Long COVID? Try long Kia. The South Korean automobile maker is suffering lingering post-pandemic ‘sickness’ with its Sorento Hybrid SUV being held up by supply issues and the maker offering the vehicle in top-spec GT-Line only.
The same goes for the Plug-in Hybrid.
The Sorento sports utility vehicle has been a major part of the Kia catalogue for two decades, with the fourth generation seeing the light of day in 2020 in petrol and diesel variants.
Now the range is topped off with petrol-electric hybrids boasting room for seven occupants.
What’s it cost?
The hybrid range kicks off with the front-wheel-drive variant selling for $66,750 before on-road costs.
The all-wheel-drive version carries a $3000 premium, pushing the price up to $69,750. The plug-in hybrid Sorento is on sale from $80,330 before on-roads.
On test vehicle was the entry-level Sorento GT-Line Hybrid with front-wheel drive, which sells for $66,750 ($72,566, driveaway).
Like all Kias, the vehicle is covered by the manufacturer’s seven-year unlimited kilometre warranty, with roadside assistance.
While retaining much of the Sorento family’s physical features, the Hybrid has evolved with a new interpretation of the trademark ‘tiger nose’ grille.
It’s now wider, wrapping around the integrated LED headlights on each side.
This assertive nose is complemented by a wider, lower air intake, incorporating wing-shaped air curtains to channel air around the vehicle.
Customising is the name of the game with a 10.25-inch full-colour touchscreen atop the centre console, plus a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster directly in front of the driver.
A colour head-up display, includes speedo and speed limits which are projected on to the windscreen.
The touchscreen provides access to Apple CarPlay or Android Auto connectivity, satellite navigation details, including a sharp map display and access to the 12-speaker Bose audio.
Sorento gained a five-star safety rating in 2020 and includes autonomous emergency braking with vehicle, pedestrian and cyclist detection, junction assist, lane-keep assist and lane follow assist (centring).
There’s also blind-spot assist, rear cross-traffic alert, parking collision avoidance, adaptive cruise control with stop and go, front and rear parking sensors, driver attention alert, multi-collision braking and safe exit assist.
As well as 360-degree view of the vehicle when parking and blind-spot assist, on activation of a turn indicator, the wide-angle surround view monitor displays live footage of other vehicles in blind spots in the instrument cluster.
It also helps wheels keep their distance from scuffing the sidewalk.
Passive safety is taken care of with seven airbags, including a front centre bag.
What’s it go like?
Quilted Nappa leather appointed seats (front heated and ventilated) set the theme for a cabin of quality materials and craftsmanship.
Three-stage climate control air-conditioning means comfort all round for occupants, while rear window retractable blinds help keep the heat at bay and offer privacy for occupants.
Take time out to choose one of the 64 colours that bathe the cabin in ambient light, pick something from the Sounds of Nature soundscape, or just switch off entirely with the quiet of the passenger talk in-car intercom.
Access to the third row of seats is relatively easy by dropping the 60:40 second-row seat backs with a handle on the side of the base and sliding the seat forward.
Sorento Hybrid is powered by Kia’s 132kW/265Nm four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine combined with a 44kW/264 Nm electric motor, charging a 1kWh lithium-ion polymer battery situated under the boot floor.
Power is put to ground via a six-speed torque converter automatic transmission, operated by a large knob on the centre console and front-wheel drive.
The Hybrid has slipped quietly (literally) into Australia, bringing a new purpose to the Sorento family, thanks to a sophisticated powertrain and some of Kia’s most advanced technology.
Setting off is under the auspices of the electric motor alone producing maximum torque on tap instantly.
The petrol engine joins in tandem only when needed for added acceleration or under load.
These switches back and forth are so smooth as to be undetectable to the driver.
Indeed, the only indication that the car is acting strictly as an electric vehicle is by the letters EV displayed on the instrument panel.
It is not possible to control these actions manually; they are automatic powertrain decisions.
Drive modes, such as ECO, Normal, Sport and Smart can be dialled up by means of a centre-console knob. I found Smart worked well for me as a family cruiser.
Kia claims a combined urban/highway petrol consumption of 5.3L/100km. The test vehicle recorded 6.7L/100km in a mix of mainly town and some country driving.
Anxiety about how far the Sorento hybrid will go without flattening the powertrain battery is absent as the engine and regenerative braking do the charging automatically.
By activating the turn signal, the wide-angle surround view monitors display live footage of other vehicles in blind spots on the instrument cluster.
Loading is made easy by the hands-free smart power tailgate, which can be brought into operation by the key holder pausing behind the vehicle for three seconds for the tailgate to automatically open.
There’s 187 litres of cargo space behind the third-row (no room for a full-size spare).
Fold these seats flat to increase space to 616 litres. With the second-row seats folded flat, 2011 litres of space is freed up.
Braked towing is up to 1650kg.
What we like?
Low fuel consumption
Quality materials and craftsmanship
Three-zone climate control air conditioning
Access to the third row of seats relatively easy
Hands-free smart power tailgate
What we don’t like?
Space saver spare wheel
The bottom line?
With hybrid orders reportedly banked up to the end of next year, the Kia Sorento Hybrid GT-Line front-wheel drive offers a compelling case for being one of the best large seven-seat sports utility family cruisers around.
Step up to the all-wheel drive model for access to Terrain Select to help take care of tricky conditions off road in sand, mud, snow etc.