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Kia Sorento ‘3’ Trim 1.6 PHEV T-GDi Auto AWD (2020 - )

Kia’s Sorento has had the electrification treatment and now comes in hybrid form. But how does its new plug-in version stack up against the rest of the range and its main rivals? We took one for a drive to find out.

Starting price:
The model we tested was £50,345

Pros:
  • Seven seats
  • Spacious and practical
  • Lowrunning costs
Cons:
  • Pricey
  • Inferior infotainment system in entry-level trim
  • Much lower towing weight than the diesel
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Introduction

Kia Sorento ‘3’ Trim 1.6 PHEV T-GDi Auto AWD (2022 - )

Despite its hefty size, the Kia Sorento – like the entire Kia range – is a modest and understated affair that ticks many more boxes than you’d ever imagine.

Now its appeal is set to grow further with the introduction of self-charging and plug-in hybrid models.

To some extent, that's a good thing because hybrids tend to be significantly more expensive than their all-fossil-fuelled counterparts. And this move pushes the price of Kia’s largest vehicle into the realms of some of the biggest names in the business.

Both hybrids get the same 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol engine combined with an electric motor. While the self-charging (HEV) version has a 1.49kWh battery, producing a total of 230PS. The plug-in (PHEV) version unsurprisingly gets a bigger motor and a 13.8kWh battery, producing 265PS.

All models are four-wheel drive. The hybrids get a six-speed automatic gearbox, while a 2.2-litre four-cylinder diesel is also available with an eight-speed automatic, producing 201PS.

Three trims are offered, and although the specs differ slightly depending on the powertrain (notably the alloys, which are bigger on the PHEV), they're mostly the same.

It is the PHEV we’re testing, with entry-level ‘2’ trim offering 19-inch alloys, a digital instrument display, an eight-inch touchscreen with DAB radio, reversing camera, LED headlights and black cloth upholstery and heated seats and steering wheel.
‘3’ trim gets a larger 10.25-inch touchscreen SatNav system, black leather upholstery, keyless entry and engine start/stop button, powered tailgate, ambient lighting, wireless phone charger, LED headlights and indicators, and outer middle-row heated seats.

Top-of-the-range ‘4’ trim gets black nappa leather upholstery, panoramic sunroof with tilt/slide, a head-up display, ventilated front seats, Bose premium sound system with 12 speakers, a 360-degree surround-view monitor and a blind-spot monitoring camera.

Our test car is the mid-range ‘3’ trim.
 

On The Road

Kia Sorento ‘3’ Trim 1.6 PHEV T-GDi Auto AWD (2022 - )

Performance

Getting such a hefty lump of metal from 0-62mph in 8.4-seconds is no mean feat. But, thanks to its bigger motor, the PHEV’s extra power means it accelerates more keenly than the HEV and diesel, feeling quicker than it is.

The gearbox changes smoothly, but it can sometimes be a bit hesitant. We have driven the 2.2-litre diesel non-hybrid version, and its transmission is slightly better, though the plug-in hybrid isn’t bad by any means.

While the diesel suits low-speed driving, the hybrids excel at cruising on motorways. Once you are up to higher speeds, the road noise isn’t on a par with the premium brands, but it’s not bad.

In the PHEV, the engine cuts in and out seamlessly, and, thanks to the battery, up to 35 miles of engine-free driving is possible.

It can only tow up to 1,500kg (1,650 kilograms in the HEV), whereas the diesel can pull 2,500kg, so that’s a consideration if you have a large caravan.

Kia Sorento ‘3’ Trim 1.6 PHEV T-GDi Auto AWD (2022 - )

Ride Handling

The more prominent 19-inch wheels compromise ride comfort in the PHEV. The entry-level HEV, on the other hand, only has 17-inchers, which makes it more forgiving when the going gets tough.

On our test car, the larger rims mean the Sorento takes a little longer to settle after passing over potholes and bumps. And, as a result, it tends to feel a bit less planted on poorer road surfaces. It is mainly caused by the extra weight oscillating about. And although the PHEV is third best compared with the HEV and diesel, it’s still never uncomfortable.

At higher speeds, the steering weights up nicely, with sharp handling for a car of its size. You can place it confidently into bends, while around town, it's light enough to avoid tiring out your arms if you're constantly changing direction around side streets.
Of course, body roll in the corners is to be expected given the size and mass of the car. And although the PHEV doesn’t do as good a job as the rest of the range at limiting the lean, it is pretty well controlled and turns in well even when pushed.

It is helped by our ‘3’ trim test car getting self-levelling rear suspension, which you don’t get on the ‘2’ trim – and this is worth having, especially if you’re towing.

You will need to look at rivals such as the Land Rover Discovery Sport and the Audi Q5 to get anything better.
 

Kia Sorento ‘3’ Trim 1.6 PHEV T-GDi Auto AWD (2022 - )

Styling

The Sorento has never been the best-looking car in the world, and the new looks continue that theme.

