Perplexing styling. The 2021 Kia Sorento Hybrid is an all-new model. Unlike its gas-powered sibling (covered separately), the Hybrid is a new member of the Kia stable, and it joins the Kia Niro as the only conventional hybrids under the brand’s current production.

We’re puzzled by the Sorento’s new styling. A sharp chin juts underneath Kia’s pinched grille, and the taillights are divided into four vertical strips. A strange fin extends up from the beltline into the rear windows. Some of the risks pay off, but others feel more like gimmicks.

If anything, the interior is even more confusing. Air vents are split into awkward shapes, and the infotainment layout is far from intuitive. Nothing is egregious, but we think Kia may have taken the design too far in search of novelty.

More practical than ever. Looks aside, the Sorento Hybrid makes good use of available space. The new body is slightly longer than last year’s Sorento, which leads to improvements throughout the cabin.

Passengers in the first two rows get more than 41 inches of legroom, which makes the Sorento Hybrid a standout for its class. The third row is best reserved for small children — the seats are cramped, and the cushions low.

Better to fold down the way back and make use of the Sorento’s capacious trunk. Cargo space maxes out at more than 75 cubic feet of space. That will be plenty for most families, though it’s still short of the rival Toyota Highlander.


Kia Sorento hybrid

Thrifty powertrain. The main attraction of the Sorento Hybrid is the powertrain. Kia starts with a 1.6-liter turbo engine, then adds a hefty dose of battery power for a total of 227 horsepower.

The power is adequate, but the Sorento’s 4,000-pound bulk means that it will never feel exciting. We are glad that the powertrain uses an eight-speed automatic rather than the usual CVT — paddle shifters on the back of the steering wheel let you drop a gear when you need to make a pass.

Fuel economy is predictably excellent. An EPA-estimated rating of 37 mpg combined is even better than the Toyota Highlander Hybrid, and it’s the best you’re likely to find in a midsize SUV.

The only real downside: the Hybrid isn’t available in all-wheel drive. If that’s a dealbreaker, you’re better off waiting for the plug-in version, which is expected to debut sometime this year.

Bang for your buck. Kia has made a name for itself with strong tech features and value. The Sorento Hybrid is no exception — the infotainment system is sharp, the latest active safety tech is included, and even base models come with a reasonable feature set.

We’d step up to the EX, which is as high as the Hybrid lineup goes. It adds a few welcome perks like wireless charging, and it still comes in cheaper than a base Highlander Hybrid.

Even better, the Hybrid costs only $1,600 more than an equivalent gas-powered model. For the extra power and fuel economy, we think that’s a bargain. Regardless of which model you choose, every Sorento comes with Kia’s superb 5-year/60,000-mile warranty.

Final thoughts. The 2021 Kia Sorento Hybrid makes some missteps, but they’re mostly aesthetic. If you can forgive the daring design, the Hybrid offers everyday practicality, class-leading efficiency, and solid value. We’d recommend bumping up to a larger SUV if you regularly use the third row, but the Sorento Hybrid should be a good fit for many families.

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