- The 2021 Kia Sorento SUV debuted with all-new looks, switching from a rounded body to a boxy one.
- The new Sorento starts at $29,590 and lets buyers option it into the $40,000 range.
- I drove the $43,000 X-Line SX Prestige trim for a week. It had a practical, subtle beauty.
A couple of hours after a new Kia Sorento X-Line arrived at my house, I was still squinting at it. Either my eyes were the problem or my brain was, but I couldn’t tell which.
My neighbor walked outside and yelled hello.
“Hi!” I said back. With both hands on my hips like a suburban dad checking out the landscaping, I removed one to point at the SUV. “Is this thing gray or green?”
“Green?” they said. “I think it’s green.”
“Hmph,” I nodded. “I guess so.”
Gray will forever rank among white, silver, and black as one of the safest car colors on the market, and one of the most chosen. But green? Green paint made me look at this Sorento in a new light, even if it was so understated that I could barely tell it was green at all. It’s a safe choice, but with the beauty of a more distinct one.
That’s a good metaphor for the Sorento: a safe way to stand out in a sea of SUVs.
The Sorento: new, boxy looks and a lot of options
The Sorento debuted for the 2021 model year with a completely new design: boxy and tough, as opposed to its rounder predecessor. The SUV starts at $29,590 and has eight trims. The bottom three trims — the LX, S, and X-Line S — have a 191-horsepower engine and an eight-speed automatic transmission.
The top five trims feature a 281-horsepower engine and an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. You can read about the transmission differences here.
The trims and prices for 2022 are as follows. My loaner came from the top trim: the X-Line SX Prestige AWD.
- Sorento LX ($29,590): Front-wheel drive, body-color rear-view mirrors and door handles, high-beam assist, 17-inch alloy wheels, an eight-inch touchscreen, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, cloth seat trim, manually adjustable front seats, forward collision -avoidance assist, lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist, and driver-attention warning
- Sorento S ($32,390): adds gloss-black rear-view mirrors and handles, 18-inch alloy wheels, a 10.25-inch touchscreen, voice recognition, navigation, a power-adjustable driver’s seat, heated front seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear shifter, and Additional safety features like blind-spot collision-avoidance assist
- Sorento X-Line S AWD ($34,390): swaps in all-wheel drive and appearance tweaks
- Sorento EX ($35,490): front-wheel drive; adds LED fog lights, a wireless phone charger, and highway-driving assistance technology
- Sorento X-Line EX AWD ($39,190): swaps in all-wheel drive and appearance tweaks, such as 20-inch alloy wheels
- Sorento SX ($38,290): front-wheel drive; Adds full-LED headlights, 20-inch alloy wheels, a power-adjustable front passenger seat, and appearance tweaks
- Sorento SX Prestige ($41,190): front-wheel drive; adds power-folding outside mirrors, genuine leather seat trim, heated rear seats, ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, additional driver-assistance features, and a surround-view camera that shows 360-degree view around the car
- Sorento X-Line SX Prestige AWD ($43,190): swaps in all-wheel drive and appearance tweaks
The 2022 Kia Sorento got top crash ratings in every category from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The full-LED headlights on trims with “SX” and “SX Prestige” in their names received the IIHS’ highest safety ratings, but the headlights on every other trim received its lowest.
The IIHS said visibility was inadequate all around on the trims with poor headlights.
What stands out: Stying and comfort
Much like its flaky, metallic green
, the Sorento’s brown-and-black interior combination is beautiful. It gives off fireplace-in-a-winter-cabin vibes, and its mocha-colored seats and door panels perfectly mesh with its black accent pieces and warm wood trim.
The black trim pieces are soft but sturdy, the wood trim has a nice grain, and the stitching patterns in the leather — diamond on the seats and parallel stitch patterns on the doors — make the interior feel upscale. Look up and you’ll find a panoramic sunroof, which only adds to the vibe. Look down and you can choose to heat or cool your front-row seat.
The Sorento is whisper-quiet on the highway and has almost no road noise on rough surfaces. At 70 mph, wind noise is just a tiny swish. It’s nice.
Kia also has its digital dashboard figured out, with the driver’s digital instrument cluster flowing perfectly into the center-mounted touchscreen infotainment system. The controls on the screens are intuitive, and the pockets in the center console below them are useful for a variety of things you might have in the car with you: keys, glasses, and other pocket-sized items.
The Sorento’s second row, complete with theater seating that allows rear passengers to sit higher than those up front, is open and spacious. Its armrests can be put all the way down or set to the height you want, and the theater seating not only lets rear passengers feel more in control — they can see the road without leaning around the people in front, after all — but also more relaxed.
There’s something about being able to see the world around you that makes you feel more at peace.
Even the two-seat third row doesn’t feel like an afterthought, with USB ports and cupholders complemented by good sound quality and room to stretch out. The raised floor to create theater seating in the second row does mean your feet will sit way higher than normal in the third, though, so stay out of there if you have bad knees.
What falls short: A forgettable driving experience
The flaws in the Sorento are minor, but they add up.
The car is fine to drive, but it isn’t exactly fun. The steering is loose and light, and the gas pedal feels like a toy. It has barely any travel and falls lifelessly to the floor under a heavy foot, and if you leave it pressed all the way to the floor for a few seconds, there’s barely any response before whooooosh — the car’s turbocharger finally kicks in. It feels like a lifetime of waiting.
While the car’s brown tones blend beautifully together, they’re marred by three things: piano-black accents, which are a magnet for dust and grime; a touchscreen that got so nasty and greasy, I became self-conscious of my own existence; and a light-gray headliner. Swap the piano black for something less disgusting — and the gray headliner for something that isn’t so jarring, like brown or black — and the Sorento’s interior becomes far more upscale than its price tag.
Unfortunately, Kia didn’t do that.
The Sorento only had 7,300 miles on it, yet I could already see little creases and stress marks in its diamond stitching on the second-row seats. I kept mistaking the drive-mode selector for a volume knob. The thick rear pillars made it hard to look over my shoulders and actually see anything. The second and third row needed more air vents.
And for a time, I thought the car was haunting me.
Let me explain. Remember when one day in 2014, a U2 album randomly showed up on everyone’s iPhones? Well, I haven’t known how to work iTunes since about 2011, so I never deleted it. Also, I didn’t really care enough.
About 90 seconds after I would get in the Sorento, that album would start playing if I had my phone selected as the media source. The Sorento wouldn’t just let me take a bit of extra time to load Pandora or sit in silence with my own thoughts — no, no. My phone media was selected, and you bet it was going to automatically play the media on my phone, which consisted entirely of that free U2 album.
I would immediately fumble to a different music source every time. Sorry, Kia and U2.
Our impressions: An SUV that looks good and gets the job done
The more I looked at my green Sorento loaner, the more I admired it. It didn’t scream for your attention, but it did keep it once you managed to notice. Its forest-green paint and brown interior are a beautiful combination, and its flaws aren’t overwhelming. It’s a good SUV.
I’m sure my neighbor wasn’t expecting to inspect the SUV in the driveway next door to decide whether it was green or gray. I wasn’t, either. But once we decided, we couldn’t help but appreciate the subtle joys of standing out from the crowd.
That’s exactly what the Sorento was made for.