The Kia Sorento Plug-in Hybrid at a glance
New look, but just the old one?
The American look of the new Kia Sorento won me over from the start. The Korean stands there broad, stocky and self-confident and, especially at the rear, is strongly reminiscent of stately SUV road cruisers from “over there”. The flair of the larger Telluride, which is not available in Europe, resonates a little. The Sorento has truly undergone a change, because the previous generations looked more than harmless compared to the current number four.
The quality offensive from Hyundai / Kia, which has been rampant for several years, also seems to have done the Hochbeiner good. At 4.81 meters in length, the Kia Sorento combines fresh technology, partly luxurious full equipment and an attractive look. The positive impression continues in the interior, although Kia succumbs to the same misconception of many other manufacturers that numerous surfaces have to be made in high-gloss black, which is sensitive to dirt and scratches.
Plug-in hybrid with a reasonable range
But let’s get to the technical side: In the case of the plug-in hybrid, the 1.6-liter four-cylinder petrol engine known from Kia works under the hood, which thanks to turbocharging delivers a whopping 132 kW / 180 hp (combined fuel consumption 1.6 l / 100 km; combined power consumption 16.1 kWh / 100 km; combined CO₂ emissions 36 g / km²). It is supported by a 67 kW / 91 PS electric motor on the rear axle, which, according to the data sheet, results in a system output of 195 kW / 265 PS.
The electric motor gets its energy from a gross 13.8 kWh battery, which is housed in the vehicle floor in a space-saving and centered manner. According to Kia, the range should be over 60 kilometers, in practice we managed around 50 kilometers, which is still not a bad value for a two-ton SUV. It should be enough to commute to work. On the other hand, the charging power of just 3.3 kW with alternating current is meager, which means a charging time from zero to 100 percent in just over four hours with an empty battery.
Beeping, gong and the environment warn
Anyone who knows a little about Kia shouldn’t experience any nasty surprises in the Sorento for the first few meters. It should also be known that Korean cars like to beep, gong and warn, which occasionally leads to confused moments. For example, when the Sorento suddenly plays a warning tone on the open road until it becomes clear to you after the umpteenth trip that the navigation unit only wants to warn of the next fixed speed camera.
The Kia also wants to protect pedestrians and cyclists and therefore projects the image of the blind spot cameras when the indicator is set into the speedometer. A clever idea that unfortunately only works really well on dry roads.
When asked about the infotainment system, our impression of the first test of the Kia Sorento was confirmed. The high-resolution 10.25 inch screen in the center console is nice to look at, but there are still weaknesses in terms of operation. Accessing all screen functions from the driver’s seat is not easy. The operation is fragmented, not always logical and still looks old-fashioned. However, the route guidance of the navigation system, including good traffic jam avoidance and the integration of live traffic data, should be positively emphasized.
Harmonious engine duo with little sporty ambition
In the chapter on driving, two major points are immediately apparent: the transition between electric and gasoline drives is almost imperceptible to the driver, and the two engines normally mesh perfectly. Only when more power is demanded does the six-speed automatic transmission stumble and needs a clear second to put the gas command into motion.
If the booming 1.6-liter turbo is left to its own devices at some point after the battery has run empty, it looks noticeably strained, which generally applies to the Sorento plug-in hybrid when you want to accelerate to over 130 kilometers per hour.
Such driving maneuvers naturally do not go unnoticed by the consumption monitor either. If you give the ready-to-drive 2.2 ton Kia the spurs, consumption of over 14 liters will quickly appear in the on-board computer. If, on the other hand, you move the Sorento plug-in hybrid with a bit of common sense, the average consumption is 7.5 liters of premium gasoline per 100 kilometers. The tiny tank volume of just 47 liters also encourages the driver to take it a little more leisurely so as not to have to roll over to the petrol pump too often.
Too hard chassis
What the engine duo lacks has been exaggerated in the chassis. It is a real pleasure to take corners with the Kia Sorento plug-in hybrid, the steering is sufficiently direct, but the overall driving comfort suffers from the exaggeratedly sporty set-up. Regardless of whether it is loaded or empty: The Sorento rolls very stiffly, especially on the rear axle, and reacts too sensitively to transverse joints. The fact that the rolling noises are also clearly heard in the passenger compartment does not suit such an amply dimensioned touring SUV either.
In terms of space, the Kia Sorento plug-in hybrid then creates a conciliatory end. Optionally available as a seven-seater, the test car always offered four people and their luggage an unprecedented amount of space, which even larger and more expensive representatives of the SUV class do not always automatically manage. The trunk also holds a generous 693 to a maximum of 2,077 liters of luggage and thus only loses a minimal amount of storage space compared to the regular combustion variants (697 to 2,085 liters). By the way, the plug-in hybrid is allowed to pull 1,500 kilos, which is a little less than the full hybrid with 1,650 kilos.
The Kia Sorento 1.6 T-GDI Plug-in Hybrid impresses with its masculine appearance, plenty of space and extensive equipment. The additional electric motor also makes sense on short journeys (up to 50 kilometers), but less on long journeys. The big Korean is noticeably lacking in drive and driving comfort, the operation remains cumbersome and a price from 53,940 euros makes the plug-in hybrids (despite subsidies) not exactly a bargain. For over 10,000 euros less, the more recommendable diesel is still in the price list. (Text: Maximilian Planker | Pictures: Manufacturer)