2021 Kia Sorento HEV 1.6T Hybrid – Bottom Line Review

2021 Kia Sorento HEV EX 1.6T Hybrid: warm Neapolitan path to brand's first gas electric hybrid three row crossover SUV, starting at $35K.

KILLING IT AUTOMOTIVE: Remember the Kia Telluride large crossover SUV reviewed by Roadblazing.com just over a year ago? The all-new one named after the tony Colorado ski resort town? Telluride is super sized for taking a ski club, with all its gear, to the slopes. However, it exclusively relies on fossil fuel to get there.

RE- V- AMPED NEAPOLITAN UTE: Recognizing that not every group of five requires a large size fits all solution, for 2021 Kia has given it’s mid-size hauler a thorough makeover. Arriving as oil prices have propelled, an all new 2021 Sorento is the first three row Kia crossover SUV available as a gas electric hybrid.

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WHAT: All new fourth generation MQ4 2021 Kia Sorento Hybrid three-row hybrid mid-size family crossover utility vehicle. It follows on the heels of the 3rd generation UM Sorento

Standard Power: 1591 cc Atkinson cycle, dual VVT-i DOHC 16V I-4 cylinder gasoline engine: 177 hp (131 kW) / 195 lb-ft @ 1500 rpm w/ idle stop and go + 6-speed torque converter automatic planetary transaxle

2021 Kia Sorento HEV EX 1.6T Hybrid: small displacement turbo four gas mill gets noticeable additional boost from 45 kW synchronous pole AC motor, supplied by 1.5 kWh LiIon batteries, good for 227 net hybrid horsepower

NET HYBRID POWER RATING: 227 hp (169 kW) @ 5500 rpm, 258 lb-ft @ 1500-4400 rpm

parallel to: 1 x 240V synchronous AC traction / regenerative charging motor: 60 hp (45 kW) @ 1600 rpm, 195 lb-ft @ 0-1600 rpm

1 x 240V synchronous AC Hybrid Starter Generator: 8 kW

electric supply battery: 64 Lithium Ion Polymer cells, 270V, 6.0 amp hr, 1.50 kWh

WHAT (A) STYLING DIFFERENCE: Formerly curved corners are sharper for a blocky, more truck-like appearance, differentiating itself from the 3rd generation Sorento’s chunky family van look. Roadblazing.com detects influences of Ford Explorer, particularly in the new Sorento’s posterior.

2021 Kia Sorento HEV EX 1.6T Hybrid: Hood forms powerful clamshell over wide dark lattice farfalle grille. Front and rear lower valence metallic accents merge with simulated skid plates

Staying put: Rising high belt-line; Deep fuselage crease rising to cheat-line; Sharp dual hood valley creases emanating from higher A-pillar position; Oversized body matching roof spoiler; Front & rear aluminum simulated skid plates.

2021 Kia Sorento HEV EX 1.6T Hybrid: as segment takes turn for more truck like appearance edges are blocky and more upright than preceding Sorento

Tidied Styling Details: Deeper, twin kidney black lattice grille w/ gloss black split fence lower air-intake; Boomerang, chrome bezeled black lower corner simulated diffusers with LED foglights / reflectors; Wrap around fender top Bi-HIDs w/ amber LED DRL underline; Chrome rocker panel accents; Wrap around to mid tailgate elliptical LED taillamps w/ amber directionals; Inverted U mid tailgate license plate valley; Softly creased rear bumper cover; Single elliptical chrome exhaust tailpipe.

WHY: Availability of gas electric hybrid propulsion is welcome in blockier re-styled mid-size 3 row family crossover SUV.

WHEN: On-Sale (in the U.S.) since Spring 2021

WHERE: Kia new vehicle dealers

WHERE MADE: West Point, Georgia, U.S.A.

WHERE TO: Wherever the surfaced, pressed gravel or dry dirt roads travel as the only wheels driven are in front, and all-wheel drive IS NOT available.


Hardly winded, but wheezy sounding, paints a picture of the forced induction small twin-cam inline-4 powerplant, supplemented in parallel, by a single electric traction motor. Net horsepower handily surpasses the non-hybrid atmospheric 2.5L engine. A healthy dose of turbocharged and electric torque provides two tons with impressive pull from a stop. At highway speeds the added mass taxes the power surplusage. Yet an in-house six-speed planetary automatic transaxle, supplemented by steering wheel dorsal mount shift paddles, does a better job at engine speed locking than competitors’ CVTs. All-wheel drive is not yet offered on the Sorento hybrid, remaining exclusive to petrol and expected 2022 PHEV trim.

The latest Kia Sorento, even in front-drive hybrid form, drives lighter and nimbler than the UM series it replaces. Most body heave is excised, with less rear end swing, while ride quality is damped compliantly taut. Steering reaction is direct if dispossessed of road communication. Regenerative slowing, however, isn’t matched by very linear four wheel disc braking action.

HOW FAR: 37 combined miles per gallon observed fuel economy; +1 620 miles highway range.

