Seven for the price of five: 2022 Kia Sorento midsize crossover is an appealing ‘tweener with plug-in potential

2021 Kia Sorento SX

 by Chuck Giametta

What changes will make the 2022 Kia Sorento different?

Introduction of a plug-in hybrid capable of 30 miles on electricity alone will headline changes to this seven-passenger midsize crossover SUV. The plug-in will join returning gas-only and conventional-hybrid versions of the 2022 Sorento.

Today’s fourth generation Sorento was fully redesigned for model-year 2021, gaining bolder styling, a roomier cabin, and more standard safety features. The ‘22 will continue to slot into Kia’s crossover lineup between the smaller Sportage and the South Korean automaker’s superstar, the larger – but still midsize-class – Telluride.

The plug-in hybrid will be among the very few plug-ins in the class and could be the only one with three rows of seats, unless Ford begins U.S. sales of the Explorer plug-in sold in Europe. The Sorento will share some engineering with the five-passenger Santa Fe plug-in crossover from Kia’s corporate partner, Hyundai. It’s likely, though, to be far less powerful than the five-passenger 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe, a plug-in that could feature up to 375 horsepower.

Should I wait for the 2022 Kia Sorento or buy a 2021?

2021 Sorento Hybrid

Wait for the 2022 if you’re intrigued by the plug-in. Kia had released few details in time for this report but did estimate an electric-only range of 30 miles; after that, the vehicle will operate as a conventional gas-electric hybrid. Note that it’ll be all-wheel drive (AWD) only. The 2022 Sorento Hybrid, which isn’t a plug-in, likely will remain front-wheel drive only.

The balance of the 2022 Sorento roster should be a repeat of the 2021, although prices are almost certain to increase.

Expect the return of base-engine models in LX and S trim. Also back will be more powerful turbocharged models in EX, SX, SX Prestige, and SX Prestige X-Line grades. The X-Line, which for model-year 2021 was also available as a package on the EX, enhances Sorento’s modest off-road chops with more ground clearance and AWD upgrades.

Returning as well will be the Sorento Hybrid, likely again in S and EX trim that’ll mostly mirror the standard and optional features of the gas-only S and EX models. Kia had not announced trim levels for the plug-in hybrid in time for this report, but equipment generally consistent with Sorento’s EX and SX or SX Prestige grades is a good bet. 

Regardless of trim level or model year, this is an eye-catching crossover loaded with safety tech and available with such upscale touches as quilted leather upholstery. The ’22 Sorento will again be about the same size overall as a five-passenger midsize crossover with two rows of seats but have the advantage of a third row handy for hauling a couple of youngsters. Based on our test drives, it should again be worth considering against anything in the competitive set. 

Will 2022 Kia Sorento styling be different?

2021 Sorento SX Prestige X-Line

Not beyond a new color choice or two, although the plug-in will introduce its own badging and perhaps specific wheels. It’ll also have a second fuel-filler-type door, likely in a front fender, to accommodate its electric plug-in port.

All ’22 Sorentos will share styling updates that came with the model-year-2021 redesign. Of note is the latest version of the Kia’s “tiger nose” grille and one of the brand’s new cues, a metal-look kick-up at the base of the rear side window it calls a “dynamic wave.”

SX and XS-Prestige models should continue with more elaborate versions of Sorento’s standard LED headlamps. X-Line editions will again get lower-body cladding and wheel arches finished in matte black, a more robust roof rack, and a ride height elevated 1 inch. The 2022 Sorento Hybrid, and likely the plug-in, too, will have satin-chrome bumper accents and a black and chrome grille frame. All but LX and S grades should return with LED fog lights.

Otherwise, visual differences between returning 2022 Sorento models should again run most noticeably to wheel diameter and design. Look for the LX and the hybrids (including the plug-in) to have 17-inch alloys; the S and EX to return with 18s; and the SX, SX-Prestige, and X-Lines with dark-tinted 20s.   

2021 Sorento SX Prestige X-Line

Every ’22 Sorento will share a dashboard marked by distinctive double-element vertical vents and a tablet-like central infotainment screen. LX and S models will return with an 8-inch-diameter display. A 10.3-incher should again be optional on the EX and standard on all SX trims. Wireless connectivity for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto will remain standard across the board, with the 10.3-inch screen again including imbedded navigation that doesn’t depend on a cell signal for real-time GPS mapping.   

2021 Sorento Hybrid

The Sorento Hybrid and the plug-in hybrid will have instrument clusters that include data on energy flow and battery state-of-charge, with the plug-in’s touchscreen likely to allow for recharging-station searches. They’ll also get a center-console dial for transmission gear selection in place of the gas-only models’ traditional shift lever.

