2021 Kia Sorento Hybrid
RRP $ 33,590.00
“It’s not even a close comparison – the Sorento Hybrid is one of the best mid-size SUVs.”
Tons of technology
Compact car MPG
Spacious first and second row
Doesn’t feel slow
Tight third row
Model 2022 has more functions
The three-row mid-size SUV segment is one that automakers are slow to electrify. It makes sense – these hulking SUVs tend to have boxy designs that aren’t efficient at first. Finding a way to improve fuel economy without sacrificing all that space is a lot – maybe that’s why there are few options to choose from.
With the brand new 2021 Sorento Hybrid, Kia found a way to make this work. The Sorento name has been around since 2002, but this is the first time you’ll find hybrid drive in an SUV. This powertrain not only gives the Sorento its own place in the Kia range, but also in the overall segment. If you are looking for a midsize hybrid SUV, go straight to a Kia dealer to test the Sorento Hybrid before anything else.
The entry-level S starts at $ 34,760, including the target fee of $ 1,170. The EX-Trim we tested starts at $ 37,760. Our tester was painted in Runaway Red Paint, which costs $ 445, which brings our tester’s price to $ 38,205.
Design and interior
The last Sorento had an old-fashioned design – not exactly hideous, but awkward from some angles. In that regard, the new Sorento Hybrid is a massive improvement. It doesn’t have the same street presence as the larger Telluride, but it still has its own kind of American boast. Not many midsize SUVs and even fewer hybrids look cool, but that’s exactly what the Sorento Hybrid does.
Joel Patel / Digital Trends
Kia’s Tiger Nose grille gives the Sorento Hybrid a familiar look compared to the automaker’s other SUVs, such as the Niro, Seltos and Telluride. Compared to the regular Sorento, the Sorento Hybrid doesn’t look drastically different. From our point of view, that’s a good thing. The only noticeable difference between the two is the glossier trim on the hybrid.
Not many midsize SUVs and even fewer hybrids look cool, but that’s exactly what the Sorento Hybrid does.
The interior design of the Sorento Hybrid is just as beautiful as its exterior with a stylish look that feels just as classy as the exterior. The center console rests in the midst of vertically aligned air vents and the toggle switches for the HVAC temperature control and seat heating make the cabin look like the cockpit of an airplane – this is also fully functional. The biggest downside is the select-operated gear shifter, which seems like a good thing on paper but not in the real world.
One of the main advantages of the Sorento Hybrid over other hybrids is that it can accommodate up to seven people. Only a few mid-size SUVs can claim the combination of hybrid drive and seating for the whole family. Thanks to clever packaging, the Sorento Hybrid offers just as much cargo space as the Sorento. Unfortunately, it’s not as spacious as its competitors. Behind the third row there is 12.6 cubic meters of cargo space. Folding down the rear seats gives 45 cubic feet of cargo space, while the Sorento Hybrid can hold a maximum of 75.5 cubic feet of cargo.
Technology, infotainment and driver assistance
The main disadvantage of the Sorento Hybrid is its infotainment system. Kia does not equip the Sorento Hybrid with the same available 10.25-inch touchscreen of the regular model. Instead, you get a standard 8-inch device for the full range of products. It’s not a bad touchscreen, but the extra space available in a regular Sorento leads to envy. It’s like looking at your neighbor’s garden and then realizing that yours doesn’t quite fit. For patient people, Kia made things the same for 2022.
It’s not the fanciest list of features, but there’s something reassuring about a car packed with easy-to-use technology.
Joel Patel / Digital Trends
The size of the touchscreen might not impress, but its features will. The EX equipment we tested came with wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, satellite radio, a 4.2-inch display in the instrument cluster, eight USB ports, a wireless charging pad and six audio speakers. It’s not the most famous list of features, but there’s something to be said about a car that doesn’t choke you with technology.
The touchscreen’s graphics aren’t as sharp or as colorful as those of the larger 10.25-inch touchscreen, but they’re still really good. It’s also nice to be able to use logically placed buttons and knobs. Someone could get into this car in 10 minutes and feel comfortable with it – this is not the case with many new vehicles.
Kia equips the Sorento Hybrid with its Drive Wise suite of advanced safety functions. The suite includes collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring, traffic sign recognition, pedestrian recognition, rear cross traffic warning, exit warning and rear parking sensors. The EX equipment adds adaptive cruise control, cyclist detection, intersection assistant and front parking sensors.
Experience at the wheel
The Sorento Hybrid is powered by a 1.6-liter four-cylinder turbo engine paired with an electric motor and a 1.5 kWh lithium-ion battery. The combined power is 227 horsepower, while a traditional six-speed automatic transmission handles the shifting. It’s a departure from the norm as most other hybrids use a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). If there’s a downside to the Sorento Hybrid’s powertrain, front-wheel drive is the only configuration available.
