Kia Sorento X-Line AWD
The Kia Sorento is now on its 4th generation and has been given a major update for 2021. Oddly enough it competes in the same class as the Telluride despite being noticeably smaller. Kia sent us a top dog Sorento X-Line to review for a week.
Outside, Kia has done an excellent job with styling the new Sorento. It is more chiseled and aggressive than before, but not boxy and off-road looking like the Telluride.
Up front, the blacked-out grill is large and attractive with a “KIA” lettering logo. Future models will have updated emblems, but we found the current logo to fit in nicely. LED headlights and fog lights, which are really an extra set of driving lights as the headlights have to be on for the fog lights to be on, look very nice and are well positioned in the grill and bumper.
From the side the beautiful 20” matte wheels blend in perfectly with the Aruba Green exterior paint, which is exclusive to the X-Line. The Aruba Green with the rust interior is one of the best color combinations we’ve seen in quite a while. Apart from the Kia logos in the wheels, a simple “X” is the only marking on the side. The mix of curves, hard lines, and slanted rear windows combine for a streamlined sporty look.
On to the rear, the Sorento has taillights similar to the Telluride with vertical bars. However, there are additional lights on the liftgate of the Sorento and the reverse lights are low in the bumper instead of on the liftgate. There are many hard creases breaking up the rear. The body also widens significantly below the rear glass, giving it a more athletic look.
Inside the Sorento X-Line
The SX Prestige is very nicely appointed with nearly every feature in our test model being standard. The interior is modern and sleek with a touch of old school luxury.
All four of the vents up front are split with a lower and upper vent each. This makes heating or cooling both the face and mid-section easy providing for more comfort.
A panorama sunroof opens up the cabin for all three rows, making it feel airy and open. The middle row seats are comfortable and 4-way adjustable. Full size adults can fit in all three rows, but the footwell of the 3rd row is high making it slightly uncomfortable for longer drives.
There are plenty of charge ports throughout the Sorento, even in the 3rd row. Along with that there is a wireless charging pad up front.
Overall the Sorento X-Line is a nice place to be whether driving, or riding as a passenger.
One of the first things we noticed was how quiet the Sorento is on the road. The suspension manages bumps and small potholes very well and, compared to many other unibody vehicles, transfers very little noise from those bumps into the cabin.
Even with the smooth ride we didn’t notice much body lean in the corners. The Sorento has very direct steering with good feedback for a 3-row crossover. It is easy to park and with the steering assist it will stay centered in the lane on its own.
Turbo lag from the 2.5 liter inline 4 exists below 3,000 rpm. Beyond that power is excellent with 281 horsepower and 311 pound-feet of torque. Occasionally when trying to accelerate smoothly the transmission will downshift and put the engine in its power range and really take off. It certainly takes some getting used to.
The only issue we had with driving was the dual clutch transmission tuning. It doesn’t creep very well when only needing to move a few feet often, lurching forward. The tuning means the driver has to be very deliberate when moving forward small distances. Along with that, it sometimes engages 1st gear too quickly when leaving from a stop. We found that using the comfort or snow drive modes as opposed to smart or sport modes improves these characteristics significantly but doesn’t eliminate them.
Taking the Sorento X-Line Off-road
When optioning AWD on the Sorento, Kia adds a 1-inch increase in ride height. Along with that Snow Mode and a center differential lock are added to the drive mode selector. These options improve off-road capability and bad weather performance.
We were very surprised at the Sorento X-Line’s high-speed smoothness on rough roads. Even with the very limited wheel travel the Sorento is very well damped and controlled. It outperformed vehicles like the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon and the Ram Rebel in this aspect. Of course, over larger bumps and dips the low clearance and limited wheel travel were detrimental, but it’s nearly imperceptible when bottoming or topping out the suspension.
The Sorento X-Line performed as expected on the articulation hill. On this hill the various drive modes most notably changed the throttle sensitivity but also adjusted steering effort and transmissions shift points. Every mode quickly engaged the AWD system and was able to climb this small hill.
Climbing a Steep Rutted Hill in the Sorento X-Line
Moving on to the most difficult portion of our testing, we found that the Sorento X-Line performed well for this class of vehicle. We were unable to make the most difficult line but on a moderate line with momentum the Sorento made the climb, besting other vehicles we’ve tested.
The brake based limited slip system does an excellent job of transferring power to the wheels with traction. Despite this, the Sorento just doesn’t have the gearing to be making these maneuvers on a regularly basis. With a low range transfer case the Sorento could really shine off-road.
Dual clutch transmissions struggle with slow speed crawling and the Sorento’s was no exception. We even stalled the engine a couple of times when switching from the gas to the brakes too quickly. However, we had no overheating issues in the limited testing we performed.
With a base price of $42,590 the Sorento X-Line is very well equipped. Our test model only had three additional options. The X-Line Rust Interior Package for $200, carpeted floor mats for $210, and carpeted cargo mat with seat back protection for $115. Adding in the $1,170 destination charge brings the total of our test model to $44,285. Not bad at all for everything this vehicle has to offer.
The 2021 Sorento X-Line is very well equipped, has a smooth and quiet ride on-road and plenty of capability off-road for most buyers, and is fairly inexpensive. When looking for a smaller 3-row SUV be sure to include the Sorento as it might just surprise you as much as it did us.
Matthew Barnes is an experienced towing expert. He works as a mechanical engineer and his day job involves testing a variety of vehicles while towing trailers of all types and sizes. Matt shares his knowledge by writing for automotive news outlets in the evenings. When he’s not working he can be found spending time in the great outdoors with his family. He enjoys camping, hiking, canyoneering, and backpacking. Whenever possible he spends time riding in or on any power sports vehicle he can find and claims he can drive anything with a motor, which probably isn’t true.
Matt lives in the Utah mountains and often posts cool off-roading videos to his Instagram and YouTube channel.