2021 Kia Sorento HEV EX 1.6T Hybrid: 37 miles per gallon is on the high end of 3-Row CUV fuel economy

HOW BIG/ LITTLE: Just barely categorized a mid-size 3-Row crossover SUV, having an advantage in maneuverability, but burdened with compact aft of 1st Row passenger dimensions dimensions and a 3rd Row just barely avoiding penalty box for anyone older than “tweens.”

2021 Kia Sorento HEV EX 1.6T Hybrid: Roomy cabin for four becomes short trip only usable for an extra two.

By Comparison:

√ 2021 Kia Sorento Hybrid 110.8″ wheelbase = 8.3″ < Ford Explorer Hybrid ; 1.4″ < Toyota Highlander Hybrid

41.7″-inches Row 2 legroom = 1.7″ > Ford Explorer Hybrid, 3.3” > Toyota Highlander Hybrid

29.6″-inches Row 3 legroom = 2.6″ < Ford Explorer Hybrid, 1.9″ > Toyota Highlander Hybrid

HOW USEFUL: Low cargo bay loading liftover; 2nd Row folding backs + tilt sliding captain’s chairs; 50/50% 3rd Row split folding seat backs, w/ cargo area remote release; Available cargo shade; Locking deep glovebox; +1 Wide front seat cushion; +1 Outward visibility from low cowl, narrow front & side pillars, tall tailgate window; +1 Front & 2nd Row door pocket, 3rd Row wall storage; –1 Tow Rating: 1654 lbs.

2021 Kia Sorento HEV EX 1.6T Hybrid: from 12.5 to 75.5 cubic feet cargo space

By Comparison:

HOW SAFE: IIHS Top Safety Pick; 7 airbags; Rear camera + predictive grid; Rear sonar park distance warning; Forward collision & pedestrian avoidance braking;  Lane departure warning, keep assist; Lane follow notice; Blind Spot Warning; Rear Cross Traffic Alert; Automatic high beam headlamps; Rear occupant alert + sensor; Traffic street side driver’s door alert + 2nd Row door lock-in; -1 No adjacent traffic avoidance braking.

Available Driver Assist Safety (included on tester): Smart cruise control + stop & go; Cyclist & junction assist collision avoidance braking; Front + rear park distance warning

HOW PEOPLE FRIENDLY: Contrast stitched perforated leatherette seating; Heater Row 1 seats; driver’s 10-way power + passenger’s 4-way adjustment;  4 power windows = driver’s full express; Heated tilt & telescoping, cross-stitched leather wrapped steering wheel; TFT dual analog dial gauges; Large lower mid-dash twin dial and button climate switchgear; +1 Grooved brushed metallic toggle integrated steering wheel spoke controls; +1 Easily located, accessed left lower dashboard dimmer & driver assist switches; +1 Wind & road noise isolation;

Cool Gizmo(s): Power folding wing mirrors;

Details Done Right: Satin metallic cabin panel edging & switchgear tips, including enter stack side channels + seat heater toggle switches  Fully padded and tandem stitched dashboard; Fine grained light contrast color lower dashboard & pillars;  Satin metallic banded upright & inverted trapezoid dashboard & 2nd Row console vents + lower joystick controls; Lattice etched satin metallic upper door panel & middle dashboard panels.

2021 Kia Sorento HEV EX 1.6T Hybrid: luxuries like soft padded panels, mouse fur lined storage, hinged cover smart phone bin and eye catching raised lattice metallic appliques


Nearly Non-Descript-1 Thinner cargo bay carpets and folding floor storage covers; -1 3rd Row and aft dark, hard grained plastic wall & pillars.

HOW “APP” -LICABLE: Center dash-top embedded 8.0″-inch capacitive touch LCD infotainment screen flanked by large dedicated function buttons; +1 Large icons; Voice learning hands-free communications; 6-speaker, 240 W audio w/ streaming audio & HD radio; Mobile powered Android Auto/ Apple Car Play application & navigation overlays; UVO-3 Apps

2021 Kia Sorento HEV EX 1.6T Hybrid: driver’s view of 4.2″ trip display running Android Auto navigation in the 8.0″ touch tri-pane LCD media display

Subscription based: Sirius XM & Sirius XM TravelLink (90 days included trial); UVO-e telematics (5 years included)

USB-A x 7, +1 Deep lower center stack mobile device pocket; Qi wireless charging; 12V x 3 (cargo bay x 1).

HOW MUCH: $38,205 = 2021 Kia Sorento Hybrid EX as tested price

WHAT’S MISSING: All-wheel drive; More supportive front seats, 115V AC power outlet, Native Navigation / Premium audio options

ANY COMPETITION: Ford Explorer Hybrid: +1 3rd Row & cargo space, infotainment; Toyota Highlander Hybrid: +1 cabin finish level, ride compliance, entertainment & all-wheel drive options.

BOTTOM LINE:  Kia initially pursues the warm Neapolitan path to gas electric hybrid three row SUV.

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