Expert Reviews

2022 Kia Sorento PHEV Review and Video

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This score is awarded by our team of expert reviewers after extensive testing of the car
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Before there was the Telluride, Kia had its three-row situation sorted with the right-sized Sorento.

Sure, it was always a little cramped next to larger competitors; but it was the kind of SUV that offered seating for seven when it was needed without being much bigger than the average five-seater. Add in the brand’s value-packed pricing, and there was plenty to like about it.

Rather than put this sport utility out to pasture with the arrival of its sizeable sibling, Kia delivered a fourth-generation Sorento that’s even better than before, bidding farewell to the V6 engine that used to power it in the process. Not content to stop there, the 2022 Kia Sorento PHEV takes all the appreciable benefits of before and adds a bit of all-electric driving range as part of an efficient plug-in hybrid powertrain.

More crucially, though, it qualifies for tax rebates that make it as affordable as its conventional hybrid sibling. Those looking for a family-sized SUV that can cover short trips under battery power would be well-served to see what this plug-in Sorento has to offer. But without regular charging, the conventional hybrid could be the better pick.

Value: 9/10

It’s somewhat surprising how few family-friendly plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) exist in this part of the world, particularly when it comes to mainstream models. There’s the Canadian-made Chrysler Pacifica, and the upcoming redesigned gas-electric Mitsubishi Outlander – that’s it for the other three-row offerings. While pricing for the latter has yet to be announced, the plug-in Pacifica starts at $57,090 before tax but including its non-negotiable freight fee of $2,095 and ranges up to $62,025. That pricing also doesn’t reflect any available provincial or federal government rebates.

The Sorento PHEV EX starts at $46,845 before tax but with its $1,850 freight charge included, with stops at $52,445 for the EX+ and $56,845 for the SX. Like the Pacifica, all three trims qualify for federal rebates, although to a maximum of just $2,500 instead of the $5,000 that minivan qualifies for. Even so, the price of that EX trim drops to $44,345 with the full federal incentive applied – barely more than the conventional hybrid Sorento in the same trim. On top of that, there are provincial rebates in British Columbia, Quebec, and the Maritimes that take thousands more off the purchase price.

Looking at smaller alternatives, the Toyota RAV4 Prime ranges from $46,880 to $58,880 before tax, while the current Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV that’s only available in a five-passenger configuration ranges from $46,098 to $54,098. Hyundai also builds a Santa Fe PHEV that has a similar footprint to that of the Sorento – and it uses the same powertrain – but is only offered with seating for five. It’s priced between $38,624 and $40,724, depending on trim.

Fuel Economy: 9/10

PHEVs occupy something of a peculiar space in the market, offering limited all-electric driving range that might not seem like much at first glance, while in some cases also not being quite as efficient as a conventional hybrid once the battery is depleted. The Sorento is an excellent example of the differences between the two, as it’s offered with both forms of gas-electric powertrains, as well as a couple different gas engines on their own.

In the case of the Sorento PHEV, its 13.8-kWh battery pack allows it to travel an estimated 51 km under nothing but electric power. Once it’s used up, real-world testing saw this three-row return a combined average of 8.1 L/100 km across some 150 km – worse than the 6.7 L/100 km combined the conventional hybrid is rated for, but similar to the plug-in Pacifica’s fuel consumption in similar circumstances.

Of course, keeping the battery topped up is key to making the most of the Sorento PHEV. On a Level 2 charger, it’s estimated to take roughly three-and-a-half hours to hit 100 per cent (it’s not capable of DC fast-charging). Either way, that means a typical one-way commute can be completed under pure electric propulsion, with a half-day hooked up to a charger in between covering the second leg of the daily journey.

Fuel consumption drops significantly with regular charging, with an official combined rating of 4.5 L/100 km that was easy to match – but it also didn’t last long. During a full day of filming with a full tank of gas and the battery at 60 per cent (limited charger availability meant it wasn’t possible to reach a full charge first) saw combined consumption settle at that number after about 50 km of driving; but it quickly started to climb once the battery was depleted, and was creeping back towards 8.0 L/100 km by the end of the day.

Power: 9/10

The Sorento PHEV pairs an electric motor with a 1.6L turbocharged four-cylinder gas engine, with combined output of 261 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. That puts it behind the larger turbo motor that powers the majority of the gas-only version’s lineup, including the off-road-inspired Sorento X-Line, but this gas-electric setup manages to feel peppier overall. The instant surge of electrons works in unison with the turbocharged torque to ensure that there are no undesirable delays in getting this sport utility moving.