The dumbbell-shaped grille dominates the front, though the headlights blend into it nicely. Furthermore, luminous day-running strips run along the bottom of the lights, which look nice.

It is very angular and chiselled, more so than its predecessors. The rear takes a similar design philosophy and there are American-style taillights that look like Kia has taken inspiration from a Ford Mustang.

In The Car

Kia Sorento ‘3’ Trim 1.6 PHEV T-GDi Auto AWD (2022 - )

Behind the Wheel

You get a high driving position to laud it over other motorists. Front visibility is good, but thanks to the shape of the rear windows, the rear pillars are significantly thicker, which compromises your view.

The electric seat and lumbar adjustment in our ‘3’ test car make finding a comfortable position simple. But the entry-level ‘2’ trim has no adjustable lumbar support and only manual seat adjustment. The lumbar support is even more versatile in the top-of-the-range ‘4’ trim.

The 12.3-inch digital cluster replaces the traditional analogue dials, and there are several options for what information you want to view.

The 10.25-inch touchscreen is sharp and crisp with decent graphics, responsive and very user-friendly. It is one of the best systems available, and Kia has done an excellent job. Thankfully, physical dials, switches and buttons operate the radio and the climate control system. But there are some touch-sensitive buttons, which aren't the easiest to use on the move.

The interior features piano black and chrome trim, which adds to the attractiveness. At the same time, the materials used make it feel like a quality product, even if it lacks the outright luxuriousness of Audis and BMWs.
 

Kia Sorento ‘3’ Trim 1.6 PHEV T-GDi Auto AWD (2022 - )

Space & Practicality

There is a lot of space inside, so even the tallest of drivers and passengers won’t be complaining.

It is a seven-seater – and even the rear seats feel relatively roomy. The middle seats slide forward and backwards and can recline, too.

There are lots of storage compartments, with good size door bins and cubbies, while a total of eight USB ports means everyone can charge their phones on the move.

Four seats (the two in the rear and the two in the outer middle row) have Isofix mounting points for child seats.

Boot space is 179 litres with all seven seats in place, 604 litres with the rear seats down and 1,988 litres if you fold down the middle row in a 60/40 split. This can be done at the touch of a button.

There is slightly more space in the HEV and more in the diesel, plus there's no underfloor storage in the PHEV, but all boot space figures are similar.

The load lip is minimal, too, so lifting larger objects in and out is simple.
 

Ownership

Kia Sorento ‘3’ Trim 1.6 PHEV T-GDi Auto AWD (2022 - )

Running Costs

The PHEV is the model to go for if you want to minimise running costs, producing just 38g/km of CO2.

That compares with 158-168g/km in the self-charging hybrid, depending on trim, and 176g/km in the diesel, which is only available in the ‘3’ trim.

That makes the PHEV the no-brainer option for company car users, and it can do 35 miles according to Kia, though expect marginally less in the real world.

Fuel consumption is 176.6mpg in the PHEV, compared with 38.2-40.9mpg on the HEV and 42.2mpg in the diesel.

Achieving these figures in the PHEV requires you to keep it charged, which takes around three-and-a-half hours via a home wall box at a maximum charging speed of 3.3kW.

Servicing costs are likely to be around the £200 mark depending on what needs doing, though Kia also offers service plans.

Kia Sorento ‘3’ Trim 1.6 PHEV T-GDi Auto AWD (2022 - )

Quality & Reliability

The new Sorento hasn't been out long enough to confirm its reliability. But Kia excels in this field, and there's no reason to believe this one will be anything but dependable.

In terms of quality, it certainly feels well built.
Of course, it also offers a superb seven-year, 100,000-mile warranty for additional peace of mind.
 

Kia Sorento ‘3’ Trim 1.6 PHEV T-GDi Auto AWD (2022 - )

Safety & Security

The Sorento was awarded a five-star Euro NCAP rating when it was tested back in 2020.

It scored 82% for adult occupants, 85% for children and 87% for safety assists.

Smart cruise control with stop and go, intelligent speed limit assist, forward collision-avoidance assist, lane keep assist, automatic city emergency braking and reversing camera are included on all the PHEV Sorentos.

The top-of-the-range '4' trim gets parking collision avoidances, a blind-spot camera, and a 360-degree surround-view monitor.
 

Summary

Kia Sorento ‘3’ Trim 1.6 PHEV T-GDi Auto AWD (2022 - )

Overall, the Kia Sorento is a solid contender that now, due to the new hybrid models, can add ultra-low running costs to its 'Reasons to Buy’ list.

As a spacious seven-seater, it's convenient and roomy with lots of cargo space and it’s well-equipped, even at entry-level.

If you can live without the larger infotainment screen, adjustable lumbar support and leather seats, the ‘2’ trim should suffice, but the ‘3’ does tick a few more boxes.

Kia continues to be understated – and, indeed, underrated. But few can get close to the Sorento unless you're willing to shell out for the premium brands.

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By Tim Barnes-Clay
Jul 11, 2022

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