2021 Kia Sorento Problems and Top Complaints – Is Your Car A Lemon?

Engine and powertrain issues among the top complaints received by the NHTSA from vehicle owners

Updated on Author: Brian Jones

Was your vehicle recalled for seat belt pretensioner issues? Read our post on the Hyundai & Kia Seat Belt Pretensioner Recall.

Tow Harness Issues? Read about our Kia Sorento Tow Harness Problems Class Action Investigation.

Finding an SUV has never been difficult, with many drivers opting for the stylish 2021 Kia Sorento. The automaker claims customers can “let the adventures begin” behind the wheel. However, adventure is an understated term to describe a faulty engine, dangerous fuel system, malfunctioning powertrain and failing tranmission.

Click on other model years to view more problems: 2019   2020   2022   2023

Most Common Problems

he most common problems owners of the 2021 Kia Sorento are reporting to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) relate to the powertrain and engine. There are also serious complaints about a malfunctioning fuel system.

Engine-related complaints are varied, ranging from lost acceleration capability, rattles, and bearing failure, to what seems to be an unfixable error code that says “refill inverter coolant.” The problem with the latter is that the light stays illuminated and blocks out other warning lights. There are also lots of complaints filed under Engine that report failed transmissions.

A large percentage of powertrain complaints are also about problems that result in failing transmissions. Reports to the NHTSA vary from the transmission slipping and then failing to them suddenly not working at all. Some complaints say the SUV shuts off and redlines when the gears are shifted. There are also reports of transmissions making a “clunky” sound.

2021 Kia Sorento Complaint Summary

Complaint CategoryNumber of Complaints
Power Train
Unknown Or Other
Electrical System
Vehicle Speed Control
Fuel/propulsion System
Forward Collision Avoidance: Warnings
Trailer Hitches

Engine Problems

The most important part of any vehicle is the engine. With a defective motor in the Kia Sorento, customers can’t help but be disappointed.

Here’s one Edmunds review to consider. “Purchased an SX Prestige with 2.5 Turbo at 2100 miles that was a dealer demo. Drove the Sorento for two weeks adding about 1500 miles or so. As I pull in my driveway the engine began rattling really loud. No warning lights came on. Had the vehicle towed to the dealer I purchased from. Was told that the engine bearings failed, causing internal damage. Also there was metal inside of Turbo itself. Was told I was getting a new, updated engine and turbo. New engine has been installed.. just waiting on a new turbo. I’ve been without my vehicle for 12 days now. Very disappointed in KIA.”

There’s little to point to the problem in this situation, other than many other customers are experiencing it as well. It might turn out that Hyundai is faced with even more class-action lawsuits, such as the one from previous models that stated Hyundai installed engines that could spontaneously combust during normal operation. That’s one heck of an adventure that most people aren’t prepared for.

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Problems with the Fuel System

Working in conjunction with the engine is the fuel system. When this system malfunctions, the vehicle cannot run as intended.

That’s what is shown in this NHTSA complaint. “The contact owns a 2021 Kia Sorento. The contact stated that after parking the vehicle, the contact noticed that the exhaust started to leak. … also stated the engine was overheating with no warning light illuminated.”

Sadly, Kia Sorento owners are currently facing a dangerous recall. NHTSA Campaign Number 21V519000 reveals that affected models equipped with a 2.5-liter turbo engine have a fuel pipe that could leak between the pump and rail. If the fuel leaks in this location, there is a heightened risk of a car fire. There’s nothing quite as adventurous as trying to get the family out of an SUV before it explodes.

Problems with the Powertrain

There are also issues with the powertrain in Sorento models. Of course, this is another vital part that doesn’t do what it should.

One last Edmunds review states, “I turn my vehicle on to drive home and the check engine light comes on, at first I think maybe it is just a fluke…It was downpouring that night so I thought something might have triggered it. I go to drive and I notice as I am trying to accelerate my RPMs are going up but the speed is really not increasing, until it JOLTS me forward. I finally make it home and hope it was just a random event. The next day same thing happens, check engine light is on, notification comes up on my screen ‘possible transmission control issue’ same thing happens, car is not accelerating, RPMs going up, and if I stop at a red light and the ‘auto on off’ kicks in the car totally dies.”

The review goes on to say “When I am finally able to get into Kia the next day they tell me I need a new transmission…….a NEW TRANSMISSION on a brand new vehicle with only 5000 miles on it!!!!! It has now been sitting at the Kia dealership for 26 days and they have no ETA on when the new part will arrive. Stay far far away from this car!! It looks beautiful, but it is a lemon!!! I will be submitting paperwork for it to be taken in as a lemon law and get a refund to get something else, NOT A KIA.”

