The brand new Kia Sorento seven-seat SUV is one we families have been waiting patiently for! So I was pretty excited when we got to test the top-spec GT Line and the lower-spec Sport model. Three weeks in the cars with my family gave me a pretty good understanding of the new Sorento's family-friendliness and the differences your money will get you between the two models. So let's find out how the new Kia Sorento stacks up as a BabyDrive…
Well, I'm going to start with the biggest elephant in the room… The new Kia Sorento still has no third-row airbags! Why and how that is, I have no idea and we were waiting for this to be rectified in this new model but it hasn't. With that off our chest, if it doesn't put you off then read on and find out everything else we loved in the new Kia Sorento…
This is the top-spec GT Line:
And this is the second-cheapest Sport model:
Apart from the obvious colour difference, (I love the colour the Sport model came in), they both look great and I love the new muzzle-like grill.
The new dash is clean and fresh, with a fish scale effect panel which is also in the door panels too, these light up at night in the GT Line.
The interior has been greatly updated throughout. The GT Line model comes with leather quilted seats, whereas the Sport model has woven upholstered seats.
In the rear doors of the GT Line, there are heated seat buttons which of course can be accessed by little fiddly fingers.
Okay that was another negative initial observation, now time for the good stuff!
There are now ISOFix points in four of the five rear seats in the 2021 Kia Sorento and top tether anchorages on the back of all five rear seats.
I was able to install five child seats in the back. Two forward-facing child seats in the third-row…
…and a mixture of three forward-facing and rear-facing child seats in the second-row seats. I found I could just sit between two child seats in the second-row.
There is a new press button mechanism on the shoulder of the second-row seats to give access through to the third-row, however, this doesn't work with child seats installed in the second-row. What I found is if the child seat is using ISOFix rather than the seatbelt you can move the second-row seat forward far enough that a child could just climb through to the third-row and I can just about reach through to fasten their harness. The 40 part of the 60:40 split seat is on the driver's side though, which when street parked means you are doing all this with traffic going by you!
Another downside we found was that the button beside the headrest that releases the second-row seat is within easy reach of little ones in the back, but curious fingers did their thing during our test of the Sorento, which had the second-row seat sliding about while we were driving until we were able to stop and put it back into place. These buttons need a child lock facility!
There is the addition of a grab handle in the new Sorento which makes climbing through to the third-row slightly easier.
Legroom is good throughout the new Kia Sorento and we found if using all three rows of seats it's best to put the rear-facing child seat on the passenger side of the car to give greater legroom in the front. Read more detailed information about the child seats in the expandable ‘seats' section below.
Boot space in the new 2021 Kia Sorento is similar to the Hyundai Santa Fe, despite the Kia being a bigger car overall. Using all seven seats it will hold five shopping bags, which is comparable to the Hyundai Santa Fe that will also hold five. If you need more room, the Nissan Pathfinder and Toyota Kluger will both hold eight bags and the Mazda CX-9 will hold seven shopping bags.
When using only five seats, the 2021 Kia Sorento will hold seventeen shopping bags, which again is comparable to the Hyundai Santa Fe that will also hold seventeen. The Nissan Pathfinder will hold twenty, the Toyota Kluger will both hold nineteen and the Mazda CX-9 will hold eighteen shopping bags.
Or a large size dog will fit nicely in the boot of the new 2021 Kia Sorento when you're only using five seats. For more detailed boot storage information see the expandable section ‘storage' below.
Cabin storage is mostly practical throughout all models of the new Kia Sorento. In the third-row there are cup holders and phone storage on both sides.
In the second-row there is the usual array of storage; with double layer map pockets and a central seat back that folds down with cup holders in but my favourite storage is the new cup holders in the doors, we found them great for kids to easily access their water bottles while you are driving along. For more detailed information about the storage see the expandable ‘storage' section below.
In the front, there are good-sized cup holders in the central console and a wireless phone charging well. The central console box is a good size, as is the glove box.