Expect the 2022 SX and SX Prestige models to return a 12.3-inch electronic instrument cluster with a choice of three analog-looking configurations and one spacey digital layout, all with a center section devoted to vehicle data, navigation instructions, AWD distribution, and other info.

Audio systems will again range from six speakers to 12, with SX Prestige grades boasting a Bose-brand surround-effect setup and five ambient “Sounds of Nature” aural themes: Lively Forest, Calm Sea Waves, Rainy Day, and, incongruously, Open-Air Cafe and Warm Fireplace. Wireless phone charging should remain standard on all but the LX and S, with all but the LX also featuring pushbutton ignition and a keyfob enabling hands-free unlocking and remote engine start.

2021 Sorento SX Prestige X-Line with optional rust-colored leather upholstery

Look for the ’22 Sorento LX model to continue with cloth upholstery, the S, EX, and SX with leatherette, and the SX Prestige grades with handsome perforated and quilted leather.  All but the LX should return with a leather-wrapped steering wheel, dual-zone automatic climate control, and power driver’s seat with power lumbar. SX and above will again have a power front passenger seat. All but the LX should also continue with standard heated front seats, with Prestige grades adding front-seat ventilation.

A 60/40 split/folding second-row bench seat will again mean seven-passenger capacity for the LX and the gas-only S. All other ’22 Sorentos, including both hybrid types, should return with two second-row bucket seats, reducing capacity to six. 

Regardless of configuration, occupants in the first two rows will again enjoy outstanding room and comfort, with exceptional fore-aft seat travel for both rows. Indeed, kudos to Kia for treating second-row passengers like first-class citizens. Granted, three across on the bench is cozy. But there are compensations, such as USB charging ports in the front seatbacks (the LX has six charge ports total, the other models eight), and generously sized vents, although there are no separate rear climate controls.

Sorento offers seating for seven or six (shown). All models have a small third-row bench.

Despite a 1.4-inch increase in wheelbase compared with the 2016-2020 third-generation, today’s Sorento still has less distance between the front and rear axles than any three-row crossover in the class.

Wheelbase is a big factor in passenger legroom. Sorento’s deficiency is most evident in the third row, where knee clearance and foot space are tight. The seat itself is low to the floor, the cushion short, the backrest upright. Somehow, though, it’s not as cramped as you’d expect. Padding is good, there are USB ports, beverage holders, storage bins, even good sightlines forward, although the side windows are small. All in all, for those under 5-foot-6, it’s no penalty box.

Plenty of cupholders and cubbies contribute to good interior storage space. There’s not much space behind the third-row seatback, just 12.6 cubic feet, but fold it down and there’s a useful 38.5 cubic feet; fold both rear rows and you’ll get a class-competitive 75.5 cubic feet.

Expect only EX models and above to come with a power tailgate, specifically, Kia’s Smart Power Liftgate that opens automatically when you stand behind it with the key fob in your pocket or bag. No futile kicking motions required. And it can be customized to your preferred height and speed.

Any 2022 Kia Sorento mechanical changes?

The ’22 Sorento will gain a plug-in hybrid option to accompany the returning conventional hybrid (shown).

Returning models won’t change, but the 2022 Sorento plug-in will add a fourth powertrain option that should appeal for fuel-efficiency and quite possibly for performance, too.

Most 2022 Sorento buyers, however, will again choose from among the carryover models. The LX and gas-only S trims will return with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine of 191 horsepower and 181 pound-feet of torque (torque is the key ingredient in acceleration). They’ll again use an eight-speed automatic transmission and be available with front-wheel drive or AWD.

These are among the least-powerful crossovers in the class and while perfectly adequate for around-town running and highway cruising, they disappoint in anything more demanding.

2021 Sorento SX

Returning EX and SX-tier Sorentos will again have a turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder with 281 horsepower and 311 pound-feet of torque. They’ll use an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. Expect the EX and SX to again offer front- or all-wheel drive, while the SX Prestige remains front-drive only and the X-Line-package EX and SX Prestige X-Line remain AWD only.     

Acceleration with 2.5 turbo is significantly better than with the base engine, 0-60 mph coming in roughly 7.5 seconds versus 9.5. That’s about as quick as any direct rival. Our test drives revealed some brief turbo-lag-associated delay in throttle response occasional low-speed gear indecision, but we were never left wanting for more power.

The 2022 Sorento Hybrid will again team a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine with electric-motor assist for a combined 227 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. It’ll continue with a six-speed automatic transmission and likely will remain available with front-wheel drive only.

2021 Sorento Hybrid

This is a conventional gas-electric hybrid. To balance acceleration and fuel economy, onboard sensors determine the optimal blend of propulsion sources: engine, motor, or a combination. Unlike a plug-in gas-electric hybrid, the Sonata Hybrid can’t draw an initial battery charge from the grid. Instead, its lithium-ion battery pack is recharged from energy otherwise lost during braking and coasting. It can’t drive any appreciable distance on electricity alone, although in our tests, the stored battery power allowed the gas engine to shut off during light-throttle cruising at highway speed.

