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Driven: 2022 Kia Sorento PHEV – Just Right for the Times

In a world where three-row SUVs are almost a given for family transportation, the 2022 Kia Sorento stands out for offering a high level of utility in a compact package that’s more than easy on the gas.
2022 Kia Sorento PHEV 29 photos
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Sorento’s bigger brother, the Kia Telluride, is a bona fide hit, but some may balk at its large dimensions and may not regularly need the services of a third row, although having one is a definite bonus. Also, the plug-in hybrid drivetrain isn’t as thirsty as the more senior Kia and even provides more than 30 miles of pure electric driving on a charge.

Power comes from a 1.6-liter turbocharged engine mated to an electric motor to put out a combined 261 horsepower. That output is delivered to all four wheels via a transitional six-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters. This is an important element, for when the vehicle is relying primarily on its engine to provide motivation, the transmission feel is seamless without the more elastic response and engine droning associated with continuously variable transmissions.

Performance of the Sorento PHEV is spirited whether enjoying the quick, yet silent, acceleration when in EV mode or its muscular performance when operating as more traditional hybrid. The Sorento’s power is well-matched to its size and the rather compact exterior dimensions makes this people-hauler particularly easy to wheel around in city traffic and the cut-and-thrust of a daily commute.

Kia is on a roll, and it shows it’s not letting up on the competition by offering sharp exterior styling and a handsome cabin that gives the Sorento a premium look. Our pearl white test model sports the “tiger nose” grille design flanked by headlamp units outlined on the bottom with LED daytime running lights. The rear area features crisp character lines and large LED taillamps with a lower diffuser housing trapezoid-shaped exhaust tips. The only odd piece to the design is a satin finish blade behind the rear door that seems to go nowhere or serve any other function that being a bit of extraneous eye candy. Finished in the same tone are the 19-inch five-spoke alloy wheels.

Inside, the cabin is upholstered in navy perforated leather trim. Our SX-Prestige sits atop the lineup and has all the features and creature comforts you’d expect from a flagship. The cabin is light and airy, thanks to the panoramic glass roof. Adding to the upscale aura are touches like the textured side of the dash in front of the passenger, contrasting soft touch materials and ample aluminum accents. The supportive front bucket seats are heated and ventilated.

The center of the dash features a 10.25-inch touchscreen with navigation as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. In front of the driver 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster that incorporates side-view camera imaging when a turn signal is activated. There’s a good blend of capacitive touch and traditional analog controls that makes it fairly easy to fiddle with the radio or the climate controls with minimal distraction. The center console also features a large rotary control for gear selection and a secondary knob for the locking differential on the all-wheel-drive system.

With the center bench seat and rear row, the Sorento can seat up to seven, though the way back is more kid- than adult-friendly. Still, it provides plenty of seating and cargo capacity for what is essentially a slightly larger than compact SUV.

The reality of $5 per gallon gas is another reason why to consider a plug-in hybrid like the Sorento. In its standard hybrid operation, the EPA says its capable of logging 34 mpg combined. Its ability to travel 32 miles in pure electric mode earns it a 79 MPGe rating. The Sorento also comes with a handle 110-volt plug to recharge the battery pack. Typically it will take about six hours for a full charge, and about half that if you have access to a Level 2 240-volt charging setup.

That ability to plug in has its benefits beyond the gas saving when it comes time to buy the Sorento. This top-of-the-line model is hardly cheap, starting at $47,890, which is $4,700 more than the comparably equipped non-hybrid X-Line SX-Prestige. The lowest price Sorento with all-wheel-drive goes for $34,390.

Helping to mitigate a sticker that closes quickly in on $50,000 is the fact that the plug-in version (and not the standard hybrid) is eligible for a federal tax credit of $6,587, which more than offsets the savings of going with a less expensive model. For many families, the 2022 Kia Sorento PHEV delivers both the fuel economy and passenger comfort that’s just right for the times.

 
 
 
 
 

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