While there is no recall yet, Hyundai has released Service Bulletin #SC202_DSM that discusses a Voluntary Service Campaign to replace the accelerator pedal assembly on affected models. It appears that the RPMs rise even when they shouldn’t because of this malfunction. If it happens while driving, Smart Pedal Logic becomes engaged to reduce the RPMs to an idle speed, causing even more problems. Maybe the Kia Sorento should be renamed a Bucking Bronco to properly reflect how it drives.

Transmission Complaints

NHTSA complaints about failing transmissions are filed under the Powertrain, Engine, and Unknown or Other categories. Most vehicles are new and many owners report long waits to have their transmission replaced.

One owner who had a 2021 Sorento for only five months says the dealership had to replace three transmissions. The vehicle “stayed in the shop for over 4 months with no loaner. When I got it back, I drove it for 2 weeks and in the middle of traffic, the dashboards lit up like a Christmas tree, then the truck cut off on me. This is a safety concern and this truck is a lemon.” At the time, he was attempting to negotiate a buy back from Kia.

Another owner states: “My 9 month old (9000+ miles) car went completely into neutral while driving without any warning. The speed dropped quickly, and I was very close to getting hit by the car behind. I carefully stopped and turned off the car at a curbside, and it went back to normal when restarted. However, the next day I started the car like normal and found it wouldn’t move either forward or reverse with the Check Engine Light on. The car was then towed to the dealership for inspection, and they were able to reproduce the problem. I was told the entire transmission needs to be replaced. The same terrifying experience is seen from multiple internet forums for the same new Kia Sorento 2021.”

An owner who had transmission failure when the SUV stopped mid-drive says, ”Thankfully I was driving on a suburban street at low speeds, but it could have been dangerous in another circumstance. The car was towed to a Kia dealership and they claimed it was fixed after a week. However, they could not successfully start the car when I went to pick it up and I had to leave it at the dealership.”

Your Lemon Law Legal Rights

Think you have a lemon? Sit back and let the experts work out your lemon case at no cost to you. The law makes Kia pay legal fees. You may be able to get your lemon out of your life. Every year, auto manufacturers buy back, replace or pay cash settlements to thousands of ‘lemon’ owners like you.

Brian Jones

About the Author:

Brian Jones spent more than 30 years working as an ASE Certified Master Tech and Parts Specialist at multiple dealerships. Brian has become an authority in the industry, traveling across the country to consult for car dealerships and contributing his expertise as a writer for several major automotive publications. In his spare time, Brian enjoys working on pickup trucks, muscle cars, Jeeps and anything related to motorsports.

See more posts from Brian Jones
  • April L

    Have a 2021 Kia Sorento X-Line. It’s jumping into neutral while I’m driving. Absolutely terrifying. Kia dealership is not able to replicate it, even though they’ve had it for over a week. This sounds similar to what other owners have experienced. I want the transmission replaced, or possibly my money refunded. I don’t feel safe driving this car.

  • Darbi B

    I was at a red light and when I pushed in the gas and it made a huge hiccup. Like that’s the only way I can describe what happened. At the next light it did it again but smaller. Now there is a vibration under my feet and a sound coming out of the fan. I’ve also had a few other strange things that have happened like driving slow it does this funny thing like it almost wants to go faster. This also happened going slow up a inclined driveway.

  • Lucio

    My 2021 kia Sorento premium SX is doing the same we press the button and sputters and shuts off n now while on drive siting every time we stop at a red light or stop sign it gives this hard pull from the transmission.. what do I need to do or who do I need to contact about this issues that this care is having

  • Cesar

    Pros are the digital gauges look awesome but unfortunately it’s true. CONS- The leather seats are hard and not so comfortable for long distances, but wait that’s not the worst part. I’ve owed my 2021 Kia Sorento X-Line for about a year now and for about two months been having startup issues. We press the start button to a putter then shuts off. It has happened more often than not. It’s now at the local Kia dealer awaiting next steps. The techs have it sitting outside awaiting engineering consultation. I was told by my consultant they hope to hear from engineering soon to continue their efforts to find the cause of the problem. It’s been ten days now since I dropped it off. I’m driving a rental in the meantime.

  • melvin w

    waited 3 months for a turbo to be replaced on a new 2021 turbo………..had vehicle for only 7 months before turbo went out

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