The Most Efficient Three-Row Hybrid
In my recent 2021
Telluride review, Kia’s large three-row crossover, one thought came to
mind: I wish it got better fuel economy. I then was handed the keys to the
all-new 2021 Kia Sorento Hybrid three row-crossover, and my wish came true. Kia
says “the Sorento Hybrid is the most efficient three-row hybrid on the
market” which means it has taken the Toyota
Highlander Hybrid head-on. In the highly competitive midsize crossover
category, the Sorento had better be good. We think it is very good.
Slotting a bit smaller than the Telluride, the 2021 Sorento comes as a hybrid and non-hybrid, with front wheel or all-wheel drive, meaning Kia wants to make sure you leave one of their dealerships with a three-row crossover that fits your exact needs.
Hybrid Power and Efficiency
Clean Fleet Report
drove the 2021 Kia Sorento Hybrid EX with a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder
gasoline engine, which was good for 177 horsepower (hp) and 195 pound-feet of
torque, (lb.-ft.). Combined with a 44-kilowatt electric motor putting-out 60 hp
and 195 lb.-ft. of torque, there is a total system 227 hp and 258 lb.-ft. of
torque. The Kia hybrid system is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission
with manual mode and paddle shifters that drives the front wheels.
The EPA rates the fuel economy
at 39 mpg city/35 highway/37 combined. In 291 miles driving through Southern
California, we averaged 38.1 mpg. A 110-mile portion of that total, with the adaptive
cruise control set at 65 mph and selecting the Eco drive mode, we achieved 42
To aid in fuel economy the
Sorento Hybrid has the “Stop & Go” feature where the engine shuts off and
restarts automatically when coming to a stop. Fuel economy numbers reported by Clean
Fleet Report are non-scientific and represent the reviewer’s driving
experience using the dash gauge computer. Your numbers may differ.
The 2021 Sorento also is
available with two other four-cylinder gasoline engine options–a 2.5L or a
turbocharged 2.5L. Both of these engines can be mated with all-wheel drive,
which is not available on the Sorento Hybrid. However, Kia is coming out with a
Sorento plug-in hybrid in 2022 that will only be available with AWD, if
electricity and extra traction are your thing.
Driving Experience: On the Road
Kia has designed the Sorento
Hybrid with a very low and usable torque range, kicking-in at 1,500 rpm and
staying on through 4,500 rpm. This gives strong, smooth acceleration with 0-60
times of 7.7 seconds. A big part of the performance is the six-speed automatic
with paddle shifters, and the driver selectable drive modes of Eco, Comfort,
Smart and Sport. Accelerating from a stop, the Sorento Hybrid launches in
electric mode before the gasoline engine kicks in. The pull is linear, with
plenty of torque when needed.
Eco can be used on long
stretches of road to squeeze-out every last drop of fuel; Sport holds the
transmission in each rev band a bit longer, sending more available torque to
the wheels. The Sorento Hybrid has a small 1.5 kilowatt-hour electric battery,
so you can’t drive far on pure electric power. But out on the open road, even
at 70+ mph when lifting from the accelerator pedal, you will see the EV light
light-up on the dash. The Sorento has a smart hybrid system where it is
constantly, and imperceptibly, going between propulsion modes to maximize
Weighing in at 4,065 pounds,
the 2021 Kia Sorento Hybrid felt solid and well balanced. Maneuvering was
better than expected for a crossover thanks to the235/65 all-season
tires and the McPherson strut front and multi-link rear suspension. The
electric power steering was neutral and accurate with excellent road feel and
feedback. At freeway speeds road imperfections were absorbed without any jolts,
delivering an overall comfortable ride. With a 1,654-pound tow rating, plan on
not hauling anything too big or heavy.
The regenerative braking
system, which recharges the drive battery, had a small learning curve that was
easily mastered. The anti-lock brakes delivered solid and consistent stops,
with a power-assisted braking system consisting of vented front and rear discs.
Exterior Styling: Won’t
Kia says the all-new 2021
Sorento Hybrid design is “defined by sharp, modern lines” that make it “more
authentic (as a) SUV than a soft crossover.” With ours painted in Runway Red,
we get what they are saying; the design makes the Sorento muscular, but not
bulky. Their designers have taken full advantage of modern lighting technology
with the LED daytime running lights acting as an eyeliner to the Tiger Nose
grille. The grille, which extends the full width of the hood, has a honey comb
pattern, and is framed by LED headlamps. The slim chrome accent strip
separating the hood and grille is tasteful.
The side profile draws your
eye to the pointed C-pillar design, leading to the rear with an integrated
spoiler, twin faux exhaust ports in the outer lower fascia, and the letters
S-O-R-E-N-T-O spread-out between the tail lights. The 17-inch aluminum-alloy
wheels, with black finish inserts, are attractive and complete the look.
