CHATHAM, Mass. – The all-new 2021 Kia Sorento X-Line AWD is a terrific vehicle, continuing the South Korean brand’s succession of impressive new models. Vehicles like the Telluride, Carnival, K5, Stinger and Seltos instantaneously put Kia in the top of their market segments, transforming what was once a company known for cheap cars into one embodying the producer of top quality, top value cars.
The Sorento fits — even with its third row of seats — into the group of smaller mid-size sport-utility vehicles (SUV), with the Telluride occupying a place within the larger-vehicle group of this segment.
Despite this positioning, the Sorento is not a small vehicle (its wheelbase is 1.4-inches longer than the version it replaces creating more useable interior space); it is roughly the size of a Jeep Grand Cherokee.
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Inside tech and comfort
Kia has filled the new Sorento in this X-Line configuration with an extensive array of modern technological features, conveniences and amenities. A customizable 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster sits in front of the driver behind the adjustable (height and reach) steering wheel, while a 10.25-inch color touch screen dominates the top-center of the dash serving as the heart of the SUV’s infotainment system.
This wide screen, which can be partitioned 1/3-2/3 to show two sources of information, provides a large canvas for the integral navigation system that can be operated either through the on-screen commands or via voice activation.
Voice activation, along with logically designed buttons, switches and knobs, can also facilitate the operations of the SiriusXM satellite radio, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, dual-zone automatic climate-control system and other infotainment and vehicle operations.
Leather wraps the heated steering wheel and seats — very comfortable and featuring heating/ventilation/electric adjustability up front and easy movement/collapsing of the second-row captains chairs as well as the split third-row bench.
All three rows have cupholders and USB ports (eight total) for charging mobile devices further enhancing the livability of the Sorento’s cabin.
Performance parameters meet today’s standards
This is a very comfortable, quiet, relaxing space for travel, whether on road or off – something for which the X-Line is set up (with an additional inch of ground clearance at 8.2 inches total). The driving feel is reassuring and confidence-building, regardless of the road and weather conditions (which at times were horrific during our week behind the wheel).
Providing the power is a 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine putting 281 horsepower and 311 pounds-feet of torque through the eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel-drive system with locking center differential (for those trickier off-road situations). This combination also provides up to 3,500 pounds of towing capacity.
Other versions of the Sorento can be had with front-wheel drive and either a non-turbocharged four-cylinder gas engine, a hybrid-electric or plug-in hybrid-electric powertrain, giving buyers in this category plenty of choices for their motive power.
Regardless of the choice, fuel economy results will be good. The X-Line version we had is rated by the federal Environmental Protection Agency at 24 miles per gallon overall (21 city/28 highway) and we averaged a shade over that while using the “sport” setting of the selectable drive modes for quicker shifting and more aggressive acceleration.
Keeping everything under control beneath the sleek, new sheet metal is an all-new third generation of the company’s “N3” platform that is lighter (more than 100 pounds), stronger (upgraded materials and design) and more flexible than previous models.
The suspension is independent front and rear with a MacPherson-type up front and multi-link in the back. Brakes are ventilated discs at all four corners, 12.8-inches up front, 12 in the rear and operate within the X-Line’s 20-inch wheels shod with 255/45R20 all-season tires.
Technology at the forefront: ADAS in a big way
The long list of advanced driver-assist systems (ADAS) begins with Kia Drivewise with its Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist; Blind-Spot Collision-Avoidance Assist (rear); Rear Cross-Traffic Collision-Avoidance Assist; Safe Exit Assist; Smart Cruise Control with Stop & Go; Lane Keep Assist; Highway Driving Assist; Parking Distance Warning – Reverse, and Rear Occupant Alert with Ultrasonic Sensors.
These ADAS are supplemented in the X-Line with Blind-Spot View Monitor; Surround-View Monitor (more extensive than rear-view camera); Parking Collision-Avoidance – Reverse, and Parking Distance Warning (front).
And most importantly, these systems work seamlessly with just the right amount of haptic feedback and audible warnings so the driver will not turn them off.
An SUV for everyone
The 2021 Kia Sorento continues the company’s steady stream of vehicles which offer exceptional value, modern content, bold styling, up-to-date technology and rewarding driving characteristics. They answer virtually all the questions a car, SUV or minivan buyer might have and do so with style and verve.
The Sorento that occupies my garage with 131,000 miles on it has served my family faithfully for more than a decade. The VAST improvements I experienced in this new variant further convinced me of Kia’s commitment to producing the best vehicles in any segment they wish to enter.