2022 Kia Sorento Plug-In Hybrid Road Test Review | Great SUV if you can get it

2022 Kia Sorento Plug-In Hybrid Road Test Review | Great SUV if you can get it

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SIMI VALLEY, Calif. – If you drive a car and like it, but no one can actually buy one, does it actually exist? That’s the dilemma faced with the 2022 Kia Sorento Plug-In Hybrid, a nicely packaged midsize SUV with a superb electrified powertrain that seems to be less attainable than a Ferrari. Even Kia’s all-electric EV6, which is in short supply and subject to dealer markups, is in comparative abundance to the Sorento PHEV. While there were 68 EV6s shown for sale in the Greater Los Angeles area on the day this was written, there were only 25 Sorento PHEVs in the entire country. And that’s just according to new car listings on Autotrader – Kia’s official inventory shows zero.


Most of this has to do with components shortages, especially for batteries, but it also speaks to how in demand the combination of crossover SUV and plug-in hybrids are. It’s for a good reason, too: it makes a ton of sense. The vast majority of miles for family haulers like the Sorento are going to be short, grocery-getting ventures or picking the kids up from school. The Sorento’s estimated 32 miles of electric range should be more than capable of covering that. Indeed, I had no problem matching that range figure during our time grocery getting and picking the kid up from school. Just plug it in for 3 hours and 45 minutes at night using a 240-volt outlet (or longer with a conventional plug), recoup that electric range, and off you go again running on electricity (mostly, but more on that in a moment).

Then, for those once-in-a-blue-moon scenarios people also buy big family SUVs – road trips and other long journeys – the Sorento PHEV behaves like a normal hybrid, using a combination of gas engine and electric motor to go as long as you and the gas tank can. No range anxiety, no need to plug in, and therefore no need to sit at an Electrify America station for 40 minutes as you would with an EV6 in need of a recharge. Plus, unlike plug-in hybrid sedans like our long-term Volvo S60 T8 and BMW 330e, SUVs like the Sorento Plug-In Hybrid don’t lose a substantial amount of cargo capacity, if any. The spare tire is replaced by a can of goo and some prayers, but the Sorento PHEV would’ve performed just as well in a luggage test as its gas-only sibling did.

Beyond the benefits inherent to any PHEV SUV, the Sorento impresses with its distinctive type of plug-in hybrid powertrain. Like the not-quite-as-unobtainable Sorento Hybrid, the PHEV features a 1.6-liter turbocharged inline-four and conventional six-speed automatic. This unique combo results in a smooth, torque-rich and just-plain-normal power delivery complete with gear changes and therefore without the sort of gear-less droning and raspy engine note of  some of Toyota’s well-known powertrains (a combination of naturally aspirated inline-four and CVT-like motor/transmission unit). The PHEV adds a bigger, 66.9-kilowatt electric motor than the HEV’s 44-kilowatt motor, plus the exponentially larger, pluginable 13.8 kilowatt-hour battery pack.

Now, although the use of an automatic transmission makes the Sorento PHEV feel a lot more normal than a RAV4 Prime and other plug-in hybrids like the dearly departed Chevy Volt, it’s a bit of a trip for those used to driving EVs. Basically, it’s weird to experience an electric motor being shifted through an automatic transmission – versus the one-speed transmissions found in nearly every EV or the shiftless experience of the Prime, Volt, etc. The S60 T8 and 330e are similar in this regard.

And here’s an important point to be made: the Sorento PHEV will kick on the engine even in full electric mode should you need max acceleration or find yourself on an extended grade. It’ll also keep the engine at a constant idle after start-up should you need to heat up or cool down the cabin. In this instance, you can accelerate, decelerate and accelerate again while the tach remains resolutely glued at exactly 1.1 rpm x 1,000. Weird. Of course, hybrids like the Volt and various Hondas also can do this, but still, benignly weird.