Kia Sorento: Ignore the badge snobs, the PHEV is a very practical package

The Sorento is exceptionally comfortable and boasts oodles of driver and passenger-friendly kit. Even with just the rearmost seat folded down, the boot is massive — some 800 litres
Kia Sorento: Ignore the badge snobs, the PHEV is a very practical package

The Sorento is not exactly slacking on premium creature comforts and kit levels.

KIA SORENTO PHEV

Rating

★★★★☆

Price

From €50,000 to €55,000 as tested

E ngine

Hybrid

The Spec

Surprisingly premium

Verdict

A steppingstone to full electric for many buyers

Regular readers will know by now of the general malaise that washes over us here at Examiner Motoring when the subject of PHEVs is brought to the table. We don’t particularly like them and don’t believe they are the future of motoring.

That antipathy, however, is nothing in the face of an industry that has invested billions in the development of PHEVs and is intent on getting as much of that money back as possible before this transition technology on the road to full electrification becomes redundant. Critics and unbelievers be damned.

By most common estimates, that gives the industry some three to five years to sell as many of these things as possible before their time runs out. That being so, expect to see a lot of them on garage forecourts in the coming months and years.

Indeed, Examiner Motoring’s diary has several of them pencilled in before the end of this year alone and it is to be expected we will see as many again next year. Last week we tried one of the premium models in the segment – the Mercedes GLC 300 de – and found it to be as good a version of these things as we have thus far encountered.

So what of this week’s PHEV? Well, it is the biggest Kia sold thus far in Europe, the Sorento, and to many eyes in this part of the world, it is what might be termed ‘an American car,’ Why? Well, it’s huge.

The feeling of interior space is exacerbated by the width between the two front seats, which accommodates all manner of control elements, cup holders and cubby space worked into the centre console.
The feeling of interior space is exacerbated by the width between the two front seats, which accommodates all manner of control elements, cup holders and cubby space worked into the centre console.

Admittedly it is not quite as huge as the company’s Telluride, which is specifically aimed at the Yankee market and has been hugely successful for Kia in the US. But, by European standards this is a big car – it does have seven workable seats after all – and could be fairly decreed by us Euro-sophisticates to have essentially been designed for those on the other side of the pond.

The Sorento does have many class rivals, not least cars like the Skoda Kodiaq, the SEAT Tarraco (which we reviewed here recently and positively), the VW Tiguan Allspace, the Peugeot 5008 and its own sister car, the Hyundai Santa Fe. If you want something more premium, Audi, BMW and Mercedes can answer your call, albeit at much higher prices.

That said, the Sorento is not exactly slacking on premium creature comforts and kit levels. There are two specification levels – K3 and K4 – with the former offering electric drivers’ seat, electric folding mirrors, heated steering wheel, a 10.25” touchscreen, leather upholstery, heated seats, all-round LED lights and a raft of safety kit.

The latter spec. level adds two-tone leather upholstery, panoramic sunroof, electric passenger seat, electric tailgate and a BOSE sound system. You also get more safety kit, including one particularly unique touch.

Even with just the rearmost seat folded down, the boot is massive – some 800 litres – and with all five rear seats folded down you’d nearly be able to have a game of rounders in there.
Even with just the rearmost seat folded down, the boot is massive – some 800 litres – and with all five rear seats folded down you’d nearly be able to have a game of rounders in there.

Part of the Blind Spot warning system is a side camera which, depending on which direction you indicate to turn, highlights your blind spot with a live view which comes up on either the right or left side of the instrumentation binnacle.

It is a neat touch, but a tad distracting as you could well be fulminating to your passengers about its’ brilliance while forgetting to actually look at the road ahead.

In any event, this is a very well kitted out car and that’s as it should be for something which costs 55 grand for the K4 spec. version we tried.

The size of the car is such that you climb up into it – as should really be the case with any SUV worth its salt, what with the commanding view being one of the primary reasons people want these cars. That’s no surprise given that the Sorento is 4,810mm long and 1,900mm wide.

The feeling of interior space is exacerbated by the width between the two front seats, which accommodates all manner of control elements, cup holders and cubby space worked into the centre console. It is neat, practical and very user-friendly. It is also well laid out and, from the driver’s point of view, all the switchgear and instrumentation are easy to use and assimilate.

From the passenger point of view, the middle seats are easily accessed via doors that open wide and this also provides an excellent entrée to the rearmost pair. The latter – using our standard LeBron James test, will not cope with taller people or even lanky children, but the fact the middle seat can be moved forward and backwards at least provides some flexibility.

Even with just the rearmost seat folded down, the boot is massive – some 800 litres – and with all five rear seats folded down you’d nearly be able to have a game of rounders in there.

For many years Kia was not exactly a watchword for interior sophistication, but with this Sorento they have re-written their own rulebook and taken décor levels to new heights. The whole thing nearly feels premium, what with the quality of the material used and the technologies on offer.

It is worth pointing out too that the car features a total of seven USB ports. Two are cleverly situated in the sides of the front seats, so middle row passengers can plug in easily. But it’s just another example of the level of practicality built into this bus.

And what of the motivational forces? Well, the car comes with a four-cylinder 1.6 litre turbo petrol engine which makes some 180 bhp on its own; it is mated to a 91 bhp electric motor (67 kW) and the system also includes a lithium-ion polymer battery pack.

The symbiosis of all this makes for a total power output of 265 bhp, which sounds almost sports car-like, a top speed of 193 km/h and a 0-100 km/h time of 8.7 seconds and a 57 km electric range, which Kia says can be massaged to 70 km in urban driving conditions. There’s also a six-speed auto ‘box and a complex 4x4 system (which is not available on the diesel version of the Sorento).

Like all PHEVs, the claimed consumption levels are somewhat removed from reality (1.6l/100km, or 176 mpg), but the reality is more like 7.2 l/100 km, or 38.7 mpg) over a varied routes and distances.

On the road, this big bus is not the fleetest machine you’ll ever park yourself in and while it is an excellent cruiser and will wallop about the place solidly, put the pressure on and you soon see those four small cylinders come under wilting pressure from the two-tonne kerb weight. Consequently, some overtaking manoeuvres have to be planned carefully.

On the road, this big bus is not the fleetest machine you’ll ever park yourself in and while it is an excellent cruiser and will wallop about the place solidly, put the pressure on and you soon see those four small cylinders come under wilting pressure from the two-tonne kerb weight.
On the road, this big bus is not the fleetest machine you’ll ever park yourself in and while it is an excellent cruiser and will wallop about the place solidly, put the pressure on and you soon see those four small cylinders come under wilting pressure from the two-tonne kerb weight.

That said, the Sorento does not drive like a tank and the chassis set-up is such that there’s no wallowing around the place, even on B-roads. Even so, this is a car whose best attributes are on display when the driving style is relaxed and not frenetic.

It is worth noting too is that the 4x4 system does actually provide you with the genuine ability to take on all manner of off-road stuff. Just remember that it is not fully of the mountain goat genre.

All told, though, the Sorento ticks a lot of boxes for people who want green cred in an immensely practical package that is also exceptionally comfortable and boasts oodles of driver and passenger-friendly kit.

Some badge snobs might baulk at the asking price for a Kia – but I doubt very much if people (at least those who get over themselves) who do purchase will have many regrets at having done so.

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