Kia adds hybrid technology to 2021 Sorento SUV
Kia has been on quite a successful journey over the last 10 years, reinventing itself as one of the most exciting and high-quality brands on the market, while retaining the affordable pricing that first made the Korean automaker popular.
For the last six years, Kia has been the #1 mass market brand for initial quality, according to JD Power. That tracks with what owners report. (Full disclosure, my extended family owns a couple of Kias, and they've been great.) Kia is confident enough in its quality to offer the best warranty on the market; up to 10 years or 100,000 miles on the powertrain, and five years or 60,000 miles on everything else.
So when we heard that a new version of Kia's mid-size Sorento crossover SUV was coming for 2021, expectations were pretty high. Kia did not disappoint us. The new Sorento is offered with a hybrid drivetrain for the first time, as well as both basic and turbocharged gasoline options.
The hybrid Sorento uses a 1.6-liter turbocharged engine paired with an electric motor to produce 227 system horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. The driveline is paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel-drive. All-wheel-drive is available with the gas-engine Sorento, but not the hybrid. The hybrid drivetrain returns 39 MPG in city driving, and 35 on the highway, which is fantastic for an SUV of this size. With a full tank of gas, the Sorento Hybrid will travel up to 655 miles before it's empty.
In the future, Kia will offer the Sorento with a Plug-in Hybrid option. This enhanced electric capability will deliver 261 horsepower and an estimated 30 miles of pure electric driving range on a single charge, which you can easily achieve overnight on a standard household outlet, or quickly with a 240-Volt circuit and a Level 2 home charging unit. This model is expected to arrive later this year.
But that's not all. The Sorento Hybrid builds off of a well-equipped base, with features like blind spot collision avoidance and rear cross-traffic collision avoidance assist, keyless access, push button and remote start capability, and heated front seats. If you order the top EX trim, you add adaptive cruise control, enhanced automatic emergency braking with junction, turn, and cyclist detection, park distance warnings, a wireless device charging system, and much more.
The Sorento Hybrid is available with a 6-passenger configuration with individual seats in the second row, and a two-seat third row. There's a useful touchscreen infotainment system, but the part you really care about is that the Sorento is comfortable and easy to use. Kia's new exterior styling also makes the new Sorento one of the best-looking SUVs on the road today.
Driving the Sorento Hybrid is effortless. I was surprised when I discovered that the base gasoline engine was only 1.6 liters, because it feels much larger and more powerful. The Sorento is stable on the road, and handled our Portland winter weather with no drama at all. Remember also that this is with front-wheel-drive. A modern driveline with traction and stability controls means that the new Sorento can handle slick roads and even ice and snow much more effectively than vehicles of just a few years ago.
One of the really compelling things about this SUV is the price. The top-trim EX starts at $36,590 and the well-equipped S trim starts at $33,590. Compare that to the base gas-powered Sorento at $29,390. Kia's offer is that you don't have to spend premium money to get a top-shelf hybrid SUV. If you're looking for a new family SUV this year and you'd like to explore hybrid efficiency, put the all-new 2021 Kia Sorento at the top of your test-drive list.
2021 Kia Sorento Hybrid EX
Base price: $36,590
Price as tested: $38,205
Type: Mid-size SUV
Engine: 1.6-liter with hybrid (227 hp, 258 lbs-ft)
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
EPA estimated mileage: 39/35
Overall length: 189.4 inches
Curb weight: 4,065 pounds
Final assembly: Hwasung, Korea
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.