Four generations have given the Sorento enough time to bloom into a wonderful choice.
Consistently an underdog in the three-row crossover segment, the Kia Sorento has been one of our favourites for the better part of a decade. This year marks the introduction of the fourth-generation Sorento, and from initial looks, seems promising. Our managing editor Ben spent two weeks in a fully loaded example over the holidays, and came away with extremely positive impressions. We opted to spend some time with what’s supposed to be a popular trim grade; this is the 2021 Kia Sorento X-Line.
The new Sorento gets standard all-wheel-drive across the board, at least in Canada. There are two new powertrains to choose from, but the real loss here is the elimination of the buttery smooth 3.3-liter V6 that was the best possible choice for the last-generation model. The new engines are part of Hyundai and Kia’s “Smartstream” family, and both offer 2.5-liters of displacement.
Standard on the LX+ and LX Premium is a 191-horsepower naturally aspirated 2.5-liter that does the job just fine. Step up to the X-Line on test here and buyers will get a turbocharged variation of this engine, good for 281 horsepower and 311 lb-ft. of torque. An in-house eight-speed dual-clutch transmission is hooked up to this engine, and does a good job at keeping the vehicle in the right part of the powerband. Refinement is adequate, and while not nearly as smooth in operation as the V6 it replaces, the boosted four has more than enough punch for the Sorento.
One weakness we noticed was a consistent shudder off idle, right before the throttle is applied. It almost feels like turbo lag, but comes in before any work is commanded from the turbocharger. It takes away from the Sorento’s refinement and we would chalk it off to an issue with our specific vehicle, but this seems consistent with others’ observations as well. Other than this, ride quality is quite good and road noise is at a relatively low level, especially when compared to the Mazda CX-9.
The drive mode selector includes a series of modes including Comfort, Eco, Sport, and Smart; all adjusting throttle response, transmission shift points, etc. to suit conditions. Flipping the drive mode over to the “Terrain” selector allows drivers to choose between Mud, Sand, and Snow. This toggles the all-wheel-drive system’s behaviour to ensure the most capability. Hill descent control is also on board, along with an auto hold function for the electronic parking brake.
Fuel ratings for the 2021 Sorento are 10.1L/100km highway and 9.2L/100km city for the base naturally aspirated variant. All models with the 2.5-liter turbo-four tested here are rated at 11.1L/100km in the city and 8.4L/100km on the highway. We observed 10.4L/100km in mostly city driving in average conditions. The 67-liter fuel tank only requires 87-octane despite the forced induction, right as expected for this class of vehicle.
As expected for Kia in 2021, the interior is well laid out with plenty of hard buttons for most major controls, and fairly high quality plastics used to minimize any evidence of cost-cutting. The X-Line’s cloth seats are comfortable, though we could use some extra power adjustment on the driver’s seat. All Sorentos also get three rows of seating, and the X-Line gets captain chairs in the second row. The third row is comfortable enough for occasional use, but adults need not apply. Cargo capacity is a generous 357-liters behind the third row, and 1,274-liters behind the second row.
Technology is fairly standard fare for Kia and Hyundai’s current lineup, with an eight-inch touchscreen controlling infotainment. Higher trims get a 10.25-inch version of this system with a bit more capability. It’s an easy to use setup, though the fan adjustment and some of the climate controls require taking eyes off the road to find the touch-sensitive buttons. Advanced safety bits on board all models include automatic high beams, forward collision warning, lane keep and departure assist, and a rear-view camera. The X-Line does not include adaptive cruise control or the 360-degree view camera, the former of which is an unfortunate omittance.
The Sorento starts at $33,995 in LX+ guise, which comes standard with heated seats, active driver aids, and more. The X-Line tested here adds the 2.5-liter engine, captain chairs, more aggressive body accents, and more for $39,495. A series of trims including the EX, EX+ and SX top the range between $40,995 and $47,495, with a varying amount of extra kit for the money. The X-Line would be the one to have if only Kia had decided to add a sunroof, however they require a step up to the $43,995 EX+ for this.
Competition in this segment is steep, and the Sorento’s third row does give it a serious advantage over its own sibling, the Hyundai Santa Fe, priced similarly. Buyers bored with the aged styling of the Honda Pilot or who want more versatility than the tight Mazda CX-9 will find their way with the Sorento. Those wanting slightly more space and more premium kit can stay within the Kia dealership and look at the Telluride, or walk across the street to Hyundai and check out the Palisade.
Four generations have given this mainstream import crossover enough time to bloom into a wonderful option. The 2021 Kia Sorento X-Line is a great choice for any growing families looking to get into a three-row SUV with enough space to haul all of their things. The X-Line trim adds that extra bit of capability, a bigger engine, and the minor styling tweaks to button up the whole package.