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Road test | Kia Sorento plug-in hybrid: existential question

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While virtually all manufacturers are going with promises of electrification backed by investments of tens of billions of dollars, the all-electric supply currently remains rather thin. Granted, times of semiconductor shortage aren’t helping, but what about the alternatives? The plug-in hybrid, is it relevant? Kia says yes with a new plug-in livery for its Sorento. We have tried it.

Design


PHOTO PROVIDED BY KIA

The side line is rather conventional, except perhaps the design of the rear windows which wants to give the impression of a roof line whose slope is a little less accentuated.

Completely redesigned last year, the mid-size SUV is presented with more angular features that clash with the roundness of the previous generation. Without rethinking the genre, this Sorento offers an interesting look. The grille, still presenting the visual signature of the “tiger nose”, incorporates elegant hooks composed of diodes acting as daytime running lights and indicators, thus decongesting the rest of the face. The side line is rather conventional, except perhaps the design of the rear windows which wants to give the impression of a roof line whose slope is a little less accentuated than it really is. It is also there, a little lower, that we notice the only real difference of this plug-in livery with the presence of an additional hatch to access the charging plug on the passenger side. The rear lights made up of two vertical pieces, one of which stretches out over the side wall, complete a visual impression which is intended to be more cut out.

On board


PHOTO PROVIDED BY KIA

The interior of the 2022 Kia Sorento plug-in hybrid

When you step aboard this Sorento, you can see that this backpacker theme is extended by means of ventilation nozzles with a rather fleshy rim, giving an industrial allure. Moreover, it is the omnipresence of glossy black plastics that prevail to compose a unit integrating the infotainment screen and digital indicators. This material, which gets dirty too quickly, is also used on the central console. In addition to this fact, we note a tangible sensitivity to detail, reflected in nuances of textures and the use of lighting to create a contemporary atmosphere. On the controls side, it’s a mix of tactile keys, rather slow to react at times, and physical. Admittedly, the fact that this Sorento offers an additional row of seats is a relevant selling point, but be aware that it is reserved for children, due to its excessively low seat and difficult access.

Under the hood


PHOTO PROVIDED BY KIA

The hybrid engine of the 2022 Kia Sorento plug-in hybrid

On first contact, the heat engine is activated almost instantly on start-up. A behavior that leaves you wondering, especially if you take into account that the battery is fully charged. This exposes from the outset a technical limit of this plug-in Sorento: it depends on the small four-cylinder turbo (1.6 L) to activate its heating. If the electric mode precisely uses the 90 hp electric motor to move the Sorento over fifty kilometers, the heat engine has never been silent throughout the week of testing marked by temperatures below freezing. Fortunately, as it is teamed with a classic automatic transmission, its noise level is very acceptable when it intervenes, even under strong acceleration. Note that its small gasoline tank (47 L) limits total autonomy. Overall performance is not really convincing, despite the theoretical excess torque provided by the electric mill. It must be said that with only 261 hp to move more than 2000 kg, the mandate is not simple.

Behind the wheel


PHOTO PROVIDED BY KIA

Apart from certain times of drought, the damping isolates the passenger compartment well from bumps.

There is very little to fault or take away from the performance of this plug-in Sorento. It is a generalist product in its approach that does – almost – everything well. The steering is precise and the dosage of its assistance makes it pleasant to handle. But, as is too often the case, there is nothing communicative about it. Apart from certain times of drought, the damping isolates the passenger compartment well from bumps. In any case we can not characterize this Sorento as being sporty, but it is very predictable when taking a series of turns. The mechanics are also discreet and we feel a beautiful solidity to the rendering, resulting in the absence of a cacophony of ill-adjusted plastics. The braking, which is often problematic in its adjustment due to the energy recovery system, is easily modulated and behaves well when testing its limits in an emergency exercise.

Embedded technologies


PHOTO PROVIDED BY KIA

The 2022 Kia Sorento plug-in hybrid infotainment display

Like all the latest models launched by Kia, this Sorento receives the latest vintage of the Korean brand’s multimedia system. Using a dark purple as the primary color, it comes with a 10.25 ”widescreen touchscreen, for more expensive versions, which projects an excellent image quality. The latter is bordered by tactile keys and two knobs: one to adjust the volume and the other to ensure part of the manipulations. The interface is generally well laid out, but the responsiveness of the touchscreen is not constant. It is therefore necessary to press a few times on a tab more than once. The touch keys placed around also have this problem. Kia could also have improved the electrical component of the system by integrating estimates on the effects of various variables on range.

The verdict


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When the power reserve of the Kia Sorento plug-in hybrid 2022 runs out, its small gas tank limits its range quite markedly.

With the standard all-wheel drive and its entry bill of $ 46,960, from which we subtract $ 6,500 in incentives (federal and provincial together), the Sorento plug-in hybrid can certainly be an interesting avenue for a small family. Its 50 km of theoretical electric autonomy can easily fill a daily journey. Even so, when one focuses on the performance of this hybrid group, the SUV cannot aspire to threaten the established players. The intervention of the gasoline engine is too frequent both because of the low power of the electric motor and the need for its support to the heating. In addition, when the electric reserve is empty, its small gasoline tank limits its autonomy rather markedly. An undoubtedly commendable effort of a product which displays good overall qualities, but the execution is not perfect due to certain compromises.

Notebook

All-wheel drive, a compromise

Obviously, the use of all-wheel drive is appreciated for its traction, but reduces the efficiency of the hybrid group. To work around this problem, the Toyota RAV4 Prime employs an electric motor at the rear so as not to affect performance, which is not present on the plug-in Sorento.

Recharge time

To fully recharge the battery of this Sorento, it takes about 2 hours with a 240 V terminal, while on a 120 V outlet, the recharging time climbs to 9 hours.

Regenerative system adjustment

The Sorento Plug-in Hybrid does not have adjustable regenerative braking like many plug-in and electric vehicles. This obviously decreases its capacity to store energy.

Towing capacity

Its towing capacity is 907 kg, which is the same as the Sorento’s base livery.

Trunk

The plug-in hybrid version is not penalized in terms of the capacity of the rear trunk, which is limited to 357 L when the backrests of the third bench are in place. It grows to 1,274 L when folded down, or 476 L more than a Sportage.

Technical sheet

  • Model under test: Kia Sorento SX plug-in hybrid
  • Engine: L4 DOHC 1.6 L turbocharged + electric motor
  • Power: 177 hp at 5500 rpm (gasoline engine) + 90 hp (electric motor) for a total of 261 hp
  • Torque: 195 lb-ft @ 1,500-4,500 rpm (gasoline engine) + 224 lb-ft (electric motor) for 258 lb-ft total
  • Transmission: six-speed automatic
  • Drive architecture: front transverse hybrid engine, all-wheel drive
  • Consumption (manufacturer): 6.9 L / 100 km (engine in hybrid mode) and 51 km of range
  • Price (with options, transport and preparation): $ 57,195 (price range of $ 47,210 to $ 57,195)
  • Competitors: Hyundai Santa Fe plug-in hybrid and Mitsubishi Outlander plug-in hybrid
  • Anything new for 2022? New hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions



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