Telluride styling points. All-new for 2021, the Kia Sorento borrows select styling points from the trend-setting Kia Telluride. The Sorento’s slightly larger stablemate now sets the tone for Kia’s SUVs, thus it makes sense to incorporate styling elements in more models.

Lots of right angles and creases, a firm chin and the tiger-nose grille give this SUV a more expressive look. What’s odd, though, is the “tooth” design that juts up from the rear side windows. We’re not sure what kind of design statement Kia is making, but it’s there. From the rear, the tail is the clearest reminder of the Telluride with its boxy frame and split taillights.

First Sorento hybrids. Kia is embracing electrification in a big way, particularly with the 2021 Sorento. For the first time, the Sorento nameplate is joined by a pair of hybrids: a conventional hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) and a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV).

What’s unusual about the Sorento’s hybrid is that they include a turbocharged engine. The 1.6-liter turbo four-cylinder engine in both models packs a lot of punch, delivering 227 system horsepower in the HEV and 261 horsepower in the PHEV. Both models utilize a 6-speed automatic transmission, which sends power to the front wheels in the HEV and to all four wheels in the PHEV.

Importantly, the HEV manages a very respectable fuel economy rating of 37 mpg in combined driving. The PHEV has an estimated 30-mile all-electric range, which means city drivers rarely have to visit the pump for fuel.

Five trims, excellent features. Kia offers the 2021 Sorento in LX, S, EX, SX, and SX-Prestige trims. Choose the hybrids and they’re available in S and EX trims only.

Even the base LX model comes well equipped, as it’s outfitted with LED headlights and 17-inch wheels. Cloth seats, an 8-inch touchscreen display, and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also included.

Move up through the trim range and Kia adds such features as 18-inch wheels, imitation leather or real hides, a 10-way power driver’s seat, heated front seats, and additional safety features. Also, a rear spoiler, Bose audio system, second-row Captain’s chairs, a 12.3-inch digital display cluster, and a panoramic sunroof are available.

Kia Sorento

Big on safety features. We’re still waiting on the NHTSA and IIHS to release their safety score verdicts. That said, we expect the 2021 Sorento to achieve high scores from both entities.

Kia equips all trims with automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, active lane control, blind-spot monitoring with brake support, and parking sensors. A surround-view camera system is also available and is something we recommend to overcome the limited rearward visibility due to the large roof pillars.

Final thoughts. In the Sorento, you’ll have a choice of naturally aspirated or turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder gas engines. The turbo rivals the previously offered V6 in power, but it also has a 3 mpg edge in fuel efficiency over that engine, while still managing to pull up to 3,500 pounds.

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