In other driving conditions, the electric motor’s assist helps deliver outstanding low-speed thrust – enough to trigger significant torque steer, a pulling to the side common in high-powered front-wheel-drive vehicles. Once underway, power is very satisfying; expect 0-60 mph in around 8 seconds. Throttle response is usually prompt, save the occasional drivetrain stutter as the computer decides how to coordinate engine, transmission, and motor.

Kia had not released detailed specification for the 2022 Sorento plug-in hybrid in time for this report. But with 261 horsepower (unofficial reports put torque at around 260 pound-feet) expect it to be at least as fast as the conventional hybrid, despite weighing a least a couple hundred pounds more due to its larger battery pack of 8 kWh versus 5 kWh.

Along with its plug-in capability, that larger pack enables it to draw enough initial charge from a residential or commercial electrical outlet to travel a Kia-estimated 30 miles before the battery, electric motor, and engine kick in to operate as a conventional hybrid system. AWD is likely to be provided by a second electric motor at the rear axle. And reports say a dedicated water-cooling system will manage battery temperature. The aim is to maximize range, battery life, and package the system to provide the same cargo volume as other Sorentos.

Sorento drive-mode dial; AWD versions get a Snow mode

Expect every 2022 Sorento to again come with a console knob that allows the driver to customize powertrain response and steering weight within Comfort, Sport, Eco and Smart modes; AWD-equipped models add a snow mode. On the hybrids, Eco mode also enhances regenerative braking.

Like the majority of AWD systems in this segment, Sorento’s normally operates in front-wheel drive and automatically shuffles power between the front and rear axles to quell tire slip. It lacks the multi-terrain-traction technology available on some rivals. But it does includes a driver-selectable center locking differential that secures a grip-enhancing 50:50 front/rear torque split at low speeds.

No ’22 Sorento will be suited to severe off-roading, but the X-Line equipment optional for the EX and standard on the SX Prestige X-Line does enhance off-pavement capability. It features 8.2 inches of ground clearance versus the standard 6.9 inches, plus improved front and rear obstacle clearance.

2021 Sorento SX Prestige X-Line

Regardless of model grade, expect every ’22 Sorento to handle confidently. But also expect body lean and noseplow to clearly signal when you’re approaching this crossover’s relatively conservative cornering limits. Steering with little slop and rapid reactions will remain worthy of praise, as will the AWD’s system’s capacity to subtly enhance cornering control by braking the inside wheel in a turn.

The ability of the 20-inch wheels and tires to absorb sharp bumps without allowing them to reverberate through the structure is likely to remain less laudable. The Sorento should again be a quiet cruiser overall, although we noted an unusual volume of side-window wind noise at highway speeds.   

Will 2022 Kia Sorento fuel economy improve?

2021 Sorento SX Prestige X-Line

Arrival of the plug-in hybrid will give the ’22 Sorento a new fuel-efficiency leader, but carryover models should repeat their model-year-2021 EPA ratings. That would maintain this Kia as a fuel-economy leader among midsize crossovers with three rows of seats.

Expect the ’22 Sorento XL and S models to repeat at 24/29/26 mpg city/highway combined with front-wheel drive and at 23/25/24 mpg with AWD. EX and SX-grade Sorentos should repeat at 22/29/25 with front-drive and at 21/28/24 with AWD.

Look for the 2022 Sorento Hybrid to again come only with front-drive and rate an impressive 39/35/37 mpg city/highway combined. The plug-in’s ability to travel some 30 miles on battery power alone will be reflected in the EPA’s gas-equivalent fuel-economy ratings. But figure an overall city-highway combined rating of around 31 mpg. 

Every 2022 Sorento will continue to use regular-grade 87-octane gasoline.

Will there be new 2022 Kia Sorento features?

A panoramic moonroof will again be standard on the majority of 2022 Sorento models

Don’t expect additions that’ll influence a buying decision, although we do suggest the automaker make its full suite of Kia Drive Wise safety tech available on every 2022 Sorento, not just the more expensive models.

Laudably, all ’22 Sorentos will again come standard with autonomous emergency braking designed to automatically stop it to mitigate a frontal collision with another vehicle, object, or pedestrian. Expect the system on all but the LX and S models to also include cyclist detection as well as Kia’s Junction Turning Detection. The latter can apply the brakes if you’re about to turn left across traffic and a collision is imminent.

Also returning as standard on all will be lane-departure warning with automatic steering correction. Same for Kia’s Lane Following Assist, designed to detect lane markings and provide steering input to keep the Sorento centered in the lane. (We found Lane Following Assist generally worked well on straight roads but tended to steer abruptly to keep the crossover centered on gentle curves. It isn’t designed to work in tight turns.)   

