2023 Kia Sorento plug-in hybrid new car review

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

should know.

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.

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