[This article was first published on forbes.com. Vehicle specifications may vary by market.]
“Mid-sized 3-row crossover hybrid SUV” - these are not words that necessarily inspire people when it comes to cars. Korean auto giant Kia, however, has managed to find a way to make the concept very compelling with their 2021 Kia Sorento Hybrid. I was frankly expecting something rather dull. Let’s face it, other hybrids in the marketplace have hardly given us any reason to doubt that instinct. But there’s a lot more to the Kia Sorento than meets the eye. It’s no Autobot, but it’s concealing some pretty awesome power and features within.
On paper, the 2021 Sorento promises to underwhelm. There’s a 1.6L turbocharged 4-cylinder engine with a 6-speed automatic transmission. When you put that together with the electric hybrid components, however, it combines into a respectable 227-hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. The instant electric power used at low speeds helps this Sorento Hybrid feel more powerful than the specifications indicate.
It’s not just more powerful, but also more comfortable on the road. The ride quality is very pleasing, especially dealing with bumps in the road, which all feel soft and easy under the large tires. The only somewhat disappointing thing when it comes to the drivetrain is that Kia hasn’t offered us an AWD option this time around on the hybrid model.
In fact, the electric element makes the hybrid so much better that we’d recommend it over the base gasoline version. The support of the electric powertrain makes a big difference, and I’m sure all drivers will notice and appreciate it both on the road and at the pump. The base hybrid model over the base gasoline model is not terribly more expensive either with a reasonable $3,000 price increase.
“Daring” isn’t the word people generally associate with hybrid cars. For years the design has been rather vanilla, as has the performance. Kia haven’t just livened up the performance of the 2021 Sorento, but also the design. It’s bold, dynamic and fresh, inside and out. The exterior lines are crisp and commanding.
The front end features a wide sweeping grille that integrates seamlessly with the LED lights that come as standard. Kia has separated the main light and daytime running light modules to give it a more contemporary look. The first time you see the side profile you can’t help but admire it for its muscular and commanding presence, plus wheel choices range from 17” to 20” inches, the biggest selection ever offered for the Sorento.
The 2021 Kia Sorento hybrid also features some firsts for the Kia range on the inside. For one, there’s an available 12.3-inch all-digital instrument cluster with a flawless easy-to-read display. Another is the addition of the Blind View Monitor technology that projects a live video view of lanes adjacent to you on your instrument cluster, which activates when using the turn signals.
For seating, drivers can choose from a bench in the second row, or captains chairs, making total capacity either 7 or 6 depending on arrangement.
It’s not all perfect, of course. We mentioned the lack of AWD, but it’s also not much of a towing vehicle for a 3-row SUV, only managing up to 2,000 lbs. Besides those drawbacks, Kia really knocked it out of the park with this one. It’s rare for me to recommend a hybrid over the pure gasoline model, but I just did.