The 2021 Kia Sorento Hybrid EX
has three rows and is designed to seat six. Kia realized that, except in a
minivan, the third row in a crossover SUV needs to be certain minimum size to
hold three comfortably. Usually, only two adults fit well, and in many cases
only for short trips. The seating in the Sorento Hybrid EX, all trimmed in leatherette,
had second row captain’s chairs that split and folded 50/50, as did the third
row bench seat. The front seats were heated, with the driver having 10-way
power adjustments including lumbar, with the passenger getting four-way manual
adjustments. The driver seat adjustments, with the manual tilt and telescoping
steering column, allowed us to lock-in a favored driving position. The
comfortable seats offer good thigh support, leading to feeling no fatigue on long
Thanks to sound deadening material placed between the cabin and engine, acoustic glass on the windshield and the carpeted floor mats, the cabin in the 2021 Kia Sorento Hybrid EX was quiet. The premium sound system, with six speakers, was easy to use as it met Clean Fleet Report’s minimum requirement for being driver-friendly with knobs for the channel and volume functions. The Sorento Hybrid EX came with an 8.0-inch color touchscreen with navigation and a multi-view camera. Sounds came from the AM/FM radio and a three-month subscription to SiriusXM satellite radio, with the wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto a nice feature. Listening was completed with Bluetooth streaming audio and USB ports; the voice recognition for hands-free telephone dialing worked perfectly. The UVO telematics allows for remote setting of the climate control, locking and unlocking the doors, Find My Car, and other convenience features.
Second row leg and head room
is good, even with the panoramic moonroof. The second row seats slide forward
far enough to allow a reasonable amount of space to access the third row bench
seat. Once in the third row, the leg room is adequate, but head room for a six-footer
could be tight. There are only two seatbelts in the third row, and those
passengers will get air vents and USB charge ports. The Sorento Hybrid owner
will view the third row as for occasional use. If they need a larger third row,
the Kia Telluride is what they should be looking at.
Storage space behind the third
row is not large, but with most owners probably keeping the third row folded
flat, the space behind the second row grows to become very usable for most
cargo needs. Lay down all the seats for those longer items.
Adding to the interior comfort and convenience is wireless
phone charging, Bluetooth voice recognition, a leather-wrapped shift knob, push
button start, dual zone automatic climate control, height adjustable front seat
belts, power windows with driver one-touch up/down, power heated outside
mirrors with turn indicators, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio
and telephone controls.
The 2021 Kia Sorento Hybrid comes with front,
seat-mounted, driver knee and full side curtain air bags, and Kia’s Drive Wise
advanced driver assist system (ADAS). Safety features included forward
collision warning and avoidance, lane departure and driver attention warning,
lane keep assist, blind spot collision avoidance, rear cross traffic collision
and parking distance warning, and pedestrian forward collision avoidance.
The 2021 Kia Sorento Hybrid comes in two trim levels with these base prices before options, but including the $1,175 destination charge:
2021 Kia Sorento Hybrid EX had a MSRP of $38,210, which included $445 in
options and the $1,175 destination charge.
The Sorento Hybrid comes with these warranties.
Powertrain – 10 years/100,000 miles
Basic – Five years/60,000 miles
Roadside – Five years/60,000 miles
Observations: 2021 Kia Sorento Hybrid EX
The 2021 Kia Sorento Hybrid goes head-to-head
with the Toyota
Highlander Hybrid, so it had better be good. It is. If price is the
deciding factor between the two, consider that the fully optioned Sorento
Hybrid EX is priced less than the base model Highlander Hybrid.
With the Sorento Hybrid only available with six seats, and
if seven or eight seats is a necessity, then the only option in a hybrid
midsize crossover will be the Toyota Highlander. The Highlander Hybrid also has
an AWD option, though not on the base model.
Clean Fleet Report liked the clean, contemporary
styling, a comfortable interior with convenient seating and storage
flexibility, a smooth ride, and the possibility of 40+ mpg on the highway: all
attractive selling points for anyone looking for a mid-size SUV. The Kia
Telluride and the Sorento Hybrid are two of the best three-row crossover
SUVs we have driven. Visit your Kia dealer and see for yourself.
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Story by John Faulkner. Photos by John Faulkner.
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Road Test: 2021 Kia Telluride
Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles
from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are
based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address
issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition,
we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or
technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation,
lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of
vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.
Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in
their class, which leads us to emphasize electric cars, plug-in hybrids,
hybrids and diesels. We also feature those efficient gas-powered vehicles that
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