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2021 Kia Sorento Hybrid review update: Hybrids for everyone

If you’re looking for an electrified three-row crossover, you have a new choice: the 2021 Kia Sorento Hybrid. The latest iteration of Kia’s smaller three-row is the first to feature electrification and promises to blend efficiency and practicality. Unlike the Toyota Highlander Hybrid and Ford Explorer Hybrid, the Sorento Hybrid is only available in mid-grade flavors in a bid to make it more attainable. Will this strategy attract more consumers? Let’s find out.

2021 Kia Sorento Hybrid trim similarities and differences

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Photo credit: Stefan Ogbac / EV Pulse

There’s not much giving away the Sorento Hybrid’s electrified nature save for the Eco Hybrid badge on the tailgate. Otherwise, it looks similar to other Sorento models featuring an upright greenhouse, vertical taillights, silver trim on the C-pillar, and tiger face front fascia featuring headlights that are linked with the grille.

The Sorento Hybrid is available in S and EX trims. Both are well equipped with features like an 8.0-inch touch screen, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, a 4.2-inch gauge cluster display, heated front seats, leatherette upholstery, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry/start, remote start, LED headlights, and a full suite of driver assistance and collision prevention systems.

EX models add adaptive cruise control, cyclist detection, front automatic emergency braking that works at intersections, front and rear parking sensors, a height-adjustable hands-free power tailgate, wireless charging, LED interior lighting, and a panoramic sunroof as standard.

The Sorento Hybrid’s driver assistance features work well and never get intrusive. Lane-keeping and steering assist are gentle with their input when correcting your trajectory. They’ll help you take turns and give a light tug on the steering wheel if it needs more steering input. Adaptive cruise control keeps a reasonable gap between you and the vehicle ahead and immediately closes or brings the car back to your set distance with precise acceleration and braking inputs. This also allows the system to operate in traffic seamlessly. Should someone cut you off, the car brakes immediately without any jerkiness.

The infotainment system’s 8.0-inch touch screen is a constant reminder that you’re not able to get the Sorento Hybrid in higher trims. At least it has clear graphics, reacts quickly to inputs, and has intuitive control even with the presence of haptic feedback buttons for certain climate control functions. Although the standard six-speaker audio system is decent, it likely won’t satisfy discerning audiophiles.

Passenger space is ample in the first two rows. The upright greenhouse adds an airy feel and excellent visibility. As with most three-row crossovers, the third row is best left for children or folded to expand cargo capacity because there’s barely any room for your stuff with all seats up. Stowing the second and third rows gives you additional capacity and a squared-off space to haul bulky items.

High-quality materials are used inside the cabin with lots of soft plastics and padding. Everything you interact with from the touchpoints to the buttons and knobs is tactile. However, additional sound-deadening would help because the Sorento Hybrid has noticeable amounts of wind noise at highway speeds.

2021 Kia Sorento Hybrid features you miss out on

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Photo credit: Stefan Ogbac / EV Pulse

Since the Sorento Hybrid isn’t available in SX or SX Prestige trims, here are the features you can’t get: 10.25-inch digital gauge cluster, the 10.25-inch main touch screen, highway driving assist, built-in navigation, the surround-view monitor, ventilated front seats, the heated steering wheel, leather upholstery, 20-inch alloy wheels, and the 12-speaker Bose surround sound system.

All Sorento Hybrid models are also FWD and seat six. The X-Line package is exclusive to the Sorento 2.5T in SX Prestige grade. In addition to cosmetic tweaks, the X-Line adds 1.0-inch more ground clearance, 20-inch alloy wheels, and AWD with a locking differential.

2021 Kia Sorento Hybrid driving impressions

2021 Kia Sorento Hybrid rear three quarters 04 1
Photo credit: Stefan Ogbac / EV Pulse

Despite its size, the Sorento Hybrid moves with verve. A 1.6-liter turbo-four is paired to an electric motor, a 1.5-kWh lithium-ion battery, and a six-speed automatic gearbox. The total system output is 227 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. Between the turbocharged engine’s low-end torque, the electric motor’s instant response, and quick, smart shifts from the transmission, the Sorento Hybrid always has power for climbing steep hills, passing maneuvers, and hauling people or cargo.

The Sorento Hybrid possesses admirable composure. Body roll is minimal through corners while bumps don’t cause excessive vertical motions. The confident road manners don’t come at the cost of comfort, either. Thanks to the 17-inch wheels wrapped in tires with thick sidewalls, the Sorento Hybrid handily soaks up road imperfections. Ruts, expansion joints, and bumps don’t upset it thanks to the well-tuned suspension. Accurate yet quick steering allows the Sorento Hybrid to avoid feeling ponderous.

Mechanical and regenerative braking blend together imperceptibly. You can’t tell where the handoffs occur even if you suddenly mat the brake pedal, which has an excellent feel and firmness. This allows the Sorento Hybrid to drive like a non-electrified crossover especially when you take into account the silky-smooth powertrain.

2021 Kia Sorento Hybrid pricing

The 2021 Kia Sorento Hybrid starts at $34,765 for the S trim. Our EX test car sporting the vibrant Runway Red exterior colors costs $38,205.

What about the Kia Sorento PHEV?

In the second half of 2021, Kia will introduce the Sorento PHEV, which gets AWD standard and will only be available in SX or SX Prestige grades. It builds on the standard hybrid with a stronger electric motor and a 13.8-kWh battery increasing combined output to 261 hp. According to Kia, the Sorento PHEV can travel up to 30 miles in EV mode.

2021 Kia Sorento Hybrid final verdict

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Photo credit: Stefan Ogbac / EV Pulse

Think of the Sorento Hybrid as Kia democratizing electrification. It’s priced to maximize consumer reach and offers a strong value proposition from the get-go. When you take the pleasant road manners and a user-friendly interior into consideration, the crossover’s appeal strengthens even more. Those looking to get into their first hybrid, need extra utility, and want a lot of substance for not much cash should take a long hard look at this rig.

At a glance

  • Year: 2021
  • Make: Kia
  • Model: Sorento Hybrid
  • Trim: EX
  • Type: 4-door mid-size crossover
  • Combined horsepower: 227
  • Combined torque: 258 lb-ft
  • MPG ratings (city/highway/combined): 39/35/37
  • Pros: Smooth powertrain, user-friendly tech features, composed road manners
  • Cons: No AWD option, tight third-row seats, limited cargo space with all seats up
  • Base price: $34,765
  • Price as tested: $38,205
Written by Stefan Ogbac
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