Is This Kia Model the Best 3-Row SUV For the Money?

Automotive experts endlessly rave about the 2021 Kia Telluride. But did you know Kia offers a different three-row SUV that’s almost as good for thousands of dollars less? Choosing the 2021 Kia Sorento might be the road less traveled, but it might be the best value on the market.

The Sorento isn’t as roomy or powerful as its more famous sibling. So why should you consider purchasing it? The decision comes down to several significant factors, which we’ll explore in detail.

The 2021 Kia Sorento earned critical acclaim

Kia knows what it’s doing when manufacturing three-row SUVs. The Sorento and Telluride are nearly universally beloved models, and most outlets argue over which one is the better value.

The U.S. News & World Report made a bold statement by proclaiming the 2021 Kia Sorento as the ‘Best Three-Row SUV for the Money.’

It’s difficult to disagree with this assessment. The 2021 Kia Telluride arguably has more to offer. However, paying more for the larger SUV isn’t in everyone’s best interest, especially if you don’t need the extra space.

Whether the Sorento is large enough for your family depends on how often you plan on using its third row of seating. The 2021 Kia Telluride has a much more spacious back seat. 

However, families of four or five will find the 2021 Kia Sorento’s first two rows to be roomy enough. Alternatively, the Sorento’s third row should be comfortable enough for small children. Even petite adults can make these cramped quarters work if you’re only traveling a short distance.

Most drivers will want to lower the third row when it’s not in use to get cargo space you can actually use. Doing so provides up to 45 cubic feet of space, which is nearly identical to the Telluride’s dimensions behind the second row.

This Kia SUV’s interior outclasses most of its competitors

A close-up look at the red and black interior of the 2021 Kia Sorento X-Line
The 2021 Kia Sorento X-Line interior | Kia

The 2021 Kia Sorento has an attractive starting MSRP of just $29,390. However, it’s far from a bare-bones vehicle.

Kia loaded this SUV with features your family will love and safety systems that’ll give you peace of mind. It comes standard with an eight-inch touchscreen display that’s compatible with wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. 

Meanwhile, many of its rivals come up short with their technology offerings. For example, the base 2021 Honda Pilot sticks drivers with a pitiful 5-inch screen. Plus, buyers have to upgrade to a higher trim to obtain wired versions of these smartphone mirroring systems.

Thanks to the Sorento’s relative affordability, it’s not too expensive to move up in trim level. Doing so affords you premium features such as a Wi-Fi hotspot (beginning on the S trim), wireless device charging (EX), a 10.25-inch touchscreen with navigation (SX), and leather upholstery with ventilated seats (SX Prestige.)

The 2021 Kia Sorento provides long-term savings

A blue 2021 Kia Sorento SX on display in a parking lot with a building in the background
The 2021 Kia Sorento SX on display | Kia

This Is the Only Way to Set up Your 2021 Kia Sorento if You Wanna Be Cool

Some might still not be convinced the Sorento is the best value in the three-row SUV segment. However, money talks, and the 2021 Kia Sorento will save you a boatload.

For starters, Kia’s 10-year/100,000-mile limited powertrain warranty is one of the best in the business. It gives the 2021 Kia Sorento and Telluride an advantage over competitors outside of Hyundai and Mitsubishi.

Additionally, the Sorento’s punchy yet efficient engine options help it keep up with the Telluride’s 291-hp V6. Plus, Kia offers the Sorento in a hybrid variant, while the Telluride is strictly powered by gas.

Kia equipped the Sorento with a standard 191-hp 2.5-liter four-cylinder, an eight-speed automatic transmission, and front-wheel drive. This powertrain achieves an EPA-estimated 26 MPG city/highway combined. 

Comparatively, the base 2021 Kia Telluride ($32,190 MSRP) only manages an EPA-estimated 23 MPG combined. The 2021 Honda Pilot also delivers disappointing results, as the EPA estimates that it also gets 23 MPG combined.

Meanwhile, Sorento EX models and above feature a 281-hp 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder mated to an eight-speed wet-type dual-clutch transmission. Notably, all-wheel-drive is available on all trim levels.

The more powerful turbocharged powerplant seems like the better option, considering it only sacrifices one MPG combined. 

However, MotorTrend warns against adding this option due to its different transmission. The publication’s review of the SUV stated, “The 2.5T’s dual-clutch transmission isn’t worth the trade-off in everyday smoothness.”