Driving Feel: 9.5/10

Also helping in that regard is a properly geared automatic transmission instead of the continuously variable type typically used in hybrids, as well as a responsive all-wheel drive system that’s quick to send torque where it’s required. It’s a mechanical setup, unlike the one Toyota employs that uses a separate electric motor to drive the rear wheels, but even when caught in an early January snow squall the Sorento PHEV remained sure-footed, providing adequate traction on unpaved rural roads.

On clear pavement where it can be best appreciated, the ride and handling proves nicely balanced, with well-weighted steering that’s a good match for the Sorento’s size. Too often, SUVs are hampered by deceptively light steering that can make it easy to misjudge the mass being moved and how much input is needed. Not here, though, with progressive resistance that requires a little more effort as the Sorento’s speed increases. On the opposite end of the spectrum is a brake pedal that’s perhaps a little too light and lifeless, but a firm foot will bring this SX tester’s 2,064 kg (4,550 lb) or so to a stop with relative ease.

Comfort: 7/10

In line with the general character of this sport utility is suspension tuning that’s crisp yet forgiving, with little body roll to contend with when driven reasonably. And yet there’s also the right amount of squishy damping to absorb road imperfections and offset the extra weight and rigidity of the big battery pack (by comparison, a similar conventional hybrid version weighs some 100 kg less). While the ride quality isn’t on the same level as a proper premium plug-in like the Lincoln Aviator Grand Touring and its adaptive suspension, it’s not bad considering this costs tens of thousands of dollars less.

The cabin even looks a bit like a convincing imitation of a premium entry in this top SX trim, with its perforated leather upholstery that’s finished in a grey so light it almost looks ivory (navy is also available). Sadly, though, it feels firmly rooted in the mainstream, with a driver’s seat that’s a little flat and not especially comfortable, while far too much wind noise makes its way inside. While the quietness of the electric operation can be somewhat rudely interrupted with a heavy right foot, the 1.6L engine buzzing incessantly under throttle, it’s the vortex-generating door mirrors that are far more unsettling.

Styling: 9/10

It might not be the most serene cabin on the market, but at least it’s stylish – mostly. There’s simply far too much glossy black plastic inside, all of which acts as a magnet for dust and smudges; otherwise, it’s elegant and upscale for the price, while retaining the same unique HVAC vents and textured plastic panels on the doors and dash found in the X-Line trim tested last year. It’s yet another example of the way Kia manages to differentiate its models, not just from the rest of the market but the rest of the lineup.

The exterior styling is a little more macho than before, but it boasts a few unique touches that play off what’s a fairly standard profile. There’s also very little to indicate it’s a PHEV, with nothing more than a tiny badge on the tailgate and an extra fuel door that hides its electrical connector setting it apart from the rest of the Sorento lineup.

User Friendliness: 9/10

It’s much the same inside, with only a single button on the console hinting at its efficient ways. That’s where it can be cycled through a trio of modes – hybrid, electric, and automatic – that determine how the battery is used. Notably absent from the list is a proper battery save setting that allows those electrical reserves to be kept for later use. While the hybrid setting comes closest, it’ll still tap into what’s stored as the system sees fit, while the auto mode will cycle between electric and hybrid operation. Finally, electric mode allows the Sorento to run on nothing but electrons until the battery is drained.

The rest of the PHEV-related menus and settings are housed within a single hub page in the infotainment interface, which remains among the easiest around the use. The EX trim employs an eight-inch screen, while the EX+ and SX versions get a 10.25-inch unit that can call up features like Android Auto and Apple CarPlay in a widescreen format. The larger display also features built-in navigation that plots nearby charging stations, although many were missing from this tester’s software.

Most of the rest of the controls make good sense, with the exception of the capacitive touch panel dedicated to most climate controls, and more capacitive for infotainment duty. While temperature adjustments are made via rockers, and there are proper buttons for front and rear defrost as well as the system’s automatic setting, all such switchgear should have a tactile feel.

Features: 9.5/10

The Sorento PHEV SX leaves little to be desired as far as content, particularly for the price. Yes, $57,000 before tax and incentives in the case of this top trim is expensive; but then Kia provides plenty of reasons to pay that much. Heated and ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, heated second-row seats, leather upholstery, driver’s seat memory settings, a premium stereo, and a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster are among the niceties included in the SX.

