2021 Kia Sorento PHEV review: Hi-tech hybrid is expensive

The South Korean brand is fast becoming one of Australia’s favourite brands and now it finally has a petrol-electric SUV.

Kia has added hybrid power to its standout seven-seat Sorento SUV. We find out if the big tech upgrade is worth the extra spend.

VALUE

The Kia Sorento PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle) is the brand’s most expensive model.

It’s priced at $81,990 drive-away, a premium of roughly $14,000 over the fully-loaded all-wheel-drive diesel variant.

The sharp jump in price is due to the electric motor and battery, which allow for an electric-only driving range of up to 68km and fuel use of just 1.9L/100km. You can buy a lot of fuel for $14,000.

The Sorento PHEV comes in range-topping GT Line specification and is loaded to the gills with equipment.

Inside, the seven-seat SUV is kitted out with luxe quilted Nappa leather-appointed seats. The front row is heated and ventilated and the second-row seats are heated. The booming 12-speaker Bose stereo is top shelf, while the 12.3-inch digital instrument display and 10.25-inch central touchscreen give the Sorento a hi-tech vibe.

Big 19-inch alloy-wheels add road presence, while a full-size spare is a welcome addition.

Kia guarantees its vehicles for seven years/unlimited km and capped price servicing will set you back $4903 over seven years.

COMFORT

A firm and supportive driver’s seat provides excellent adjustment and forward vision. It is a big machine so there is quite a step up to get in.

The cabin is cavernous with lots of head, shoulder and leg room in the second row. The third row is compact but fine for children.

The modern-looking cabin is kitted out with soft-touch, premium looking materials throughout. Entertaining the kids is simple. There are several USB charging points to keep devices fully loaded on longer road trips.

The PHEV variant is heavier than the regular Sorento, which helps iron out bumps and imperfections in the road, providing a comfy ride.

Insulation is top-notch, blocking out most road and engine noise from the cabin.

SAFETY

The Sorento will automatically brake if it detects a potential collision with a car, pedestrian or cyclist. It’ll also stop you from wandering out of your lane by gently tugging the steering wheel.

Blind-spot monitoring is handy for merging and rear cross-traffic alert will sound an alarm if it detects a passing vehicle when you are reversing out of your driveway or a parking spot.

DRIVING

Power comes from the combination of a 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine and an electric motor. Together they provide a total of 195kW of power and 350Nm of torque, delivered through a six-speed auto and all-wheel drive.

There is plenty of zip off the mark thanks to instant torque delivered by the electric motor. The hybrid set-up works seamlessly in traffic.

Around town you’ll mostly use the electric motor, with the occasional input of the petrol engine under heavy acceleration to prolong the battery life.

Kia claims fuel use of 1.6L/100km. Around town you’ll get close to this as long as the battery has charge, but once the battery is empty, it’ll drink 7-8L/100km.

The diesel Sorento is more efficient on the freeway and the better bet if you are doing regular long drives.

The Sorento is a comfortable cruiser. There is some body lean through corners, which is normal for high-riding SUVS, but on the motorway it feels stable and secure.

VERDICT 3/5

Well equipped and capable big family hauler, but high price makes the value questionable.

ALTERNATIVES

Toyota Kluger Grande Hybrid, priced from about $82,000

Expensive and not capable of any meaningful zero-emission driving, but hybrid set-up is proven and efficient.

Mazda CX-9 Azami LE, priced from about $80,000 drive-away

Ultra luxurious seven-seater, but has a thirsty turbocharged petrol engine.

Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander diesel, priced from about $70,500 drive-away

Shares its underpinnings with the Sorento. Thrifty and grunty diesel engine.

KIA SORENTO GT-LINE PHEV VITALS

Price: $81,990 drive away

Engine/motors: 1.6-litre 4-cyl turbo plug-in hybrid, 195kW/350Nm

Warranty/servicing: 7-year/unlimited km, $4903 for 7 years

Safety: Seven airbags, auto emergency braking, adaptive cruise, blind-spot monitoring, lane-keep assist, rear cross-traffic alert

Fuel: 1.6L/100km

Cargo: 604 litres (5-seater mode)

Spare: Full size

Originally published as 2021 Kia Sorento PHEV review: Hi-tech hybrid is expensive

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