First Drive: Kia Sorento 2 PHEV
Packed with hybrid technology, Richard Gooding finds the first plug-in version of Kia's Sorento SUV offers impressive and spacious zero-emissions-capable practicality
What is it?
Since the launch of the first Sorento in 2002, Kia has taken massive strides in the UK. Now encompassing a 12-strong core model family, the South Korean company is more firmly focusing on its electrification strategy. Seven models already offer hybrid, plug-in hybrid or full electric powertrains, and will be joined by the flagship EV6 later in 2021. The Sorento PHEV is the most powerful and lowest-emitting model in the brand-new fourth-generation Sorento range, as well as the first-ever plug-in version – a 'self-charging' hybrid (HEV) has been available since late 2020. The largest car Kia currently builds, all new Sorentos have seven-seats and four-wheel-drive as standard.
What range does it have?
Kia quotes an official all-electric range of up to 35 miles on the WLTP combined economy test cycle.
How does it drive?
At nearly five metres long, the latest Sorento is a big beast. But, there's a reason for that – a seven-seater, its large footprint means the big Kia a very practical proposition. With the rearmost row of seats folded down, there's 604 litres of luggage space, just four litres fewer than the self-charging hybrid model. Fold all the rear seats down, and that volume increases to 1,988 litres, just eight litres fewer than the HEV.
Up front, the Sorento offers an elegantly styled dashboard with a nice choice of finishes and an impressive level of quality. The eight-inch colour touchscreen infotainment system and 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster work well and are clear, with crisp, sharp graphics and easy to use menus. The weights of the controls are well-judged, too, and seven years of connected services are available with Kia's UVO Connect system.
With all-wheel-drive, the plug-in Sorento is very stable on the road, the three driving modes – Eco, Smart and Sport – allowing drivers to tailor the experience to their mood or needs. Surprisingly given its 2,680kg weight, the electric assistance from the 67kW electric motor is easily felt on take-off, and along with the 178bhp 'Smartstream' turbocharged petrol engine – which regulates the duration that the intake valves open and close depending on driving conditions giving different combustion cycles to optimise engine performance and efficiency – gives the Sorento PHEV a decent turn of speed. However, press the accelerator a little too vigorously, and the Kia is a little too quick to fire up its petrol engine. All-electric running can be prioritised, though, by a press of the 'HEV/EV' button.
Three terrain modes – Snow, Mud and Sand – are adjusted by a rotary dial on the centre console, and hint at the Kia's off-road prowess. Similarly, the six-speed shift-by-wire automatic gearbox is also controlled by a rotary dial or by tactile paddle shifters behind the steering wheel. On the move, the plug-in Sorento is very refined, the ride firm but comfortable.
What does it cost?
Available in three trims, the Sorento '2' PHEV kicks off the range at £44,995. Poised to be the fleet favourite grade, it offers 17-inch alloy wheels, air conditioning in the third row of seats, an eight-inch colour touchscreen infotainment system, heated seats and steering wheel, LED lighting, rear parking sensors and smart cruise control.
Priced from £48,895, the Sorento '3' PHEV adds a 10.25-inch infotainment system, 19-inch wheels, leather power-adjustable seats, privacy glass, rear self-levelling suspension and a powered tailgate. The range-topping Sorento '4' PHEV niceties include a 12-speaker Bose sound system, a customisable head-up display, a panoramic sunroof, and ventilated front seats.
Kia currently offers the Sorento PHEV with a Business Contract Hire (BCH) rate of £385 per month for a three-year/30,000 mile agreement, and expects a 60/40 fleet/retail split.
How much does it cost to tax?
As it generates a low 38g/km of CO2 emissions, the Sorento PHEV is exempt from VED charges in the first year of registration. However, after this period, it attracts the highest annual 'Premium' rate charge of £480. Benefit in Kind (BIK) is pegged at 11 per cent for 2021-2022, rising to 12 per cent in 2022-2023 and 2023-2024.
Why does my fleet need one?
A handsome, very spacious, and well-made SUV, the Kia Sorento PHEV will appeal to fleet drivers who favour practicality with the benefits of low emission vehicle running costs. Well-equipped, enjoyable to drive, and safe, too, it is pricey, and those reduced running cost advantages will only materialise if it's plugged in as often as possible. If used as intended, though, the Sorento PHEV is an impressively likeable and welcome entrant to the plug-in SUV club.