Compared to the competitors from Ford and Toyota, the Sorento Hybrid no longer has any power. The Ford Explorer Hybrid has a 3.3 liter V6 engine and an electric motor for a combined 318 hp. Toyota’s Highlander Hybrid, on the other hand, comes with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder and two electric motors that produce 243 hp. Against that crowd, the Sorento Hybrid sounds like it could use a little more punch, but the SUV feels very powerful. There’s a bit of a lag off the line, but it’s still peppy, just about a second away from the regular Sorento’s available turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder in a sprint to 60 mph. Overtaking on the autobahn, which is usually a test of patience with a hybrid, is uneventful.
The six-speed automatic transmission is smoother than options with a CVT, like the Highlander, but it’s not exactly trouble-free. During our week with the SUV, we noticed that it jerked a few times when switching between reverse gear and drive. Downshifts can be slow if you’re trying to speed them up using the paddles on the steering wheel, but that’s to be expected on a powertrain where fuel economy is paramount.
Of the few hybrid mid-range SUVs on the market, the Sorento Hybrid is the most efficient of the group.
Joel Patel / Digital Trends
While Kia’s driving modes usually result in a noticeable change, the Sorento Hybrid’s Comfort, Smart, and Sport modes don’t make radical changes to the SUV’s performance. So it makes a lot of sense to keep it in eco mode most of the time. Additionally, Kia’s Eco mode doesn’t suppress the responsiveness of the accelerator pedal, so it feels more like a normal driving mode. The eco mode also matches the compliant driving behavior and easy steering of the Sorento Hybrid for a relaxed driving experience.
Gas mileage and safety
Of the few three-row midsize SUVs on the market with hybrid drive, the Sorento Hybrid is the most efficient of the bunch. The hybrid is rated to get up to 37 mpg combined (39 mpg city, 35 mpg highway). The best the Toyota Highlander Hybrid can get is 36 mpg combined, while the Ford Explorer Hybrid has a paltry 28 mpg combined rating. The Sorento Hybrid is so efficient that it is almost on par with smaller hybrids like the Honda CR-V Hybrid and Hyundai Tucson Hybrid Blue, which have 38 mpg combined ratings.
Joel Patel / Digital Trends
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has not yet subjected the Sorento Hybrid 2021 to crash tests. However, the regular Sorento received the “Top Safety Pick” rating after it had received a “Good” rating in all six crash tests – a “Superior” rating for its front crash prevention technology and the headlights, which ranged from “Bad” to “Good” are enough. In testing by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the Sorento Hybrid received an overall safety rating of four stars in 2021.
Kia supports the Sorento Hybrid with a 5-year basic warranty of 60,000 miles and a 10-year warranty for the powertrain of 100,000 miles. The warranty exceeds that offered by Toyota and Ford, which includes a three-year base warranty of 36,000 miles and a five-year powertrain warranty of 60,000 miles.
How DT would configure this car
Skip the $ 3,000 EX trim that doesn’t justify the price. The standard Sorento Hybrid has an extensive list of safety functions, two-zone climate control, six audio speakers, wireless smartphone compatibility, synthetic leather upholstery, heated front seats and an 8-inch touchscreen, making it well-equipped for most drivers.
Best-in-class fuel economy is just one characteristic that makes the Sorento Hybrid such an impressive vehicle. It also comes with nifty tech features, a relatively spacious cargo area, a peppy drivetrain, and a long warranty. The breathtaking design of the Sorento Hybrid cannot be overlooked either. It’s not even a close comparison – the Sorento Hybrid is one of the best mid-size SUVs on offer.
The Toyota Highlander Hybrid is available with a larger 12.3 inch touchscreen, although its graphics and menu layout look dated, it can hit up to 36 mpg combined, it has up to 84.3 cubic feet of cargo space, it has 243 horsepower, and it can pull up to 3,500 pounds. The Highlander Hybrid isn’t as fancy as the Sorento Hybrid, but it is available with all-wheel drive.
If you’re looking for fuel economy, the Ford Explorer Hybrid probably won’t fit the bill. It’s rated at up to 28 mpg combined, which is way below the Sorento Hybrid’s number. On the other hand, its powertrain produces up to 318 hp, well above the Sorento Hybrid. The Explorer Hybrid can also pull the most cargo with a valuation of up to 5,000 pounds. When it comes to cargo space, the Explorer Hybrid has the most space with up to 87.8 cubic feet of cargo space. Ford offers the Explorer Hybrid with rear-wheel and all-wheel drive.
Should you get one?
Yes sir. The 2022 model adds more technology and all-wheel drive available, but the 2021 model is still worth buying.