26.3.2021Kia Sorento PHEV first drive
There’s been plenty changing at Kia, and electrification is at the heart of this shift for the Korean manufacturer. A new logo will arrive on the bonnet of a car - branding elsewhere has already changed - with the company’s first dedicated, pure-electric only model, the Kia EV6. In the meantime, we are getting hybrid and plug-in hybrid powertrains fitted to just about all new models launched, and Kia has an excellent plug-in line-up already. The latest newcomer is the Kia Sorento PHEV, which we put to the test at its UK launch.
Review by Chris Lilly
KIA SORENTO PHEV: PERFORMANCE
Performance comes from Kia’s latest plug-in hybrid powertrain, which is made up of a 1.6 litre T-GDi petrol engine and 67 kW electric motor. Combined output is 261 hp and 350 Nm of torque, making for a punchy powertrain for Kia’s large SUV - it’s the most powerful Sorento ever to make it to Europe after all. As such, despite being able to seat seven, the Sorento PHEV can cover the 0-62mph sprint in 8.4 seconds, which is decent performance in its class. Power is put to all four wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission.
The electric motor does much of the heavy lifting low down the rev-range and at slower speeds, giving the Kia a responsiveness that’s somewhat surprising. It holds speed well, and never struggled even when climbing steep hills. Because of the electric elements, it’s a very quiet car to drive - almost too quiet, in fact, for its own good. Some tyre noise is likely more apparent because of its quiet running - though not intrusively so - but the engine can sound harsh and trashy when accelerating hard because most of the time it’s rarely heard.
The ride is pretty much spot on for the Sorento’s target market. With springs on the stiff side of average, but well damped at that, the Sorento corners well if unenthusiastically. There’s good grip available, and the car’s weight is felt when it shifts from centre, but it's a composed and safe handling set up - perfect for a family car.
With much of the test route covering villages and country roads, it’s safe to say that the Sorento PHEV performs well in these regards - the rural and suburban areas of Surrey a good fit for many buyers’ environments, I’d wager. It performed nicely in town too, with a considerably-sized car not feeling too unwieldy even in tight streets. On the short sections of faster, dual-carriageway roads, the Sorento PHEV also performed very well.
Kia’s progress in a very short time, particularly in terms of design, is impressive and the Sorento continues that fine work. It’s an imposing design, but not too much so, meaning the Sorento range stands out but is unlikely to put buyers off.
It’s a practical design too, with the large SUV accommodating up to seven people, and those in the rear (middle) have huge amounts of space to sit in. The third-row of seats are more occasional pews, but certainly usable - more than can be said about some other seven-seat SUVs - and the boot space is impressive. There’s almost no sacrifice in terms of load area by going plug-in over the conventional hybrid, with just a handful of litres in it - not a noticeable amount anyway.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
The cabin is what is now classic Kia - well built, with good materials and only a little lack of flair in design. There are better dashboards to look at, but few that perform all that’s required so well as Kia’s set-up. A large touchscreen system works well, and there are enough physical buttons for core controls to keep things safe while on the move.
The driver gets digital instruments even on entry-level models, and the seats are comfortable throughout. It’s a very good interior, with the only ‘weak’ point being a relative lack of style. I also found the cabin quite dark, despite a fair amount of silver-coloured trim trying to lift things a little - no doubt changes in options/specifications may help here.
KIA SORENTO PHEV: RANGE & RUNNING COSTS
It’s tricky truly evaluating a PHEV’s efficiency at the best of times, and even more so during a launch. Despite this, the Sorento PHEV performed very well in real-world conditions. Official figures are quoted at 176.6 MPG, but that will depend on how often you charge the car and the milage type. On a 60-mile round trip for the launch, the Sorento averaged 75.5 MPG during a drive taking a little over 2 hours.
I put the Kia in ‘Smart’ mode for much of the urban work, allowing it to switch between electric and petrol power as it saw fit, and then put it in Hybrid for the middle, rural stretch of the route. The 75+ MPG figure is much better than you would get in a diesel on the same route, and could actually have been better if I had left the car to its own devices more. The Sorento PHEV still had at least a third of a charge remaining in its battery, with an estimated real-world electric-only mileage in the high 20s available on a full charge - the official figure is 35 miles.
The Sorento PHEV is likely to be a popular fleet choice, thanks to low running costs offsetting the higher purchase price. The 35-mile electric range and 38 g/km CO2 emissions rating means it benefits from low BIK rates, though VED will be at the Premium Rate for all trim levels.
The Sorento PHEV’s emissions and electric range are good for the market it sits in, made possible because of a 13.8 kWh battery. This can be charged using a Type 2 inlet at up to 3.3 kW, taking less than three and a half hours from a home or public charge point.
There are three trim levels available - 2, 3, and 4 - with the entry-level 2 trim tested. It came with everything you would need from a family workhorse, including 19-inch alloys, tinted glass, LED headlights, leather and heated steering wheel, a handy button to fold the outside middle seats forward in an instant to access the rear, air conditioning, paddle shifters, heated front seats, cruise control, a plethora of USB sockets, digital driver’s instruments, 8-inch touchscreen infotainment with navigation, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, and parking sensors front and rear.
Further up the trim levels come leather seats, a powered tailgate, wireless phone charger, head-up display, Bose stereo, reversing camera, blind-spot monitoring camera, keyless entry and start, ventilated front seats, and panoramic tilting sunroof.
KIA SORENTO PHEV: MODEL SUMMARY
The Kia Sorento PHEV will take some careful mathematics to make sure you are getting a car that will recoup your extra costs from the conventional hybrid in time, but if you fit the general PHEV market - lots of shorter trips within 30 miles on electric power, and regular longer trips for petrol/electric work - then the Kia should suit you just fine. It’s a very capable family car, with the seven-seat capability and large boot making the Sorento PHEV a real rival to market leaders such as the Skoda Kodiaq. Kia’s benefit is that it can be had as a PHEV, where most rivals lack that plug-in potential.
Model tested: Kia Sorento PHEV 2
Body-style: Large SUV
Engine / CO2: 1.6 litre petrol and electric motor / 38 g/km
Trim grades: 2, 3, and 4
On-road price: From £42,495 (inc. Kia Plug-in Hybrid Car ‘Grant’)
Warranty: Seven years / 100,000 miles
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 4.0 Stars