INDIANAPOLIS — I was thinking recently about what kind of vehicle would be good for my family – both those sharing DNA and others who simply share my life mission. It would have to look good going down the street, should coddle four to six souls in comfort as we head out for a night, and as a bonus, would provide the fuel economy of a compact car. Sound ridiculous? You haven’t driven the 2021 Kia Sorento Hybrid.
There’s no shame in rolling your family up to a club (or church) in this swaggering crossover. Its face is dominated by strings of LED headlamps flanking a big black grille, but the side view channels the larger Telluride crossover with 17” wheels, satin silver fender ornaments, and silver fin sprouting from the windowline. Faceted taillamps hint at sports cars. Bathed in Runway Red paint, it makes a scene.
There’s a lot of fakery inside, but also much legitimacy. As if trained at Target, Kia’s stylists are very good at making interiors look and feel expensive without actually being expensive. Instead of just putting plastic on the dash and doors, they made it look like stamped aluminum with pressed diamonds. Seats are faux leather, but feel like they belong in a BMW – especially when heated and power adjusted. There’s no fancy name on the audio system, but it still sounds pretty good. There are also a panoramic sunroof, power liftgate, and middle row captain’s chairs. It all lends an aura of exclusivity.
As expected from an all-new electrified crossover, the Sorento is packed with all today’s tech-savvy families crave. The intuitive touchscreen can be swiped and voice controlled, but is flanked by proper volume and tuning knobs for simplicity. Wireless Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and console charging connect seamlessly. Toss your phone on the pad and conjure your favorite tunes…or directions. For those in the rear rows, USB charging plugs add convenience.
Twist a console knob to engage the powertrain. It sounds complicated, but works smoothly. The gas part is a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine connected to a six-speed automatic transmission. Add to that motors and batteries to achieve 227 horsepower and 258 lb.-ft. of torque. Step hard to dispense 0-60 mph in 7.7 seconds. Even better are fuel economy ratings of 39/35-MPG city/highway. The combination of a turbocharged engine and regular transmission provide a peaceful driving experience that’s so rare in hybrids that usually rev their continuously variable transmissions like banshees.
There’s all of the safety gear, too. Adaptive cruise control with lane centering steering, lane keep assist, blind spot warning, rear cross path detection, and forward collision alert with auto brake lend drivers the equivalent of an all-knowing co-pilot. A rear seat occupant alert keeps kids from being left inside while safe exit assist uses the blind spot system to prevent passengers from stepping into traffic.
I kept thinking how well the Sorento hybrid fits my family. We drove it on a highway trip to see my parents, took them to lunch, and had the daily commutes. It drove like a smoother version of a non-hybrid while delivering compact car fuel economy. Given its upscale appearance and features, it was a pleasant surprise to know Sorentos start at $29,390 and came to a value-packed $38,205 all in.
Casey Williams is former auto correspondent for WFYI and the Indianapolis Star plus a contributor to the Chicago Tribune’s Sunday Auto Page. He has reviewed vehicles and covered the auto industry for over 25 years. He lives with his family in Broad Ripple. E-mail him at AutoCasey@aol.com; check his reviews on YouTube at AutoCasey.
A closer look at the Kia Sorento Hybrid
2021 Kia Sorento Hybrid
Six-passenger, FWD Crossover
Powertrain: 1.6-liter T4, 6-spd auto, battery
Output: 227hp/258 lb.-ft. torque
Suspension f/r: Ind/Ind
Wheels f/r: 17”/17” alloy
Brakes f/r: regen disc/disc
Must-have features: Style, MPGs
Fuel economy: 39/35 mpg city/hwy
Assembly: Hwasung, Korea
Base/As-tested price: $29,390/38,205