Posted on January 17, 2020
The mid-size crossover SUV segment is a competitive area in the world of car sales. But it has been seriously lacking any true hybrid contenders in the non-luxury models with offerings limited to the Ford Explorer, Toyota Highlander, and Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV. However, the South Korean automaker Kia is seeking to change that in mid- to late-2020. At that time, the 2021 Kia Sorento will become available in both hybrid and plug-in hybrid variants. These new powertrains will arrive in combination with the crossover's impending redesign as it undergoes a mid-cycle refresh of the third-generation model.
While the new models have not yet been officially released, photographs have shown styling that looks to have revised designs at both the front and rear of the vehicle, including a narrower grille that connects to smaller headlines. Interior revisions are also under wraps, but improved safety features and infotainment options are most likely to appear, since these are features that more vehicle buyers are looking for now--safety and connection.
Rising global emissions standards are behind Kia's push to electrify more of its vehicles. The new hybrid and plug-in 2021 Kia Sorento models will be a main part of Kia's plan to increased electrified vehicle sales and bring down its corporate average fuel consumption. Especially in the European Union, Kia needs to have the electric vehicles or face paying large fines. As Kia has increased sales in Europe for 11 consecutive years, avoiding these fines is vitally important to the manufacturer. In addition, the overall goal in the EU is to put enough electric cars on the road to offset the CO2 from traditional cars.
The 2021 Kia hybrid models are expected to launch across North America in mid-2020, unlike its Kia Niro EV model, which is limited to select markets in the United States. More details are still forthcoming, as not much has yet been released about the hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions. It is believed that the new Kia Sorento hybrid models will follow the path of the Kia Optima hybrid. This would mean a similar powertrain--the Optima uses a direct-injected 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine and a 38-kW (hybrid) or 50-kW (plug-in) electric motor that work together through a six-speed automatic transmission. In the Optima, the combined power output of the hybrid is 192 horsepower with up to 271 lb.-ft of total system torque, in contrast to the plug-in model's peak 202 horsepower and 276 lb.-ft of torque. The power details of the 2021 Kia Sorento models are yet to be seen, but it is likely they will be in a similar range. However, it is possible that the Sorento opts for a V-6 engine for more power, but this is unlikely as it would decrease fuel efficiency.
The Kia Sorento is a solid performer in the competitive midsize SUV segment, competing for top honors against options from sister company Hyundai as well as Japanese automakers Toyota and Honda. The availability of hybrid and hybrid plug-in models only serves to strengthen the automaker's place at the top of the market.
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