With demand almost as shocking as its price tag, the plug-in hybrid Kia
Sorento is a pricey but desirable family SUV. Here are five things you
It could be the perfect family all-rounder
Let’s set aside the chunky $81,080 price a sec. Speaking as a parent, the
seven-seat Sorento PHEV is alpha SUV roaming the school car park. Only
those with children can appreciate the space taken up by their school kit,
sports kit, musical instruments, books, prams, car seats, toys and clean-up
products. This hulking Kia swallows them all in a cavernous interior with
604L boot. Despite this plug-in’s batteries, that’s only 12L less than a
Sorento petrol or diesel. It travels only 56km on a single electric charge
before a four-cylinder petrol engine fires up, but that’s ample for daily
duties. Think school run, groceries, sports training and friends’ houses, all
on zero emissions. A strong case made for modern, suburban family life.
Kia’s priced it high, but correctly
The price is right, clearly, because there’s a monumental waiting list for
these PHEVs. That’s down to a trickle supply into Australia thanks to high
global demand, and we’re queuing to pay around $86,000 to drive one
away. You’re not hard done by for such coin. This range-topping GT-Line
brings Nappa leather quilted, power, heated and ventilated seats, Bose
surround sound, 10.2-inch infotainment, 12.3-inch digital driver display,
64-colour ambient lighting and a brilliant split-view 360-degree camera.
There’s a remote engine start on the key fob, and it’ll drive itself in and out
of tight parking spaces while you stand and watch. Pointless, but fun.
Your kids will grow up spoiled, entitled brats
Remember your parents’ car as a kid? In the back we had ashtrays, wind-
down windows, no seatbelts and up to five siblings on the same sweaty,
lava-hot vinyl bench seat. Treat your little ’uns to a Sorento GT-Line and
middle row seats heat their privileged posteriors, there’s climate control to
all three rows, sunshades, eight USB ports for their myriad devices and a
passenger intercom: the driver speaks in a normal voice and is heard
through back seat speakers. “Would Sir like another Cherry Ripe?” Its two
reclinable rear seats are just about adult-sized with the centre row sliding
forward on runners. Sadly, curtain airbags don’t stretch to this third row,
but it’s otherwise very safe with useful driver aids like blind spot view
through the screen, junction assist and rear cross traffic assist.
It’s a rather lovely driving experience
An EV button commands it drives only on electric. Around town it’s
blissfully quiet, smooth and with reasonable torque pull. If you’re gentle on
the throttle the petrol engine never fires up until you’ve exhausted the
battery. We managed a maximum of 51km before it did so. Full charge
returns after four to six hours plugged into a household socket. Official
economy’s 1.6L/100km, but PHEV figures vary mightily dependent on use.
On a long trip, with battery empty, it averaged 6.9L/100km. For context, I
tested the $16,000-cheaper Sorento diesel at 7.7L/100km. But this PHEV’s
combined 195kW/350Nm gives decent shove, and in town and on
highways it cruises in hushed loveliness. It corners reasonably, although
third row occupants complained of bounciness. Finest experience? Mild off-
roading in Terrain Mode, panoramic roof open, silently rolling through
nature on electric only.
Just buy the diesel version
The Sorento’s a brilliant large SUV, but the plug-in hybrid’s not the pick. It’s
almost $20,000 more than the same grade (thirsty) petrol V6, but the $16k
cheaper diesel’s the pick: you can buy a lot of diesel with the difference.
This PHEV, when used in the urban jungle, means far fewer trips to over-
priced servos, but studies show PHEV owners can be lazy at recharging
batteries. The petrol engine safety net means no range anxiety.
The waiting list for this PHEV makes that diesel even more attractive. Kia’s
flagship SUV remains a cracking family car: attractively tough, comfy,
loaded, easy to drive and it feels expensive. Be aware an updated Sorento
soon arrives, doubtless improving on an already superb family SUV.