2021 Kia Sorento PHEV 7
2021 Kia Sorento PHEV 7

Kia Sorento Hybrid: It’s the chef’s special

2021 Kia Sorento PHEV 12

What is it?

Like a night out at a Korean barbecue house, you get to enjoy all the magnificent marinated meats plus dessert with the set menu.

Such is the case with the Kia Sorento PHEV, which delivers as much — along with a seven-year warranty.

The Sorento family is quite extended with no fewer than nine look-alike models from which to choose. 

There are four front-wheel drive models with 3.5 V6 petrol powertrains, starting from $46,850, with a bit more for the Sport, the Sport+ and GT-Line at $64,290.

The next four have all-wheel-drive, 2.2-litre diesel power and a similar hierarchy, with the GT-Line priced at $67,290.

Then there’s the chef’s extra special dish — the PHEV or Plug-in Electric Vehicle — which also has all-wheel-drive and GT-Line finish, but comes with a 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine and 14 kWh lithium-ion polymer battery pack — paired with a transmission-mounted permanent magnet synchronous electric motor.


2021 Kia Sorento PHEV 5

What’s it cost?

Try to get that into your head, then proceed to the price column: $81,990, driveaway.

The petrol engine is a chilli-hot with 132kW of power and 265Nm of torque, while the e-motor adds up to 67kW and 304Nm — for a system total of 195kW and 350Nm.

With the restaurant, your tummy will hurt from all nom noms. With the Sorento PHEV — your wallet will protest from doing your bit for climate change.

So, if  your brain tells you it’s a good idea to save the planet, jump into the new Sorento and you’ll find more features than there are varieties of meats.

Many of them let you know of their presence by emitting beeps. Others insist on ‘assisting’ you as is the wont of today’s vehicles that assume you’re still on training wheels.

There’s Automated Emergency Braking with pedestrian/cyclist detection and ‘junction assist,’ lane-keep assist, follow lane assist, blind spot assist, rear cross-traffic assist, adaptive cruise control with stop/go, driver attention alert, dual-LED projector-type headlights, a 360-degree camera system, blind spot view monitor side cameras — even parking collision avoidance assist stops you from bumping into parked vehicles, the garage door or jaywalkers.

A particularly good safety item is the safe exit assist, which locks the doors so you or your passengers can’t open them in the face of oncoming traffic.

Indicate left or right and you get a clear picture of what’s behind, or alongside your car. Very cool.

Should you actually whack into something, there are seven airbags to save your bacon.

Inside, you get an almost endless list of features.

Think of those multi-paged Korean/Thai/Chinese restaurant menus and you’ll get the picture.

There’s a big (12.3-inch) high-definition digital dash, 8.0-inch head-up display and 10.5-inch panoramic touchscreen.

Add to this satnav, 360-degree parking camera, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, DAB+ digital radio, 12-speaker Bose audio system, heated and ventilated power-adjustable front seats, heated outboard second-row seats and leather-trimmed steering wheel, quilted nappa trim, the gear ‘lever’ is a rotary knob, there’s a panoramic sunroof, powered tailgate, mood lighting, wireless phone charger, dual climate control and a lot more.

2021 Kia Sorento PHEV 4

What’s it go like?

On the road, with all the bells and nudges and beeps from the lane assist, Sorento can feel like an over-inflated boat bobbing as it bobs from side to side, with steering inputs countering your hand-eye coordination. 

You have to turn it off each time you start up or become driver desensitised. 

In sport mode, with assist off, there is a more solid feel to the wheel and a nice zing from the 1.6-litre turbo. 

The motor has a lot of top end spin to help with charging the batteries and is well matched torque-wise for smooth power delivery.

It’s interesting, as there is not much more than 70km of electric range in default Eco mode before the power is exhausted.

It means if you live about 20 minutes from your daily destination, you can comfortably zip there and back in silent EV mode before returning home to charge it.

It comes with a power cord that just plugs into a domestic socket.

It could be a conundrum if you are using the Eco setting only, but the chefs at Kia added a conventional piston-pushing, petrol-drinking motor to save the day.

Once the motor seamlessly chimes in, it’s so dampened that you may not realise it has begun charging the battery. Yay!

If you’re frugal and savvy in balancing charging and usage, you may expect to get a combined 850km from both power sources. 

Ultimately it’s a head scratcher because the weight of the EV system obviously affects fuel economy.

Still, Sorento PHEV stacks up well against Euro competitors like the BMW X5 hybrid.

It definitely beats the Germans on price and features.

The default drive mode is Eco and as stated it runs like a full time EV unless you ask for more spice from the accelerator.

Vrooms then happen before the desired speed is achieved, then the motor shuts down and returns to EV mode.

It can run to 100km/h in a shade under 10.0 seconds.

Sport mode is my speed. EV is the opposite and I was impressed with the lack of starter motor. 

From a standing start, the mid-sized seven-seater launches forward in EV mode then the motor bumps into action and lets you play with the six-speed box via paddle shifters. 

The steering gets some weight and the vehicle feels a bit more connected than in tree-hugging mode.

Smart mode alternates between the two power sources depending on driver inputs.

It’s a grower as a daily.

You can set yourself different goals switching between the power supply and it gets better after a few drives because of the amount of tech to get your head around. 

Sort of like cooking your thin raw beef strip with chilli ginger soy sauce and throwing it down, or using the flame pot provided.

We recorded an average of 4.2L/100km in our week with the luxurious two-tonne, multi-featured, electro-mechanical machine. 

2021 Kia Sorento PHEV 10

What we like?

  • Tech wows
  • Good looking
  • Very tasty
  • Good efficiency 
  • Great features 
  • Build quality tip top

2021 Kia Sorento PHEV 1

What we don’t like?

  • $$$
  • Small battery only range 
  • Tummy aches

2021 Kia Sorento PHEV 3

The bottom line?

If you are sure you want to contribute your bit to the Greta theory, then this could be the SUV for you.

It’s good looking and beautifully finished — but ultimately expensive.

2021 Kia Sorento PHEV 11


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Kia Sorento PHEV, priced from $81,990, driveaway
  • Looks - 8.5/10
  • Performance - 7.5/10
  • Safety - 9/10
  • Thirst - 8/10
  • Practicality - 7.5/10
  • Comfort - 8.5/10
  • Tech - 8.5/10
  • Value - 7/10

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