Once upon a time we'd have baulked at the notion of £45k for a Kia, but the Korean brand has come an awfully long way in terms of quality, technology and driving experience. Alongside Hyundai, Kia is also leading the way in terms of battery electrification of its fleet, with the Sorento being the latest model to gain a half-way house, plug-in hybrid powertrain.
It's the same system as can be found in the Hyundai Tucson – but that's not bad thing. It combines a 1.6-litre T-GDi turbocharged petrol engine with a near-90bhp electric motor, offering a total system power of 261bhp and 258lb-ft of torque. This makes it the most powerful Sorento in the range by some margin.
Electrical power is supplied through a 13.8kWh battery pack which means the Sorento is good for 34 miles on the WLTP cycle – albeit final homologation is yet to be completed. The packaging of the battery under the front seats, 67 litre petrol tank beneath the rear seats and 3.3kW on-board charger under the boot, is such that there's no impact on cabin space.
Combined, on the WLTP cycle the Sorento delivers 38g/km of carbon dioxide, making it by far the cleanest in the range. However, if you read the small print, running the Sorento consistently with the battery depleted will see emissions rocket to over 170g/km.
Inside the Sorento is space for up to seven with the rearmost seats in place. This still leaves 175 litres of luggage room, though with the car in a regular five seat configuration there's a far more significant 809 litres. Regardless of how many people are on board, the all-new architecture which has been rolled out by Kia and Hyundai is said to offer better ride compliance and driving dynamics.
One thing that Kia has built its modern reputation on is the level of equipment that comes as standard. It's no different with the new Sorento.
Drivers get a 12.3 inch digital dashboard which has received a makeover for the PHEV version to show powertrain status. As standard on the '2' grade car, there's an 8 inch central touchscreen through which connectivity and infotainment are controlled – including full integration with Apple and Android systems – and also acting as the display for the reversing camera. USB charging is also provided for all three rows of seats, and the dual zone climate control has ventilation outlets all the way to the rearmost seats.
Move up to the level '3' Sorento and black leather upholstery replaces fabric, and the middle row outer seats are heated. Mood lighting is also included. When it comes to tech integration, the level 3 car gets a larger 10.25 inch touchscreen featuring Kia's UVO telematics system and Kia Live services such as local weather, traffic and points of interest.
Move up to the flagship level ‘4’ and the Sorento and black Nappa leather comes as standard, as does a 10-way adjustable driver's seat and ventilated front seats. A panoramic glass roof improves the sensation of space whilst a head-up display gives drivers important information. Finally, a 12 speaker BOSE sound system makes in-car entertainment more immersive.
Across the Kia Sorento range there is a raft of safety features. Forward collision avoidance, including pedestrian and cyclist warning is standard, as is lane follow assist, intelligent speed limit assist, manual speed limit assist, driver attention warning, hill start assist, downhill brake control and – for towing – trailer stability assist. Selectable driving settings of 'Smart', 'Eco' and 'Sport' alter the chassis and powertrain to suit the driving situation.
From level 3 up, highway driving assist offers a level of autonomy for motorways and A-roads by controlling steering, acceleration and deceleration – using the car's radar-guided cruise control and on-board cameras to do so. Finally, level 4 cars get blind-spot collision avoidance, a 360-degree all-round monitor and parking collision avoidance, which helps detect and stop car park bumps and scrapes.
As we alluded to, the new Kia Sorento PHEV doesn't come cheap. The level 2 car starts at £44,995, moving up to £48,895 for the level 3 version, and a stout £53,095 for the level 4. It's available to pre-order now from Kia.