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Kia Sorento 2021 review: S petrol FWD

The 2021 Kia Sorento S is as handsome as a movie star - but how does it perform as a family car?

This week I’ve been driving the 2021 Kia Sorento S - which is the base model in the new range of four grades.

Here’s how I went driving this car for a week with my family of four, mainly around the suburbs of Sydney.

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What does it look like?

If this car was a Hollywood leading man, we’d be talking about his ‘chiselled good looks.’

It’s a handsome looking car, with a distinctive, chunky look at the back, 17-inch alloy wheels, and a strong, thick front grille.

The Sorento has a strong, thick front grille. The Sorento has a strong, thick front grille.

There are nice design touches around the exterior, like the LED headlights which have a sleek, modern appearance.

Inside, the look is far from understated, which is becoming the norm for the new Kias. For example, there are blinged-up accents like scales on a fish across the dash and interior of the doors.

This model has cloth seats with a fabric that seems durable, but I found them very firm. They really aren’t built for luxury and comfort, with manual (rather than electronic) adjustment in this base version.

The main dashboard looks the goods, with the 8.0-inch display nicely integrated. 

It’s a handsome looking car with a distinctive, chunky look at the back. It’s a handsome looking car with a distinctive, chunky look at the back.

There are more air conditioning vents than you could ever want, but if you’re fussy with temperature like me you can control and position them every which way.

There are three USB chargers in the front, plus an extra in the middle row, and a non-slip mat for your phone under the front dash. 

Inside, the look is far from understated, which is becoming the norm for the new Kias. Inside, the look is far from understated, which is becoming the norm for the new Kias.

The cupholders are a good size and have little adjustable grips to ensure whatever cup or bottle you have doesn’t rattle around. The middle storage bin is nice and deep, and there are also decent pockets in the doors.

In the second row there is plenty of room, for legs, bums and heads. I’m 165cm (5'4") and with the drivers seat back I still had plenty of space, making the second row not only for kids.

Also in the second row there are directional air vents (but no controls), one USB charge point, and actual cupholders in the doors as well as the middle console.

The cupholders are a good size and have little adjustable grips to ensure whatever cup or bottle you have doesn’t rattle around. The cupholders are a good size and have little adjustable grips to ensure whatever cup or bottle you have doesn’t rattle around.

Plus, each door has a bottle holder as well. I'm pretty sure all cupholder and bottle holder needs will be met!

The pockets in the back of the seats have an enclosed inner section and a netted section on top - perfect for road-trip snacks and entertainment.

Accessing the third row is actually quite easy as there is a button that folds the seat down and moves it forward with one push. This does become a little harder, though, if there is a child's car seat installed in that seat.

Another plus is full-sized spare tyre, which is becoming something of a rarity.

How does it drive?

The Sorento feels good on the road, it has the size and weight to make you feel safe, and has decent power for city driving and on the freeway.

The acceleration is responsive and the eight-speed auto transmission moves between gears seamlessly, making for a smooth easy drive.

The Sorento feels good on the road. The Sorento feels good on the road.

How spacious is it?

The Sorento is a true family vehicle, with seven seats and plenty of room in the back with three seats in the middle row and two in the back.

The boot opens and closes manually, and gives you a decent 187L of space behind the third-row seats. The boot opens and closes manually, and gives you a decent 187L of space behind the third-row seats.

As I mentioned the second row has plenty of space for adults, however the third row is a little more squished. Adults would be a little cramped in there travelling any distance, but it's fine for the little ones.

The boot opens and closes manually, and gives you a decent 187L of space behind the third-row seats, fold the third row down (which is really simple), and the boot increases to a really spacious 616L.

Fold the third row down and the boot increases to a really spacious 616L. Fold the third row down and the boot increases to a really spacious 616L.

How easy is it to use every day?

I drove the petrol version, which is lovely and quiet, the diesel versions are obviously a bit noisier.

The suspension is super smooth, and combined with a tight turning circle for an SUV of this size, it really is a doddle to drive.

Parking is not hard either, with a decent rear camera, and sensors to alert you to your surroundings.

How safe is it?

On the safety front there are eight airbags, including a new style curtain bag between the front seats, but it's a real shame that there is no cover for the kids in the third row.

The tech assisted safety on this version is missing a couple of elements like blind spot monitoring, but it does come with lane-keep assist, blind spot collision avoidance assist, autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, plus adaptive cruise control

The Sorento S scores five out of five stars in the ANCAP safety ratings. The Sorento S scores five out of five stars in the ANCAP safety ratings.

The Sorento S scores five out of five stars in the ANCAP safety ratings.

For kids car seats there are five top tethers and four ISOFIX anchors spread across the back two rows. From my experience they are easy to access and my seats were easy to install.

What’s the tech like?

The display is best used with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto - connected via a cable. 

Using the car's on-board functionality is not easy, the radio is a real pickle to tune, although there is the option of the digital stations, and there’s no sat nav in this base version, so you do need to use the maps app on your phone.

The display is best used with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The display is best used with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

How much does it cost to own?

The Sorento S is priced at $46,850, before on road costs and extras. Not bad for a large SUV.

Kia covers the Sorento with its generous seven-year/unlimited kilometre warranty.

Servicing is required at 12 month/15,000km intervals and pricing is capped, so you know you’ll be looking at about $3100 over the seven years.

The official combined fuel consumption is 9.7L/ 100km, but my drive around the suburbs and city commute sat at 18.9L/100km, which did involve a lot of sitting in traffic for my test drive week.


The Wrap

To wrap up, this large SUV is an easy, practical car to drive, that has some serious good looks on the road.

Likes

External appearance
Ease of driving
Space inside

Dislikes

Lack of airbags for the third row
Fuel efficiency for city driving
No on-board sat nav

Scores

Kate:

3.9

The Kids:

4.3

$46,850

Based on new car retail price

VIEW PRICING & SPECS

Disclaimer: The pricing information shown in the editorial content (Review Prices) is to be used as a guide only and is based on information provided to Carsguide Autotrader Media Solutions Pty Ltd (Carsguide) both by third party sources and the car manufacturer at the time of publication. The Review Prices were correct at the time of publication.  Carsguide does not warrant or represent that the information is accurate, reliable, complete, current or suitable for any particular purpose. You should not use or rely upon this information without conducting an independent assessment and valuation of the vehicle.