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Road Test: Kia Sorento PHEV

Plug-in hybrid version of the Sorento offers more savings and refinement, finds Martyn Collins.

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SECTOR LARGE SUV PRICE £42,495-£50,595 FUEL 176.6mpg CO2 38g/km

Kia’s fourth-generation Sorento large SUV launched last summer and on top of the current petrol hybrid and diesel models, the Korean manufacturer has now made a particularly significant addition for fleets in the form of a plug-in hybrid model.

The PHEV version of the Sorento combines the same 1.6-litre, four-cylinder T-GDi petrol engine as the standard hybrid version, but this time with a 13.8kWh battery. It’s married up with a 91hp electric motor, all-wheel drive and six-speed automatic transmission, giving a combined 265hp of power.

Top speed is 119mph, with acceleration to 60mph taking 8.4 seconds. Yet despite this performance, fleet drivers will be more compelled to hear that this Sorento has an official combined WLTP consumption of 176.6mpg and emits 38g/km WLTP CO2 emissions, making its the most environmentally friendly Sorento. Along with its 35-mile pure electric range, this means it qualifies for an 11% BiK rate for 2021/22.

The full-electric mode figure sounds about right as we achieved 29 miles – although our battery wasn’t fully charged. Charging using the single-phase 3.3kW charger takes almost three and a half hours, or just over five hours by conventional plug. However, unlike some other plug-in hybrid vehicles, this Sorento can tow a braked trailer up to 1,500kg in weight.

Outside, the PHEV version looks unchanged from the rest of this distinctive range, apart from larger 19-inch alloy wheels and an extra filler cap at the back for electric charging. Inside, the only small compromise is slightly less boot space at 175 litres – compared to 179 litres for the hybrid – but there’s still the practicality of seven seats. Boot space rises to 809 litres with the rearmost row folded (821 litres for the standard hybrid).

The Sorento plug-in hybrid is available in ‘2’, ‘3’, or the range-topping ‘4’ trim we tested – although it’s the 2 trim that’s expected to be the key fleet model – and it has to have Kia’s most stylish and highest-quality interior yet. As you’d expect all trims are well-equipped. Particular highlights are the digital instrument cluster, standard on all PHEV models. However, the 10.25-inch touchscreen, Nappa leather trim, ventilated front seats and Bose Premium Sound System mark the top 4 trim out.

Performance is more impressive than the standard hybrid Sorento, and with the bigger battery, it seems keener off the mark – and all in eerie silence. Then, at high speeds the switch between petrol and electric power is almost seamless. Sadly, the impressive refinement goes out of the window when accelerating, as the engine sounds strained and unrefined. Sport mode is where this Sorento feels at its most dynamic, with both the engine and the motor working in tandem – although it gives unnecessary, artificial weight to the steering.

The Kia’s handling is best described as tidy – considering the height of the body and extra weight of the PHEV drivetrain. However, the ride remains unsettled on the standard 19-inch alloy wheels. But this does improve at speed.

The Sorento was always a refined high-value package, but the PHEV version makes it even more attractive to fleets but with a few compromises. The more affordable standard hybrid version is still not a cheap option, but the savings might make it more worthy. 

The Verdict
As comfortable, spacious and stylish as the standard Sorento. However, the PHEV brings welcome extra cost savings that should prove attractive to fleets and it should be given close consideration when looking at large SUV rivals.

The Lowdown
Key Fleet Model: Kia Sorento 2 PHEV 1.6 T-GDI AWD
Strengths: Refined drive, spacioius interior, equipment
Weaknesses: Not cheap, third row of seats for children only

Fleet World Star Rating

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Martyn Collins

Martyn has 18 years experience as a motoring journalist, working across a wide selection of B2B and consumer titles. A car enthusiast since his early years, Martyn has a particular interest in the latest models and technology and in his spare time enjoys driving his own Minis.