Regular readers will now know the general malaise that engulfs us here at Examiner Motoring when the topic of PHEVs is brought to the table. We don’t particularly like them and don’t think they are the future of cars.
However, this hate is nothing in the face of an industry that has invested billions in developing PHEVs and is intent on getting as much of that money back as possible before this transitional technology on the road to full electrification becomes redundant. Critics and unbelievers are damned.
By most popular estimates, this gives the industry about three to five years to sell as many of these things as possible before their time runs out. That being the case, expect to see a lot of them in your front garage yards in the coming months and years.
In fact, several Examiner Motoring memos have been put in place before the end of this year alone, and we expect to see several of them again next year. Last week we tried one of the premium models in this segment – the Mercedes GLC 300 de – and found it to be a good version of these things as we’ve encountered so far.
So what about PHEV this week? Well, it’s the biggest Kia ever sold in Europe, the Sorento, and to many eyes in this part of the world it’s what might be called an « American car », why? Well, it’s huge.
Admittedly, it’s not as huge as Telluride, which is aimed specifically at the Yankee market and has been a huge hit for Kia in the US. But, by European standards, this is a big car – it has a working seven seat after all – and we European developers can fairly judge that it’s designed primarily for those on the other side of the pond.
Sorento has many first-class competitors, not least of which are cars such as the Skoda Kodiaq, Seat Tarraco (Which we reviewed here recently and positively), the VW Tiguan Allspace, the Peugeot 5008 and its sister car, the Hyundai Santa Fe. If you want something more exclusive, Audi, BMW and Mercedes can answer your call, albeit at much higher prices.
However, the Sorento doesn’t quite shy away from its premium amenities and equipment levels. There are two trim levels – the K3 and K4 – with the first offering the electric driver’s seat, power-folding mirrors, a heated steering wheel, a 10.25-inch touch screen, leather upholstery, heated seats, comprehensive LED lights and a suite of safety tools.
The last specification. The trim level adds two-tone leather upholstery, a panoramic sunroof, an electric passenger seat, an electric tailgate and a BOSE audio system. You also get more of the security toolkit, including a particularly unique touch.
Part of the blind spot warning system is a side camera that, depending on which direction you’re turning, highlights your blind spot with a live view shown on either the right or left side of the instrument bay.
It’s a neat touch, but it distracts your passengers as much as it can blast off its brilliance while forgetting to actually look at the road ahead.
Anyway, this is a well-equipped car and that’s how it should be for something that costs 55k for the K4 spec. The version we tried.
The size of the car makes you climb it – as it really should be with any SUV that’s worth its salt, with the driving point of view being one of the main reasons people want these cars. This is not surprising given that the Sorento is 4,810 mm long and 1,900 mm wide.
The feeling of interior space is exacerbated by the width between the two front seats, which accommodates all kinds of controls, cup holders and the little space that operates in the center console. It is stylish, functional and very easy to use. It is also well designed, and from a driver’s point of view, all switches and devices are easy to use and understand.
From the passenger’s point of view, the middle seats are easily accessible through the doors that open and this also provides excellent access to the rear pair. The latter – using our standard LeBron James test, won’t handle taller people or even skinniest kids, but the fact that the center seat can be moved forward and backward at least provides some flexibility.
Even with the rear seat only folded down, the luggage compartment is huge – about 800 liters – and with all five rear seats folded down, you’ll almost be able to play a circle game there.
For many years, Kia wasn’t exactly the go-to for interior sophistication, but with this Sorento they’ve rewrote their rulebook and raised trim levels to new heights. The whole thing looks like excellent, what about the quality of the materials used and the techniques on offer.
It should also be noted that the car has a total of seven USB ports. There are two cleverly on either side of the front seats, so middle-row passengers can easily connect them. But it is just another example of the level of practicality that is included in this bus.
What about motivational forces? Well, the car comes with a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine that produces around 180 horsepower. It is connected to a 91 hp (67 kW) electric motor and the system also includes a lithium-ion polymer battery pack.
Coexisting all of this makes for a total power output of 265 hp, which looks almost like a sports car, a top speed of 193 km/h and a 0-100 km/h time of 8.7 seconds and an electric range of 57 km, which Kia says can be massaged up to 70 km In urban driving conditions. There is also a six-speed automatic transmission and a complex all-wheel drive system (which is not available in the diesel version of the Sorento).
Like all PHEVs, the claimed consumption levels have been somewhat removed from the reality (1.6 l/100 km, or 176 mpg), but the reality is like 7.2 l/100 km, or 38.7 mpg) on various roads and distances.
On the road, this big bus isn’t the fleet you’ll ever park yourself in, and while it’s an excellent cruiser and you’ll be cruising around hard, squeeze it in and soon you’ll see these little four cylinders shrivel up from the two-ton empty weight of the car. Thus, some overtaking maneuvers must be carefully planned.
However, the Sorrento doesn’t ride like a tank, and the chassis doesn’t ride around, even on B roads. However, this is a car that shows its best traits when the driving style is relaxed and not hectic.
It is also worth noting that the all-wheel drive system really does give you the real ability to handle all kinds of off-road things. Just remember that they are not complete mountain goat type.
Finally, though, the Sorento ticks a lot of the boxes for people who want green credibility in a highly practical package that’s also exceptionally comfortable and features a range of driver- and passenger-friendly equipment.
Some badge snobs may shock the asking price of a Kia – but I very much doubt that people (at least those who beat themselves up) who buy will regret doing so.
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