Kia is expanding its PHEV offering with the introduction of the first plug-in hybrid version of its large SUV – the Sorento. Entering the crowded and competitive D-segment PHEV SUV market will mean that the brand has a job on its hands to gain a foothold, but even in pure ICE form the Sorento stacks up well against the opposition. The PHEV is more of the same from Kia, which now claims 25 per cent of European sales being electrified models.
Kia boasts that the PHEV powertrain is both the most powerful as well as the least polluting in the European Sorento line-up. It's common with its Hyundai counterpart; the Santa Fe. Providing the bulk of the power is the brand's 1.6-litre T-GDi turbo petrol engine – good for 178bhp and 195lb-ft in isolation. It features 'Smartstream' technology which optimises the valve timing to improve overall efficiency.
The petrol engine is paired with an 89.7bhp, 224lb-ft electric motor resulting in a total system output of 261bhp and 258lb-ft. Storing the electricity is a 13.8kWh lithium-ion polymer, water-cooled battery pack (a first for Kia) located beneath the cabin floor for minimal impact on interior space. Power is sent to all four wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission.
Unfortunately, Kia is yet to do the various European homologation tests so it is keeping the emissions, efficiency and electric range under its hat for now. We'd reckon on around 30 miles on battery power with emissions in the sub-50g/km range, simply to be competitive with similar cars in the segment.
Now in its fourth generation, the Sorento sits on the same new SUV platform as the Santa Fe – a platform which has been optimised for better handling and reduced NVH, as well as better performance in the event of a crash. Slightly larger than the previous platform, it offers greater interior space for both five and seven seat options.
It's a cavernous car in whichever configuration you go for with 809 litres of cargo space for the seven seat version and 898 litres for the five seat version with two rows of seats in place. Add the third row in the seven seater and there's still 175 litres to play with (just four less than the regular hybrid).
The Sorento PHEV shares almost all of its interior features with the regular and hybrid versions, albeit the 12.3 inch digital instrument cluster is redesigned to cater for the displays needed for powertrain status. The central 10.25 inch touchscreen infotainment system has also now got a charge point locator built into the navigation.
Speaking of infotainment, the obligatory Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity is present and correct whilst buyers can spec a 12-speaker BOSE surround-sound stereo. Cabin mood lighting with 64 colours to choose from adds to the cabin's feel. Also built into the navigation is Kia's UVO Connect telematics, featuring Kia Live services. This offers live traffic updates, weather forecasts, points of interest as well as that all-important charger locator.
There's an alphabet of driver assistance systems available on the Sorento from Kia's Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS). These include forward collision avoidance, vehicle and cycle detection at junctions, blind spot mirrors with blind spot collision avoidance, intelligent speed limit assist and smart cruise with stop and go – among many more. Helping mitigate crashes whilst reversing are a rear view monitor with reverse parking collision avoidance assist, rear cross-traffic avoidance and safe exit assist, which prevents the rear doors from opening if the car detects another vehicle or cyclist approaching. Finally, Kia has implemented its first multi-collision brake system on the Sorento, so full braking is applied when airbags are deployed, helping to mitigate or prevent secondary impacts in the event of a crash.
The all-new Kia Sorento PHEV will be available in Europe, including the UK, in early 2021 once its Hwasung plant has swung into life over in Korea. Every car will come with Kia's renowned seven year, 100,000 mile warranty which also covers the battery and electronics in the PHEV. Sadly, we're going to have to wait a little while before prices and spec levels are finalised for the UK, but we'll let you know as soon as we do.