Not so long ago, Kia was considered a brand that made cheap and unreliable cars. Today that is anything but the truth. Although some may continue to scorn the Korean cars, many Kia models now surpass those made by more well-established manufacturers and should be considered by anyone shopping for a new vehicle. The value of a new Kia can be amply seen by looking at the details of the 2021 Kia model announcements. As more information is announced, I am growing more and more excited to visit the Kia dealership near me to test drive one of these incredible vehicles when they hit showroom floors.
The three biggest 2021 Kia model announcements are a completely redesigned 2021 Kia Sorento, the all-new 2021 Kia Seltos, and, last but not least, a massively more capable 2021 Kia Soul EV. Together these three vehicles represent three of the hottest markets––the midsize crossover SUV, the relatively new subcompact crossover SUV, and the battery-powered electric vehicle. And in all three of these highly competitive markets, Kia’s offerings are on par with those from every other major manufacturer.
Midsize Excellence, the 2021 Sorento
The Kia Sorento is a midsize crossover SUV that was first introduced for 2003. Since then, roughly 1.4 million Sorentos have been sold in the US market alone. The new 2021 Kia Sorento will mark the beginning of the vehicle’s 4th generation. And on top of the normal upgrades expected of a new generation, the 2021 Sorento will also have a hybrid option for the first time. Although an updated midsize crossover may not be the most exciting of the 2021 Kia Model Announcements, it will probably prove a better seller than the other two.
While info on the new Sorento is still limited, pictures reveal that it will have an updated modern look with less chrome, a distinctive set of vertical LED tail lights, and exhaust tip integrated with the rear bumper. This remodeling extends to the interior, which includes the large infotainment screen typical of recent Kia designs as well as a sleek new dial selector to replace the old gear shifter.
Although engine options have not yet been released, it is likely that the 2021 Sorento will continue to offer four-cylinder, V6, and diesel options as well as the new hybrid. However, it is possible that the V6 option will be dropped in favor of a turbocharged four-cylinder. The current FWD and AWD options will likely remain, but the six-speed transmission on the base model may be replaced with the eight-speed transmission currently found on higher trims.
Sporty Off-Roading, the 2021 Seltos
The brand-new Seltos will be Kia’s off-road complement to the existing Kia Soul in the rapidly growing subcompact crossover SUV market. Although the Kia Soul already does an excellent job filling the small SUV niche for people who spend their time on the road, the Seltos is set to be an affordable off-roading machine with AWD and higher ground clearance. Further, unlike many subcompact SUVs, the Seltos will have an excellent 62.8 cu.ft. of cargo space. Altogether it is an exciting part of the 2021 Kia model announcements.
Mechanically, the Seltos will share the same two engines as the Soul. These are a 2.0L four-cylinder producing a respectable 146 hp, and a more powerful 1.6L turbocharged engine generating 175 hp. While the base engine will be coupled with a fuel-saving continuously variable transmission, the upgraded engine will come with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission for even better performance. But possibly the pinnacle of the Seltos will be its available AWD system, which will be available on the base trim and will include a locking center differential to maximize power in bad conditions.
Kia is becoming renowned for the amount of technology it fits into its cars, and the Seltos will be no exception. Not only will it be available with the Kia Drive Wise driver assistance technology (which includes automatic braking as well as blind spot and lane departure warnings), the infotainment system will have an available massive 10.25” screen and offer unheard of multi-device Bluetooth connectivity on top of both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. And for audiophiles, the 2021 Seltos will mark the first time Kia is offering a Bose speaker system.
The starting MSRP for the Kia Seltos will be $21,990. Interestingly, this price will apply to two different base trims. The LX trim will come with AWD, while the S trim will have advanced driver aids, LED headlights, and a two-tone paint scheme. Although this is a higher base MSRP than many competitors, the base models of those competitors generally come with far fewer features.
Practical and Electric, the 2021 Soul EV
But the most interesting of the 2021 Kia model announcements is the new 2021 Soul EV. While Tesla always gets the press when it comes to electric vehicles, Kia is actually close behind, and its 2018 Niro EV has a similar range to a Tesla Model 3. Now Kia is set to expand its battery-powered offerings with an electric version of its iconic Soul small SUV. Scheduled for 2021, the new Soul EV was originally intended to be released for 2020. However, higher demand for electric vehicles in Europe meant the American market had to wait a year.
Although a battery-powered Soul EV has been offered in the American market in limited numbers since 2015, the 2021 Soul EV will be an entirely different vehicle. Whereas the old Soul EV had a 32 kWh battery pack and electric motors capable of just 109 hp, the 2021 Soul EV will have a 64 kWh battery pack and an excellent 201 hp and 291 lb-ft of torque. This means the 2021 Soul EV will be noticeably more powerful than the best gasoline-powered Soul, the GT-line Turbo, which has 201 hp but only 195 lb-ft of torque and takes longer to reach maximum power.
Hover, power alone does not make an electric vehicle practical. The old Soul EV only had 111 miles of range, making it a poor choice for anything but short commutes. But the 2021 Soul EV is more than capable of competing with leading battery-powered cars with an excellent 243 miles of range in EPA tests.
Outside of its electric drivetrain, the 2021 Soul EV will be the same blend of practicality and versatility that characterizes the gasoline-powered Soul. Although info shows the interior volume to be slightly smaller on the Soul EV, with 98 cu.ft. of passenger volume instead of 102.2 cu.ft. for the gasoline-powered Soul, it will still be more than capable of handling nearly any task. The 2021 Soul EV will also come with the wide range of tech expected of a Kia, including an infotainment system with a 10.2” screen and navigation, a wireless phone charger, and a Head-Up Display for the driver. On the outside, the 2021 Soul EV will sport all-LED lighting and stylish 17” aerodynamic wheels, improving both efficiency and looks.
Although pricing info for the 2021 Soul EV has not yet been released, it is expected to be somewhat in the mid to high thirty thousand dollar range. But while this is much more expensive than the gasoline-powered Soul that starts at an incredibly low $17,490, it will likely be noticeably less than other battery-powered vehicles with similar range, which tend to be not far off of the $40,000 mark.