The 2021 Kia Sorento has been awarded a five-star safety rating by Australian crash-test body ANCAP – however, there's a catch.
The maximum five-star score applies only to 2.2-litre turbo-diesel, all-wheel-drive variants of the Sorento, with front-wheel-drive, 3.5-litre petrol V6 models going unrated without a safety score.
The discrepancy can likely be attributed to the fact the crash testing was conducted by ANCAP's European equivalent, Euro NCAP.
The European five-star score – which the Australian safety arm has mirrored Down Under, given both organisations share identical safety criteria – covers all variants of the European-specification Sorento.
However, of the two powertrains sold in Australia, only the diesel is shared with Europe, with the petrol V6 available only in select number of markets.
Helping the Kia Sorento achieve its five-star safety rating and 82 per cent score in the Adult Occupant Protection category is the inclusion of a centre airbag, designed to prevent front occupants colliding with one another in a severe side impact.
A key criterion for a 2020-stamped five-star ANCAP rating, the Sorento is only the third vehicle – and the first family SUV – with such a technology to be tested by Australian or European safety authorities, following the Isuzu D-Max ute and Toyota Yaris city car.
The Sorento received an 89 per cent score in the Safety Assist category – the highest since the introduction of ANCAP's stricter 2020 testing protocols – with the safety body celebrating Kia's inclusion of driver attention monitoring as standard, and an autonomous emergency braking system capable of braking for cars turning across intersections.
Kia's new-generation family SUV also earned scores in the Child Occupant Protection and Vulnerable Road User Protection (i.e. cyclists and pedestrians) categories of 85 per cent and 63 per cent respectively.
However, ANCAP's technical report notes 'weak' protection of the driver's chest and upper legs in the frontal offset crash test, and 'poor' protection of a pedestrian's pelvis and head, the latter applying if their head strikes the base of the stiff A-pillars.
Alongside the aforementioned centre airbag and advanced safety systems, all Kia Sorento variants feature rear cross-traffic alert and blind-spot monitoring – both capable of detecting and braking for hazards – plus lane-keep assist and Multi Collision Brake, which automatically applies and holds the brakes following a collision to prevent subsequent, secondary impacts.
There's also pedestrian and cyclist detection for the autonomous emergency braking system, lane-following assist and Safe Exit Assist, which prevents the rear doors being opened if a cyclist or vehicle is detected to be approaching.
Eight airbags are on offer: dual front, front side, centre and curtain airbags, though the latter only cover the first two (of three) rows.