9 Dec 20

Test drive Kia Sorento Hybrid: a unique non-diesel 7-seater SUV

Large or blended families looking for a comfortable, economical and affordable SUV but no diesel have mainly been searching in vain. Today, they have a solution that ticks all the boxes: the Kia Sorento Hybrid.

Practical and good-looking family transport for six or seven over mainly shorter distances - let's say 5 to 25 km per trip? Few brands have been able to provide this up to now. After all, a diesel is out of the question with this type of use, so you end up with the petrol models, whether or not electrically assisted. If we cap CO2 emissions at 135 g/km for tax reasons and set the price limit at €40,000 excluding VAT, then the list is very short. It’s the Toyota Grand Prius + or nothing. We leave the factor "good-looking" to your judgement.

You may have been considering the plug-in hybrid versions of the BMW X5, Volvo XC90 or Mercedes GLE. They are a no-go, as they cost at least €55,000. What is more, not everyone has the option of recharging the car at home, which is a prerequisite for getting the financial and ecological picture right. The fact that Kia is launching the new Sorento as a hybrid that cannot be externally recharged is no coincidence. After all, this type of propulsion offers a good compromise between cost and fuel efficiency, which translates into CO2 emissions that are lower than the comparable diesel version and therefore quite attractive taxation. For less than 40k you get plenty of SUV - with its 4.81 metres it is only 14 cm shorter than the aforementioned Swedish SUV - with a lot of goodies, powered by an electrically assisted 1.6 T-GDi with a system output of 233 hp and CO2 emissions of 124 g/km.

For completeness sake: the new Sorento also comes as a PHEV and as a diesel for those who either have the possibility to plug their car in, or drive a lot of motorway miles.

Family man

On paper the Sorento Hybrid looks promising. The 132 kW / 180 hp strong 1.6 combustion engine gets the help of an electric motor of 44 kW / 60 hp, fed by a lithium-ion polymer battery of 1.49 kWh. It mainly assists when driving off and is only charged by recuperating kinetic energy during coasting or braking. 

The Sorento HEV is not a rocket, but no slug either. It is aimed at the family man or woman, who want to be able to take the children to school safely and comfortably and only occasionally make use of the full 233 hp - probably when he or she is alone on board. In any case, we felt that the Sorento HEV lends itself to a relaxed and anticipatory driving style. It spoils you all the more with its driving comfort, quiet operation (thanks in part to the standard acoustic windscreen) and... a  fuel consumption of around 7 l/100 km.

The suspension has been designed to cope with a variety of European roads. The Sorento does not nosedive when braking hard and there is no lack of grip - at least not in the 4WD version. Some drivers will find that bumps are absorbed rather dryly. It is not uncomfortable, but given the family appeal, a slightly softer suspension might have been better.

Opulent and digital

In terms of materials and assembly, Kia no longer needs to receive lessons from the best European manufacturers. Not only does it look top notch, it also feels solid and pleasant. What is more, the Sorento prides itself on its modularity and ease of entry to the third row, which is second to none. With the folding seats stowed away, you have a decent 813 litres at your disposal. If you also push the back rests of the second row seats down, you can transport more than two cubic metres.

The instrument panel is of the digital and thus customisable type. It complements the large touchscreen in the centre stack, which is easy to operate and offers all the connectivity you could wish for. A rotary controller in the centre console would have made the HMI better still, especially when you are driving, but the gear selector and drive mode selector apparently won the battle. You could argue that you can use the voice assistant to control the infotainment, but as usual, its operatoin is not flawless.

For the rest, the Sorento's safety equipment is exemplary. Autonomous emergency brake with pedestrian recognition, intelligent speed limitation, trailer stability assist and multi collision brake are standard. Also worth mentioning is the system which warns the driver that there are still passengers in the back seat when he leaves the car. 

The Kia Sorento is a welcome addition to the segment of large SUVs. It is not cheap (anymore), but it offers a lot of value and quality for its money, keeps its thirst at bay and above all it is spacious, practical and comfortable. In short, it has everything to become a large family favourite.   

Photo credit: Kia, 2020


Authored by: Dieter Quartier