Test Drive: 2021 Kia Sorento SX Prestige X-Line
2021 Kia Sorento SX Prestige X-Line
Class: Midsize Crossover SUV
Miles driven: 200
Fuel used: 8.8 gallons
Real-world fuel economy: 22.7 mpg
|CG Report Card|
|Room and Comfort||B+|
|Power and Performance||B-|
|Fit and Finish||A-|
|Report-card grades are derived from a consensus of test-driver evaluations. All grades are versus other vehicles in the same class. Value grade is for specific trim level evaluated, and may not reflect Consumer Guide's impressions of the entire model lineup.|
|Big & Tall Comfort|
|Big & Tall comfort ratings are for front seats only. "Big" rating based on male tester weighing approximately 350 pounds, "Tall" rating based on 6'6"-tall male tester.|
|Engine Specs||281-hp 2.5-liter|
|Engine Type||Turbo 4-cyl|
|Transmission||8-speed dual-clutch automatic|
Driving mix: 75% city, 25% highway
EPA-estimated fuel economy: 21/28/24 (mpg city, highway, combined)
Fuel type: Regular gas
Base price: $42,590 (not including $1170 destination charge)
Options on test vehicle: X-Line Rust Interior Package ($200), carpeted floor mats ($210), carpeted cargo mat with seat-back protection ($115)
Price as tested: $44,285
The great: Comfortable, spacious cabin for passengers and cargo within smaller exterior dimensions than other three-row midsize SUVs; generous list of comfort and safety features; redesign brings broader model range and available hybrid powertrain
The good: Nicely finished interior; distinctive touches of X-Line trim level
The not so good: Shifts from dual-clutch automatic transmission can feel abrupt; third-row seat is best suited for kids; limited cargo room behind third row
More Sorento price and availability information
With the new-generation Kia Sorento that has come out for 2021, the South Korean automaker seems to be admitting that while the idea of 3-row seating in a midsize sport-utility vehicle is a benefit, the reality of it isn’t always so rewarding.
As Consumer Guide’s First Spin report on the fourth-generation Sorento pointed out, the fully updated SUV grows no bigger in total but its wheelbase is stretched by 1.4 inches. The result is to expand second-row legroom by 2.3 inches at the expense of approximately two inches of legroom in the third row. If middle-row passengers in adjustable seats are willing to share this “windfall,” they can liberate enough legroom for average-sized adults to sit knees up in the third row. It’s not an appealing prospect for a trip of any great length, and even getting to or from the hindmost seats can be a chore. The middle-row captain’s chairs that were in the SX Prestige X-Line that CG tested track forward to create access to the third row, but the path is pretty narrow and hard for a grown-up to navigate.
This is why a number of manufacturers now have two midsize SUVs, a “small” and a “large” (in Kia’s case the latter is the Telluride, a CG “Best Buy”), and some don’t even try to put a third row in the junior job.
Our first full test of the new Sorento was at the top of the 5.5 gas-engine trim levels. (There also are two gas-electric hybrids, Sorento’s first such.) We say “5.5” trim levels because the SX Prestige is restricted to front-wheel drive while the tested SX Prestige X-Line is confined to all-wheel drive and sells for $2000 more. Base price with AWD is $43,760 (including delivery), but the test vehicle had an additional $525 in options.
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The redesigned Sorento is a by-the-book crossover: Its new platform—which Kia says is lighter and stronger than the previous model’s—is shared with the brand’s K5 midsize sedan. Gas-engine models get new powerplants, a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with 191 horsepower in lower-line models or—with turbocharging—281 horsepower in higher-grade versions like the one CG tested. The naturally aspirated engine is now hooked to an 8-speed automatic transmission while the turbo is paired with an 8-speed dual-clutch automatic.
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The 2.5 turbo delivers 281 horsepower and 311 lb-ft. of torque. When allowed to, this engine provides good power and cruises easily and moderately quietly. In default “Comfort” drive mode, upshifts from the dual-clutch automatic feel abrupt and a little jerky in standing-start getaways as it hastens through the gears to get into higher, more economical ranges, so power delivery feels choppy as a result. It’s almost more pleasant to click into “Sport” mode, where gear changes are put off until the engine revs a little higher. (“Smart,” “Eco,” and—with AWD—“Snow” modes are also accessible from the same console dial.) EPA fuel-economy estimates for this powerteam are 21 mpg in the city, 28 mpg on the highway, and 24 combined. This driver’s 69.4-mile stint, with 67 percent city-type operation, showed 20.5 mpg.
The off-road-flavored X-Line has 8.2 inches of ground clearance, 1.3 more than the rest of the Sorento lineup, and SX Prestiges roll on 20-inch alloy wheels (with a matte-gray finish on the X-Line). The test truck’s ride was not terribly upset by uneven pavement. Steering was responsive and not too light. Torque vectoring in the AWD system not only distributes power between the axles but also applies braking to inside wheels during cornering in pursuit of better stability. There is a good sense of body control in the new model. A center-locking differential is also part of the AWD driveline.
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The SX Prestige comes off as fairly plush. Comfortable leather-upholstered seats are heated and ventilated in front. The steering wheel is heated, too. Soft and padded surfaces are broadly distributed—even on the tops of the rear doors. Overhead there’s a panoramic sunroof; in back the power liftgate is hands-free. In addition to all-wheel drive, the X-Line has its own front- and rear-bumper fascias, and a raised bridge-type roof-rack design.
There’s a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and a 10.25-inch infotainment touchscreen. Navigation, UVO link remote services, and Android Auto/Apple CarPlay connectivity are among the tech features. So are a wireless charger, USB charge ports in all three rows, and keyless entry and starting. A Bose premium audio system with satellite radio is included as well. The system is easy to use, with external tuning and volume knobs and easy-to-reach function buttons. The dual-zone climate system has a few plainly marked function buttons, with repeated-push levers for temperature settings as the only small quibble we could have with the arrangement. Entering Sport mode changes the instrument-panel graphics.
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A package of Kia Drive Wise driver-assist features consists of automatic emergency braking with junction-turn and cyclist detection, blind-spot detection, Safe Exit Assist, rear cross-traffic alert and avoidance, lane keeping and following, Highway Drive Assist light-autonomy function, adaptive cruise control, and rear-occupant alert. A surround-view monitor and blind-spot view monitor (that shows in the instrument cluster on the side where a turn signal is activated) round out the safety enhancements.
Interior storage is excellent with a large glove box, sizable covered console box with an organizer tray, an exposed tray/wireless charging pad under the device inputs at the front of the console, net pouches on the backs of the front seats, door pockets with bottle holders in the front doors, and bottle holders in the rear doors. Cup holders are provided in the console, high on the rear doors, and in the sidewalls next to the third-row seats.
With all seats up, rear cargo space is very limited. There is hidden storage in a bin under the floor panel. Handy pulls on the back of the 50/50-split third-row seats retract them into the floor, and with the seats down there’s almost four times as much flat-floor load space. Drop the second-row seats and up to 75.5 cubic feet of load space is available, though not flush with the rest of the cargo floor and, of course, there are gaps in between the individual seats.
Kia certainly has made a better midsize SUV out of the Sorento. It just can’t make it any more than a kiddie-hauler 3-row ute.
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Check out the Consumer Guide Car Stuff Podcast
2021 Kia Sorento SX Prestige X-Line Gallery
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2021 Kia Sorento SX Prestige X-Line
Consumer Guide Car Stuff Podcast, Episode 57; 2021 Consumer Guide Best Buys
2021 Kia Sorento SX Prestige X-Line
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