Bold but Busy: 2021 Kia Sorento Revealed

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
bold but busy 2021 kia sorento revealed

Kia Motors has revealed the next-generation Sorento ahead of its global debut at next month’s Geneva Motor Show, providing a better look at the midsize crossover than the spy shots that recently emerged from Korea.

Compared to the current-gen model, which delights in its approachable blandness, the new Sorento aims for a brawnier look. Recent CUV introductions — like the 2019 RAV4, for example — are proof of the industry’s belief that family-minded car buyers still want to be notice… and feared.

In Kia’s case, the Sorento’s design team may have gone too far in some regards. Or maybe they went just far enough.

That’s entirely a personal opinion, of course. While the 2021 Sorento (due for a March 3rd reveal) dons a chunkier body and more menacing “tiger nose” grille flanked by triple-cell LED headlamps, boosting the vehicle’s visual width, the “refined boldness” mentioned by Kia turns into an overload of visual information when you get to the vehicle’s stern. There’s a lot to look at. We riffed on the model’s Ford-like tail lamps in a previous post, but seeing the whole rear-quarter view is jarring.

Look at this corner:

Presumably fake vents adorn the rear fascia and bookend a protruding bumper, below which sits a mesh-filled valence and horizontally split exhaust ports ringed in brightwork. The raised chrome trim on the C-pillar, which rises like a stalagmite from the window sill but fails to reach the halfway point, is an odd flourish. This feature, plus the trim pieces adorning the front fenders, looks tacked-on (and thus tacky) to yours truly.

Kia admits it aimed for the “cab-rearward” profile that’s growing in popularity among front-biased crossovers. The automaker lengthened the wheelbase by an undisclosed amount, then pushed the base of the A-pillar back 1.2 inches further from the front axle. A strong body line connects head lamps to tail lamps, adding further visual length. There’s more than a bit of Telluride in that crease. Clearly, the Sorento is sick of looking like a minivan. It wants to look like an SUV.

Indeed, the automaker said it wanted to return to the chunkier proportions of previous Sorentos, albeit with a more elegant and refined interior. It’s worth noting that the model’s best-ever sales year was 2011. The updated Sorento’s interior boasts an undisclosed number of standard seats (the current-gen model flipped between optional and standard third row seating), though the growth in the model’s wheelbase and length implies you’ll find standard belt buckles beyond the second row. Kia’s communications suggest this.

While detailed specs are still unknown, Kia makes mention of a 10.25-inch touchscreen and 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, the latter of which is undoubtedly a higher-trim feature. As we see here, the Sorento’s cabin is strongly in favor of the trend of strongly horizontal dash designs; the vents conform to the dash’s curvature and seem to mimic the tail lamp shape of many 1960s cars. Not a bad thing.

The Sorento is an extremely important model for Kia, falling less than a thousand units behind the brand’s top-selling model in 2019, and it finds itself with plenty of revamped competition. The Ford Explorer went rear-drive for 2020, the Toyota Highlander also gains a fully updated successor for the present year. Sorento sales fell 11 percent last year.

We’ll know more about what’s beneath the hood of this thing in short order.

[Images: Kia Motors]

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  • Smartascii Smartascii on Feb 18, 2020

    Is it the angle of the photos, or are these thing getting lower? At this rate, they’ll be wagons again by 2030, but we’ll call them SUVs, the way we call swoopy 4-doors “coupes.”

  • Dave M. Dave M. on Feb 18, 2020

    Except for the shark fin trim piece, I like it. Glad to see “bumpers” again - too many CUVs are pushing the flat surface motive which is unappealing to me. Glad a hybrid is planned. H-K has got their game on....

  • Jeanbaptiste Any variant of “pizza” flavored combos. I only eat these on car trips and they are just my special gut wrenching treat.
  • Nrd515 Usually for me it's been Arby's for pretty much forever, except when the one near my house dosed me with food poisoning twice in about a year. Both times were horrible, but the second time was just so terrible it's up near the top of my medical horror stories, and I have a few of those. Obviously, I never went to that one again. I'm still pissed at Arby's for dropping Potato Cakes, and Culver's is truly better anyway. It will be Arby's fish for my "cheat day", when I eat what I want. No tartar sauce and no lettuce on mine, please. And if I get a fish and a French Dip & Swiss? Keep the Swiss, and the dip, too salty. Just the meat and the bread for me, thanks. The odds are about 25% that they will screw one or both of them up and I will have to drive through again to get replacement sandwiches. Culver's seems to get my order right many times in a row, but if I hurry and don't check my order, that's when it's screwed up and garbage to me. My best friend lives on Starbucks coffee. I don't understand coffee's appeal at all. Both my sister and I hate anything it's in. It's like green peppers, they ruin everything they touch. About the only things I hate more than coffee are most condiments, ranked from most hated to..who cares..[list=1][*]Tartar sauce. Just thinking about it makes me smell it in my head. A nod to Ranch here too. Disgusting. [/*][*]Mayo. JEEEEZUS! WTF?[/*][*]Ketchup. Sweet puke tasting sludge. On my fries? Salt. [/*][*]Mustard. Yikes. Brown, yellow, whatever, it's just awful.[/*][*]Pickles. Just ruin it from the pickle juice. No. [/*][*]Horsey, Secret, whatever sauce. Gross. [/*][*]American Cheese. American Sleeze. Any cheese, I don't want it.[/*][*]Shredded lettuce. I don't hate it, but it's warm and what's the point?[/*][*]Raw onion. Totally OK, but not something I really want. Grilled onions is a whole nother thing, I WANT those on a burger.[/*][*]Any of that "juice" that Subway and other sandwich places want to put on. NO, HELL NO! Actually, move this up to #5. [/*][/list=1]
  • SPPPP It seems like a really nice car that's just still trying to find its customer.
  • MRF 95 T-Bird I owned an 87 Thunderbird aka the second generation aero bird. It was a fine driving comfortable and very reliable car. Quite underrated compared to the GM G-body mid sized coupes since unlike them they had rack and pinion steering and struts on all four wheels plus fuel injection which GM was a bit late to the game on their mid and full sized cars. When I sold it I considered a Mark VII LSC which like many had its trouble prone air suspension deleted and replaced with coils and struts. Instead I went for a MN-12 Thunderbird.
  • SCE to AUX Somebody got the bill of material mixed up and never caught it.Maybe the stud was for a different version (like the 4xe) which might use a different fuel tank.