Blind-spot and rear cross-traffic detection wasn’t available on the 2021 LX but was included as standard on all other Sorentos. This is a vital driver assist, and Kia’s system has the added benefit of using the brakes to “steer” the crossover back into its lane or stop it while reversing to avoid a collision with cross traffic.

Also standard on all but the LX was Kia’s Safe Exit Assist, which warns occupants not to exit the car if sensors detect approaching traffic.

We urge Kia to make another helpful assist, adaptive cruise control, at least available on all 2022 Sorentos; for ’21, it was unavailable on LX and S models. The system can maintain a set distance from traffic ahead even in stop-and-go driving. And in Sorentos equipped with navigation, it can leverage GPS data to reduce speed for curves. Also available on nav-equipped Sorento models was Kia’s Highway Driving assist, which can adjust vehicle speed to the posted limit.

2021 Sorento X-Line

Expect Kia to reserve for the ’22 Sorento SX Prestige trims an automatic-dimming rearview mirror and the useful-in-close-quarters surround-view video monitor. Same for the corporation’s clever blind-spot-view monitor. Signal a turn and it provides within the instrument cluster a live picture revealing traffic otherwise hidden from the driver. All but the LX should also return with rear obstacle detection, with the SX Prestige trims enhancing that with front obstacle detection and collision-avoiding automatic rear braking.

Every ’22 Sorento will return with heated outside mirrors with integrated LED turn signals. Such conveniences as an electronic parking brake will likely remain standard on all gas-electric hybrid models and, in the gas-only line, on EX and above. Same for driver-selectable automatic brake hold that keeps the crossover stationary without requiring pressure on the brake pedal. Also helpful in traffic congestion is the standard chime that sounds if you’re stopped and haven’t noticed that the vehicle ahead has begun to move.

A panoramic moonroof should again be standard on the EX Hybrid and all SX grades and may be included on the EX plug-in hybrid. Expect it to remain a $1,300 option for the S and gas-only EX models, and be included with the $2,100 X-Line package on the EX. 

Will 2022 Kia Sorento prices change?

2021 Sorento Hybrid, SX, and SX Prestige X-Line

It’s a safe bet they’ll increase modestly for carryover 2022 Sorento models. Pricing for the plug-in hybrid depends in part on its available trim levels.

In sum, every ’22 Sorento should remain an attractive value, essentially priced like a five-passenger midsize crossover but with the advantage of that third-row seat. Note, however, that a variety of similarly priced rivals come with V-6 engines that generally provide more linear acceleration than Sorento’s turbocharged four-cylinder. 

For reference, here are 2021 Sorento base prices, including Kia’s $1,175 destination fee.

For the ’21 LX, starting prices were $30,565 with front-wheel drive and $32,365 with AWD. For the ’21 gas-only S model they were $33,065 and $34,865, respectively. Among turbocharged 2021 Sorentos, base prices for the EX were $36,165 with front-drive and $37,965 with AWD. For the ’21 SX they were $39,165 and $40,956, respectively.

The 2021 SX Prestige started at $41,765 with front wheel drive. Base price for the AWD SX Prestige X-Line was $43,765.

Look for Kia to again limit factory options to $445 premium paint colors, such as Passion Red Tint Coat. And getting the SX Prestige X-Line’s leather upholstery in an exclusive rust-colored hue should again run $200.

Expect the 2022 Sorento plug-in hybrid to add an estimated $1,000 or so to a Sorento Hybrid in the comparable trim level, while something like an SX-grade plug-in might start around $43,000. Note that depending on the EPA’s final determination of the electric only range, the ’22 Sorento plug-in may not qualify for the full $7,500 federal tax credit available to buyers of many other plug-ins.

When does the 2022 Kia Sorento come out?

2021 Sorento Hybrid

Expect a 2022 Kia Sorento release date in the third quarter of 2021.

Best 2022 Kia Sorento competitors

Buick Enclave, Chevrolet Traverse, Dodge Durango, Ford Explorer, GMC Acadia, Honda Pilot, Hyundai Palisade, Jeep Grand Cherokee L, Kia Telluride, Mazda CX-9, Nissan Pathfinder, Subaru Ascent, Toyota Highlander

About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to two decades of automotive testing and reporting for newspapers, books, magazines, and the Internet. The former Executive Auto Editor of Consumer Guide, Chuck has covered cars for, Collectible Automobile magazine, and the Publications International Ltd. automotive book series. This ex-newspaper reporter has also appeared as an automotive expert on network television and radio. He’s a charter member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, the president of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Media association, and a juror for the annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year awards. Chuck writes from Colorado Springs, Colo. If you have a question for Chuck, write to him at [email protected]