By Peter Perrotta
There was a time when if you mentioned to someone that they should consider purchasing a vehicle made by South Korean auto maker Kia, you might get a sour reaction.
Maybe a twisted face look. Or, just a quick, “No, I’m looking to get a Honda or Toyota.”
Needless to say, those days are long gone, folks.
In fact, in many ways and in several head-to-head comparisons of product line, I would venture to say that South Korean car makers Kia and Hyundai have not only caught up to their more mature Asian competitors Honda, Toyota and Nissan, but have surpassed them in some areas.
Kia, for one, is on a tremendously hot roll right now with redesigning some of the key cars and SUVs in its lineup and coming up with big popular winners.
In 2020, Kia introduced the Kia Telluride, a mid-sized crossover SUV, into its lineup to great fanfare. It was immediately popular. Most dealers sold out of the Telluride quickly and were charging premium prices over sticker and getting it.
This year, Kia also completely redesigned the Optima sedan, a vehicle it has had in its lineup since 2011, rebadging it the K-5 and making it a much sportier and elegant looking choice.
But, the folks at Kia are not about to rest on their laurels at this point. Why stop when you are on a roll, right?
Enter the 2021 Kia Sorento, another mid-sized SUV or crossover in their lineup. For 2021 Kia scrapped the softer curvier look of the former generation Sorento and came up with an all-new design from the ground up – inside and out.
I recently settled behind wheel of the all-new Sorento for one week putting the 2021 Kia Sorento X-Line AWD model through its paces.
There’s a lot to like in this new Sorento. While not perfect, this generation Sorento, which is assembled in West Point, Georgia, has much more eye appeal pop. It is bolder, sportier and more rugged looking then its predecessor on the outside.
It features a new tiger nosed front grille, a bolder looking wrap around front hood, slicker looking LED lights, a more muscular and athletic looking side shape and new alloy wheel choices.
On the inside, it lends itself to a more ruggedly elegant look to go along with the sportier, bolder exterior.
The X-line that I tested is a whole new trim level for the Sorento. It features more off-road capabilities, a 1-inch higher ground clearance, improved approach and departure angles, more advanced AWD with a snow and sport mode.
Under the hood, it now offers a 2.5 liter 4 cylinder engine (191 horsepower), a 2.5 liter 4 cylinder, turbo engine (281 horsepower) and a state-of-the-art 1.6 liter 4 cylinder turbo hybrid with a 22 kilowatt electric motor to boost it (227 horsepower).
My test vehicle was equipped with the 2.5 liter 4 cylinder turbo engine. It was paired with an 8 speed wet dual clutch automatic transmission.
Overall, there is a lot to like in this newly redesigned Kia Sorento. It looks good. It is plenty roomy inside.
The new platform and engine and transmission give it a smooth and aggressive ride. It is plenty powerful and handles and steers very smoothly. It takes bumps and off-roading well, too.
My main criticism of this new Kia is with its infotainment system – the center screen that is now the central communication system and systems operation for all cars these days.
It’s come to the point where these new infotainment systems – as they are called – are much like your smart phone or laptop in that if they don’t interface with want you are asking them to do easily, life can be quite frustrating.
My tester featured the upgraded 12.3 inch digital instrument cluster, a Bose premium sound system, surround view monitor and a blind spot monitor.
While most manufacturers have upgraded the telematics systems in their vehicles to the point where they interface with the user smoothly and effortlessly, Kia seems to need to improve this part of their upgrades.
The Kia infotainment system works, but I found it to be cumbersome and confusing to operate. You can’t easily navigate through what you need to do to sync your phone or music.
The graphics provided on the screen for its functions are confusing and outdated and when you enter in an address for it to find for navigation it takes forever to search and find the address you input.
The voice recognition system works well.
Overall, I would say the redo is a success and this vehicle is well worth considering if you are in the market for a mid-sized crossover. But, if Kia wants to hit a grand slam instead of just a solo home run, it would do well to give its infotainment system an upgrade.
The test car I drove for a week carries a bottom line sticker price of $44,285. The off-road friendly X-Line model is top of the line and carries an base price of $42,590, which includes the X-line package as standard equipment.
The only other added options on my tester included: $200 for the X-line rust interior package; $210 for carpeted floor mats; $115 for carpeted cargo mats with seat back protection and an destination and delivery charge of $1,170.
The EPA gas mileage ratings for the Sorento are 24 miles per gallon overall – 28 mpg for highway driving and 21 mpg in city driving. Its estimated annual fuel cost is $1,700.
The new Sorento has not received a crash test rating from the government’s 5-star safety test yet.
Peter Perrotta’s On The Road column appears weekly. He can be contacted for questions and comments at email@example.com.