We’re behind the wheel of the new Kia Sorento PHEV.
When Kia launched its new Sorento last year, the range only featured a hybrid among diesel and petrol offerings – not a plug-in hybrid.
So here it is: the company car tax and BIK-busting version of Kia’s largest SUV.
A key? How old-fashioned and rather unexpected in a vehicle that also includes cutting-edge technology. It’s also unexpected in a modern car that costs £44,955.
But never mind – I like simplicity. And we are testing the entry-level version of the car in ‘2’; go up a grade and keyless entry features.
Even our car is expensive for a Kia, but you have to bear in mind that there aren’t that many large seven-seat SUVs on the market that are also PHEVs. Volvo’s XC90 T8 Recharge is one of them and you won’t be buying a new one of those for under 50 grand.
So here’s the hardware spec. Under the bonnet we have Kia’s 1.6-litre, four-cylinder direct injection petrol engine, which combined with an electric motor produces a maximum power output of 261bhp.
The 67kW electric motor is sandwiched between the engine and a six-speed automatic gearbox. All Sorentos are four-wheel drive, including this one.
Electric-only range for the Sorento is quoted as 35 miles. You’d be doing well to manage that but late 20s should be possible.
Although we covered around 400 miles while testing the big Kia we didn’t start with a full battery.
What I can tell you is that the Sorento averaged 43mpg on the trip – not bad going for a car that weighs 2,099kg, albeit one that had just a driver and no luggage.
Slipping inside the Sorento, remembering that you have to put a key into a slot to turn it on, and we’re ready to go.
One of the things I love about Kias and their stablemates at Hyundai is the simplicity of their control layouts.
Sadly, that’s not quite the case in the Sorento as there’s a somewhat scattered collection of buttons and switches with a few touch-sensitive controls thrown in. But the important functions you will want to get to quickly and often, such as heating and audio settings, are straightforward and obvious.
The new Sorento has clean and tidy styling that makes the 4,810mm long and 1,900mm wide Kia look slightly smaller than it is. The car is built on an entirely new platform and that’s paid dividends on interior space. There’s more legroom for both front and middle seat passengers and more headroom for the latter.
The two rearmost seats are best left for kids, but there’s more room than there is in Mercedes-Benz’s seven-seat GLB or in Land Rover’s Discovery Sport.
We found the regular Sorento which we drove in October last year a bit slow to get going. But with the extra power available in this PHEV version, particularly from the 90bhp electric motor, it is much smarter pulling away from junctions.
Before we used up the battery power, the car did hesitate as it worked out whether it wanted to use electric or petrol power, but once you’re on the fly the transition is virtually seamless.
Performance for overtaking is more than adequate. You have the choice of several driving modes including Sport, which brings both motors into play. This is not a remotely sporty car so leaving it in comfort is the best option.
Nineteen-inch alloy wheels are standard on all plug-in hybrid Sorentos, and don’t give quite as good a ride as the smaller wheels available with other powertrains.
It’s still a comfortable car for long journeys.
If you’ve got access to a charging point at home, have a large family and, better still, can take advantage of the 11% BIK tax, then this latest big Kia makes a lot of sense.
Especially compared with the specification you get for your money against the few rivals it has.
Kia Sorento 1.6 PHEV ‘2’
Five-door SUV Price: £44,995
Engine: 1.6-litre, four-cylinder petrol, plus electric motor, 261bhp
Fuel consumption: 176.6mpg
Volvo XC90 T8
A beautiful machine with lots of class, but not cheap. £65,540
Mercedes-Benz GLB220d AMG Line Premium Plus
No PHEV model, but it’s a well-built and practical car. Even the design is growing on me.
Skoda Kodiaq 2.0 TDI Sportline
A diesel, but economical and well-equipped in this high spec.