2021 Kia Sorento SX Prestige X-Line Road Test Review | High style, high tech, high value

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In its entire existence, from body SUVs to unibody crossovers, the Kia Sorento hasn't had nearly as many uses as the brand new 2021 model. Do you need an entry-level three-row? A hybrid SUV? How about a stylish and luxurious family car? You can get a 2021 Kia Sorento in all of these shapes, but this time we're looking at a different flavor: the new X-Line package that adds a dash of ruggedness. Applied to the top of the line SX Prestige trim like our test car was, it's very appealing in many ways. It's stylish, has great technology and even has a usable third row. And even with this absolutely top equipment, it offers a good price-performance ratio compared to the competition. Its only real weakness is that it isn't quite as nifty or as appealing as some of the other options.
As the name suggests, we are looking at two elements in this Sorento SX Prestige X-Line 2021. The SX Prestige bit refers to the highest equipment variant, which is equipped with all available comfort, convenience and luxury features. Then X-Line is effectively referring to a package also available in the EX trim for $ 2,100, adding a touch of Subaru outback wood flavor to the Sorento. It includes various front and rear bumper covers with underrun protection accents made of imitation aluminum, matt black plastic panels on the sides instead of glossy black, functional and stylish roof rails and the option of the Aruba green of our test vehicle. In addition to its off-mounting chops, there is a standard all-wheel drive, a lockable center differential and an additional ground clearance of 1.3 inches over the regular Sorentos for a total of 8.2 inches. That may be lower than the Outback's 8.7 inches, but far north of most other mid-sized crossovers, including a full inch taller than the GMC Acadia AT4, a similarly sized three-row model with more rugged styling and tires.
Both X-Line versions get the Sorento's turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder producing 281 horsepower and 311 pound-feet of torque. It's the crown jewel of the Sorento driving experience. Its powerful development of power, especially straight from the belt, makes it appear quick and never tiring. It is also very quiet at low speeds. It gets a bit rougher as the RPM goes up (power starts to degrade there too) but by and large it's an excellent motor, especially for this use case. Fuel economy is slightly above average when compared to other turbo four-cylinder and V6 engines at 21 mpg in the city, 28 on the highway and 24 combined.
2021 Kia Sorento SX Prestige X-Line
The engine is mated with an eight-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission, and it's a good one, but maybe not a segment leader. When driving, it feels like a very skilled person is shifting a manual transmission. There is a very small pause between translations, but the shifts go smoothly. The important thing is that it is much quieter and more confident from a standing start than older Hyundai and Kia double clutch models. The transmission does a good job of gear selection, keeping the revs and noise low in the Eco and Comfort driving modes while keeping them longer in the Sport mode. If you want to shift manually, that's a nice experience too, as the transmission will shift gears promptly with every pull, albeit not as quickly as some luxury car automatic and dual clutch transmissions.
In terms of driving behavior and handling, they are average to mediocre. The ride is pretty bouncy and tends to rock back and forth over bumps. It also likes to bend through corners. I have yet to test another Sorento with the lower base suspension, so it's unclear how much of that is due to the X-Line's greater ground clearance. Either way, such uninspired handling is hardly a deal breaker for a three-row family crossover, but it's still worth noting that it's not particularly rewarding to drive. At least the steering is quick and has good progressive weighting, if not a lot of feel.
The Sorento interior makes a very good first impression. It has a nice low stroke with a great mix of colors and textures. The geometric vents and beveled edges reinforce the more truck-like image that Kia is trying to achieve. Most of the details are really good too. The instrument and infotainment screens are bright and crisp. The animations for transitioning between instrument themes are smooth and detailed, and interaction with the systems is quick and smooth. All switching devices feel solid and robust without wobbling or playing. And everything is within easy reach, including the very welcome physical climate and stereo control. The leather also looks beautiful on the seats.
2021 Kia Sorento SX Prestige X-Line
That being said, there are a few disappointments in the cabin. The matte wood paneling is fake and looks like it. It feels a little like cheap vinyl wrap. The good news is that opting for a black leather interior with aluminum-look trims with a nicer finish is being swapped out. And when it comes to trim, there are a couple of areas, such as the front door grab handles, where the plastic trim has some pretty sharp edges that feel incongruous for the design and price of the SX Prestige.
The seats in Sorento are about average. There is plenty of room for the front occupants and the second row. The third row can also be used by adults. We wouldn't advise adults to sit back there for long periods of time as the seats are basically on the floor with their knees near their shoulders, but they work for short runs. They even offer enough space without compromising the comfort of the passengers in the second row. Thanks to the spring-loaded second row, the third row can also be reached quickly and easily, and there are even switches in the cargo area that can be folded down. The Sorento also has a very usable cargo space with 12.6 cubic feet behind the third row, 45 behind the second, and 75 with the seats folded down. The main seating problem: the front seats are strangely firm and flat and have become uncomfortable on long journeys.
Now we come to that high price tag. All in all, our SX Prestige X-Line test car came in at $ 44,285, down from a starting point of $ 43,760 (the EX version is $ 40,065). That's quite a distance from the Sorento base, which starts at $ 30,560, but you get it all. It includes 20-inch wheels, a panoramic sunroof, leather upholstery, a 12.3-inch instrument display, a 10.25-inch infotainment screen, a Bose sound system and all the safety functions available for the Sorento. There's actually only one factory option, and that's the $ 200 tan leather color choice that our test car carried on top of a handful of dealer-installed extras.
2021 Kia Sorento SX Prestige X-Line
So there's no denying that you are getting a lot of gear for the money. A price tag of $ 44,000 might be a lot of money, but it's hard to get the same amount of technology and luxury features so cheaply elsewhere. Think of how it stacks up to two similarly smaller three-row crossovers. The Mazda CX-9's high-end signature trim starts at $ 47,980 (though there is something to be said for its superior interior quality and driving experience), while the GMC Acadia Denali starts at $ 49,300 before option packs and V6 engine will drive the price up further. You also can't apply soft-roading upgrades like those on the X-Line to the high-end Mazda or GMC moldings.
And what about Kia's other three-row crossover, the Telluride? It's definitely an argument that its extra size and sophistication would be worth the premium, but a comparably equipped Telluride SX Prestige still costs $ 47,915. And that's if you could ever find a sticker at a dealership. There is also no comparable X-Line version of the Telluride.
So the bottom line is that the Kia Sorento is an all-round solid crossover. And it's packed with style, performance, and some impressive features. It also manages to be a strong value down to the most conspicuous specification. And as long as you're willing to sacrifice a little driving fun and driving culture, it's hard to beat the small three-row segment.
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