The EX+ skips most of those features but still gets heated seats front and rear, the upgraded touchscreen with built-in navigation, and a panoramic sunroof, while the EX gets plenty of good stuff in its own right. Power-adjustable heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connections, more USB ports than a gaming computer (although they’re all of the USB-A variety), a wireless phone charger, proximity door locks, and a hands-free power tailgate. All trims also work with Kia’s connected services smartphone app that allows the vehicle to be remote started, locked and unlocked, and even charged from a corresponding device, while also providing access to information like charge status and fuel levels, and a vehicle finder, among other functions. Unfortunately, as with a previous test, the app proved finicky all week, constantly requiring the login credentials to be resubmitted despite saving them for faster access.

Safety: 8.5/10

Advanced safety gear is respectable in the cheapest Sorento PHEV trim, although certain features are saved for the two most expensive models. Forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking is standard, as is blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, front and rear proximity sensors, and lane-keeping and following assistance. Adaptive cruise control and the brand’s highway-driving assist that provides automated steering inputs are both saved for the EX+ and SX trims, along with so-called safe exit assist that can prevent the doors on either side of the vehicle from being opened when oncoming traffic is approaching from the rear.

Those two trims also get an upgraded forward collision warning system that can alert the driver to oncoming traffic when turning left, while the top trim gets camera-based blind-spot monitoring that provides a live look at either side of the vehicle in the instrument cluster screen when the corresponding turn signal is activated, as well as low-speed reverse automatic braking, a surround-view monitor, and a head-up display.

Practicality: 9/10

Every one of those features is handy to have, but the Sorento’s size might well be its best asset regardless of what powers it. Those who frequently need extra seating would do well to check out the larger Telluride or the Carnival minivan (although neither is available with anything other than a V6 engine), but if a third row is required only occasionally, this SUV is all but perfectly sized.

Its footprint is similar to that of Subaru’s rugged Outback wagon, which makes the cavernous cabin a feat of engineering excellence. There’s slightly less legroom in the second row than the gas-only version offers because of the big battery pack, but there’s more than enough that it should be nothing more than a footnote. More importantly, the space in the third row is unchanged, and that means it’s genuinely usable when called upon.

The second-row captain’s chairs slide on rails to provide more or less cargo room as required, with 1,090 to 1,274 L behind them, depending upon how they’re positioned. With them stowed, cargo room swells to 2,139 L – not far from the 2,455 L total in the Telluride. It’s only with both rear rows upright that the Sorento suffers cargo shortcomings, with just 357 L to work with.

The Verdict

Like with any electrified vehicle that qualifies, the ability to combine the federal tax rebate with a provincial one is what makes the 2022 Kia Sorento PHEV so appealing – but that’s not all this sport utility has going for it. While it isn’t quite as economical as the conventional hybrid version without regular charging, that ability – plus the all-electric driving range that comes with it – is a handy trick to have up its sleeve, as is its cleverly packaged interior that provides enough room to seat six when required.

It wouldn’t be right to call it perfect; the excessive wind noise alone is enough to knock it off its pedestal. There are at least a couple other minor annoyances, too, like the capacitive climate controls, or the glossy plastic panels on the dash, doors, and console. The lack of fast-charging capability is also something of a letdown, although drivers of all-electric vehicles are probably just fine with that fact, as it keeps PHEVs from hogging the quickest public chargers.

But then ride quality is outstanding, the drive experience is low-hassle without feeling lazy or lethargic, and its dimensions make it easy to live with. It’s a case where the good most certainly outweighs the bad, with the Sorento PHEV being perhaps not the complete package, but a well-rounded one at the very least. The same has long been true of this right-sized sport utility based on its interior space and usefulness alone, and the addition of value-packed plug-in power certainly doesn’t hurt its case.

It probably bears repeating that the shopper this makes most sense for is the one who’s ready to plug it in regularly; otherwise, the conventional hybrid on its own is more fuel efficient. But with its bigger battery pack topped up, the Sorrento PHEV has a lot to like – and for a relatively affordable price.

Engine Displacement 1.6L
Engine Cylinders Hybrid I4
Peak Horsepower 261 hp net
Peak Torque 258 lb-ft net
Fuel Economy 2.8 / 3.2 / 3.0 Le/100 km cty/hwy/cmb
Cargo Space 357 / 1,090 / 2,139 L behind 3rd/2nd/1st row
Model Tested 2022 Kia Sorento PHEV SX
Base Price $54,995
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $1,850
Price as Tested $57,195
Optional Equipment
$250 – Platinum Graphite paint, $250