Disappointingly, all the door bins in the new Kia Sorento are too small to fit a large refillable water bottle so we found we stored ours in the handle wells in the front while driving instead as they are better sized!
There are air-conditioning vents in all three rows of seats in the new 2021 Kia Sorento which is really important for families to keep all rear passengers cool enough in this climate. In the third row there are vents on both sides and also air-con controls.
In the second-row there are vents in the back of the central console box.
In the front, you have master controls and can turn the rear aircon on and off which is great if little rear passengers are fiddling with it!
One thing I did find in the new Sorento is in the third-row there are also buttons for folding forward the second-row seats. My daughter fiddled with those when she was seated in the 3rd-row and we were driving along and I ended up with a second-row seat sliding backwards and forwards while driving along which eventually I had to stop and lock back into place but if my child will fiddle with it then anyone's will!
The media system in the new Kia Sorento is where you see a lot of changes and it is full of new family-friendly features! It's also where we see a few of the differences between the two models. Both models have a new large media screen mounted on the dash. The interface is modern and has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
All models of the new Kia Sorento have ‘Sounds of Nature' which is a selection of prerecorded white noise at your fingertips! It includes the sounds of calm ocean waves, rainy days, in the forest, open-air cafe etc. These are genuinely fantastic for getting your little kids to sleep while you are driving, my newborn loves the calm ocean waves and got her to sleep even time (it's so effective that I even took a recording of it on my phone to use in other cars)!
Within the media system of all models of the new Sorento is the ability to customise which road safety warnings you hear, which I found really useful as the announcements can be disturbing for little passengers, so I could set it to just get the alerts I felt most necessary.
In the GT Line, there are a few extra features, like quiet mode. This is useful once the kids are asleep or they are busy on their tablets watching in the back as it moves the sound from the back speakers to the very front with a lower maximum volume so as not to disturb little rear passengers.
Secondly, there is now a third-row intercom system called Driver Talk. This allows you to amplify your voice through to the third-row passengers so you don't need to shout! We found it was also good for in-car karaoke!!
And great for telling your little ones to stop picking their nose in the back!!!
The new Kia Sorento GT-Line has a few extra features, firstly the remote start function on the key fob which allows you to start the engine and the aircon to cool it down before you get in, which is really handy when it's hot.
Another magical new feature enables you to drive the car out of a parking space using the key fob alone! It's for those times in car parks when there simply is not enough room to get yourself or the kids in or out of the car without dinging the car next to you! It is great to watch the system working using the external cameras and monitors. You can watch it here, in my Top 10 video. You can also drive the car back into a space remotely too!
Thirdly the GT-Line model also differs to the Sport by having built-in rear window blinds in the second-row, which we found great for shielding little rear passengers from the sun.
There's also a child lock button on the driver's door control panel, which locks both the windows and rear doors and stops those fiddly little fingers playing with them!
However, on the GT Line this doesn't lock the heated rear seat control, which is on the rear door panel and can be easily reached and fiddled with by little rear passengers.
The GT-Line also has USB charging points for all rear rows of seats and a mechanism on the side of the front passenger seat to adjust it, which is great when doing school pick-ups or driving elderly relatives so you can control it from the driver's seat.
The GT-Line also comes with a sunroof and a rearview camera that you can leave on while you are driving. We found this really useful as the visibility when you are loaded up with five child seats in the back is compromised, so this gives you peace of mind AND the kids love watching it!!
Overall the new 2021 Kia Sorento seven-seat SUV is a HUGE upgrade on the previous model and is packed FULL of family-friendly features. This is especially the case with the GT Line model which is abundant with them and at $$11,600 more than the Sport model you do get a lot more for your money. That said we think there is room for a model between the Sport+ and GT Line that has some of the family-friendly extras without all of the high-end luxuries.
And of course, EVERYONE questions the lack of third-row airbags which is preventing it from being the ultimate family seven-seat SUV! So close, Kia, so close!
On that note, the new 2021 Kia Sorento scored a five-star ANCAP safety rating despite the lack of third-row airbags because for some reason ANCAP still does not test the third-row seats in their crash testing.