First Drive: 2021 Kia Sorento

The Sorento has always been a vital part of Kia’s vehicle lineup since the first generation.
The Sorento has always been a vital part of Kia’s vehicle lineup since the first generation.

by Ben So | January 4, 2021


The Sorento has always been a vital part of Kia’s vehicle lineup since the first generation. Its flagship status was taken over last year by the all-new Telluride which stole all the attention and just when we begin to forget its little brother, Kia introduced the all-new fourth generation Sorento and boldly promised this will be a game changer with more capability, technology, and an unparalleled combination of power and efficiency. We were invited to spend some time with the all-new 2021 Kia Sorento SX and came away thoroughly impressed.

The 2021 Kia Sorento is built on the all-new lighter and stronger ‘N3’ platform. The signature front fascia has been tweaked to look more modern and the LED lighting creates a refreshing look in a segment that tends to look quite bland. The chiseled bodywork extends to the rear of the car finishing off with techy vertical LED taillights which make the Sorento look smaller than the previous generation despite having similar dimensions and an increased wheelbase. We like the 20-inch gloss black wheels standard on the SX trim and overall the Sorento stands out much more.

Two engine choices are available for the 2021 Kia Sorento. The base engine is a 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine paired with an eight-speed automatic that pumps out 191-horsepower and 182 lb-ft. of torque. Our tester got the upgraded 2.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder that outputs 281-horsepower and a very useful 311 lb-ft. of torque. Power is readily available from standstill and the Sorento SX felt much more powerful than the previous 3.3-litre V6 engine. The eight-speed dual clutch automatic transmission is one of the best in the segment; providing lighting fast and satisfying response.

The 2021 Kia Sorento has above-average handling for its class. There is good feedback from the steering wheel and drivers can feel the chassis and suspension keeping everything tidy during braking and cornering. We had the opportunity to put the Sorento through wintry conditions during our test drive and the all-wheel drive system did not disappoint. There is seamless power transfer to the wheels that require traction and the system worked well even in deep snow. People who need to tow will be delighted to learn that the Sorento can tow up to 3,500 pounds.

Kia estimates that the Sorento with the 2.5T engine can achieve a 11.1L/100km in the city and 8.4L/100km on the highway for a 9.9L/100km figure in a combined setting. During our test drive, we could not do better than 12.5L/100km but it is worth noting that our drive was pure city commuting in cold and snowy conditions. The Sorento can accept 87-octane regular gasoline into its 67-litre fuel tank.

The Sorento comes with three rows of seating for up to seven passengers. This is an uncommon feature for its size as we usually expect that in crossovers a size bigger such as the Telluride, the Toyota Highlander, and the Honda Pilot. The first two rows are quite spacious especially with the upgraded captain chairs in X-Line, EX, EX+ and SX trims and we recommend leaving the third row only for children over short trips. The Sorento has good storage space once the third row is folded with up to 1,274-litres of volume available.

The Sorento SX has a long list of comfort features that place it above most mainstream crossovers. This includes include remote folding second row seating, heated and air-cooled front seats, heated rear seats, rear door sunshades, full digital instrument cluster with heads-up display, and power liftgate system. The cabin is intuitively designed with lots of storage spaces available and it is on par with the Honda Passport as our favourite spaces in its segment to spend long trips in.

The 10.25-inch touchscreen atop the centre console houses Kia’s infotainment unit which is responsive and easy to use. Tech includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration, UVO Intelligence connected car services, wireless charger and up to eight USB ports available. With the UVO Intelligence app, users can receive real-time maps with upcoming traffic, weather information, rear occupancy alert if movement is detected inside the vehicle, on-demand Find My Car feature with Surround View Monitor, and engine idling notifications. An upgraded Bose premium sound system is standard on the SX model.

The 2021 Sorento SX comes fully loaded with Kia’s Advanced Driver-Assistance System (ADAS) which includes Forward Collision Avoidance Assist, Leading Vehicle Departure Alert, Blind Spot Collision Avoidance, Forward Collision Warning and Avoidance Assist, Lane Following Assist, Rear Cross-Traffic Collision Avoidance Assist, Blind view monitor, and Safe Exit Assist systems.

Also notable is class-leading resolution in the Sorento’s Surround View Camera and the clever Blind-view monitor system that uses the digital instrument cluster to display a live view of the vehicle’s blind spot corresponding to the direction of the indicator signals. These features work together to enhance the safety of occupants and those around it and we hope to see some of these upgraded features standard on the more popular X-Line and EX/EX+ trims.

The 2021 Kia Sorento starts at $33,995 for the base LX+ and gradually moves up to $47,495 for our SX tester. It competes in a hotly contested segment against the likes of the all-new Toyota Venza, the Honda Passport, and Hyundai Santa Fe, and is ideal for someone who is looking for something a bit bigger than the typical compact crossovers without going into the midsize segment. For anyone who is looking for fuel efficiency, the Venza wins by default for its hybrid powertrain. The Sorento is the one to pick if flexibility is important as it is the only one in this cluster with three rows.

The 2021 Kia Sorento is a vehicle that Kia could have slacked on and no one would have noticed. Buyers had largely forgotten about it since the launch of the Telluride. With its sharp looks, punchy powertrain, clever utility, and a feature-rich equipment list, the Sorento is not only relevant once again but has shot up to the top of its segment and truly deserves the attention of every crossover buyer.

See Also:

2021 Toyota Venza Limited

2020 Ford Edge ST

2019 Honda Passport Touring

Vehicle Specs
Engine Size
Horsepower (at RPM)
Torque (lb-ft.)
Fuel Efficiency (L/100km, City/Highway/Combined)
Observed Fuel Efficiency (L/100km)
Cargo Capacity (in L)
Base Price (CAD)
As-Tested Price (CAD)
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About Ben So


Ben has been living and breathing car magazines, spec sheets, and touring auto shows for his entire life. As proud member of the Automotive Journalists Association of Canada, he keeps a close eye on the latest-and-greatest in the auto industry. When he isn't geeking out about the coolest new cars, he's probably heading to the next hidden-gem ice cream shop with his three quickly growing kids.

Current Toys: '97 Integra Type R, '07 LS 460 RWD, '08 Corvette Z06, '13 JX35 Tech