clearance (see video), behaves smartly and predictably.
Robust and distinctive styling
Physically, the 2021 Kia Sorento is beyond attractive. Both the X-Line and SX received an unexpected amount of attention and it was merited. Kia’s signature tiger face front fascia is powerfully framed by the headlights, the powerful-looking bonnet, and generous front fenders. The rear has its merits too – there are no off angles. The most distinctive feature on the X-Line is its raised roof-rack which adds a level of seriousness to the rugged-looking SUV.
The cabin is a triumph of design and functionality. The dashboard is a blend of numerous surfaces with attractive ergonomics. The combination instrument panel/touchscreen is ultra-premium in composition with either the 8-inch or 10.25-inch display. In both Sorento, complications with the standard Apple CarPlay prevented phones from connecting or worse, once connected, would be dropped often and randomly. The SX’s touchscreen also suffered from long delays following menu selections.
Storage areas are numerous and useful and there’s plenty of room for occupants in the first and second rows. The third row is accessible for younger adults and children. The only compromise to the 3rd row is when in use, trunk space suffers. When stowed, there’s more than enough cargo room to go around. Seats are comfortable themselves however the noticeably warn leather in the SX (5,400km) has us wondering about its longevity.
Answers: X-Line or SX? And, Sorento?
To answer the trim question, there is no doubt in our minds that the X-Line is the more interesting between it and the SX. The EX, at $40,995, offers synthetic leather, and a power liftgate which makes it the winner pound for pound. Those who desperately want the panoramic sunroof can opt for the EX+ at $43,995. The SX’s leather alone is reason enough to avoid the trim, assuming the synthetic stuff is more durable in the EX models.
In this segment, options abound. Out top choice is the Toyota Highlander Hybrid for all the right reasons including fuel efficiency. The Sorentos averaged over 12L/100km which is substantially more than the posted average of 9.7L/100km. Other alternatives include the Honda Pilot, Mazda CX-9, Dodge Durango, which we would favour over the Hyundai Palisade, Kia Telluride, and Ford Explorer, to name a few.
Now, if the third row of seats is nothing more than a bonus, you may find that the Toyota RAV4 or Venza will fit your needs. The Nissan Murano and Honda Passport are spacious choices as well.
As for the all-new 2021 Kia Sorento, it’s a knockout but not one that can be recommended. If it happens to be your choice, a 36- or 48-month lease is the safest way to call it your own.