The 2022 Kia Sorento with the turbocharged gasoline engine is a vehicle I like quite a lot. But in this plug-in hybrid form, the Sorento is a bit less appealing. Its problem lies in its drivetrain that never actually seems to want to be electric. And it’s too bad, because the overall package would have been fantastic if Kia had properly engineered it for cold-weather driving.
Refined And Fully Loaded
Before I dig deep into the reasons why the Sorento PHEV isn’t well suited for northern climates, allow me to underline how well executed the overall package still is. Like I wrote during my review of the non-hybrid model, the Sorento is all grown up now, coming through as a refined, stylish and sophisticated midsize SUV. Kia repositioned it to be a two-row midsizer, although it still comes with a third row somehow. It’s just no longer the kingpin of the lineup. That title now belongs to the Telluride.This also means that it now faces new contenders like the Chevrolet Blazer, Honda Passport, Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport, Nissan Murano and Ford Edge. Oh and get this: except for its Hyundai Santa Fe twin, the Sorento is the only one in the segment to come with a hybrid and a plug-in hybrid drivetrain.To achieve PHEV status the Sorento ditches its turbocharged 2.5-liter engine and replaces it with a much smaller 1.6-liter unit. On it’s own, it pumps out a measly 177 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque. To help it out, a second electric motor, powered by a 13.8 kWh lithium-ion battery that’s located underneath the car’s floor, churns out 90 horsepower and 224 lb-ft of torque. Total combined output is therefore rated at 261 horsepower and 258 lb-ft. The entire drivetrain is mated to a six-speed automatic gearbox. In full electric mode, Kia says the Sorento PHEV will drive up to 51 km on a single charge.The PHEV also happens to be the Alpha of the Sorento lineup, filling up the higher areas of the pricing hierarchy. Here in Canada, there are three trim levels to choose from: EX, EX+ and SX. Pricing kicks off at $47,010 for an EX, then $50,595 for an EX+. My tester was a full-fat SX that stickered at a whopping $57,210. Here in the province of Quebec, the Sorento PHEV is at least eligible to a $6,500 EV rebate.
Fuel The Heat
Ok so about that drivetrain in the cold. The 2022 Kia Sorento PHEV isn’t equipped with a heat pump, or a resistance heater. This means that the moment temperatures drop close to the freezing point, that gasoline engine will kick in. Why? Because the battery in a plug-in hybrid isn’t as large as in a fully electric vehicle. It would therefore be way too demanding to ask it to heat up the cabin.
In order to preserve electric range, the Sorento PHEV needs to activate the gasoline engine in order to channel heat in the cabin. Sounds counterproductive? It is, especially considering that up here where I live, we had one hell of a cold winter this year., like -20 Celsius, all the time.This meant that I barely ever even had the chance to sample this thing’s full electric range, because the damn gasoline engine kept ruining the fun. And when it did kick in, it was loud, thrashy and not particularly powerful. That said, things become much worse when the Sorento PHEV decides to run on electrons alone. With only 90 horsepower and a 4,490-pound curb weight, the Sorento PHEV is turtle slow when it’s not feeding on gasoline. Oh, and don’t try to smash that throttle too far, because the gasoline engine will kick in. Again.In other words, any attempt to save fuel in this thing during the winter months will become a tedious game of guessing when the gasoline engine jumps in to ruin your plans. And at the end of the day, you’ll end up with a fuel consumption average in the low sevens. I mean, that’s good, but it’s not necessarily better than what you’ll get from the regular hybrid Sorento.And it’s a shame, because out there in the open road, the Sorento PHEV feels like a premium vehicle from how smoothly and comfortably it goes about its business. The suspension damping in this thing is impeccable, reacting beautifully to road imperfections while remaining dynamic when quickly changing directions. Kia also continues to impress by the effectiveness of its automatic transmissions.But it’s inside that the Sorento PHEV truly flexes its muscles. Build quality is second to none, with a pleasant bluish tone on the dashboard and seats that contrasts beautifully with the with cream areas of the dash and door inserts. There’s neat attention to detail too, like the motifs inside the door cards ahead of the handles, or the interestingly shaped air vents that have a somewhat art deco look and feel to them.The Sorento’s cabin is massive, with plenty of room in the second row and large doors for easy ingress and egress. Accessing that third row is a bit of a stretch for adults though, with legroom back there being only fine.I’d recommend only letting children use those seats. When their not conveniently stowed in the floor, they can become handy if the kids need to bring a plus one or plus two along with them for the ride. Oh, and the Sorento PHEV is still the third most practical SUV in its class by the way, with up to 2,139 liters of available cargo space when all seatbacks are folded flat.Sadly, that plug-in hybrid drivetrain lowers the Sorento’s towing capability down to only 2,000 pounds. Not only is that a 1,500-pound drop from its gasoline counterpart, it’s a full 2,500 pounds less than the old V6-powered Kia Sorento. Then again, I’m not sure that drivetrain can even get great fuel economy numbers with a trailer hooked onto it.The 2022 Kia Sorento PHEV is a fantastic vehicle on paper. The idea of being able to plug this thing at night in order to burn no fuel at all during your daily commute is very appealing indeed, especially in an age where a liter of gasoline now costs well over two bucks. But if you live in a northern area where winter brings snow and sub-zero temperatures, I don’t recommend you get one. You’ll spend those months burning way more fuel than you had originally anticipated. If that’s your reality, I say ditch the PHEV, save a few thousand dollars and go with the standard HEV instead. It just makes way more sense.
Review of the 2022 Kia Sorento PHEV by William Clavey
Midsize Two-Row SUVs
- Refined and well built
- Spacious cabin, with third row seating as a bonus
- Eligible to some EV rebates
- Gasoline engine kicks in during cold weather
- Electric motor lacks serious grunt
- Buzzy drivetrain
5 / 10
Clavey’s Corner is located in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Prices and trim levels discussed in this article reflect the Canadian car market.
Special thanks: Kia Canada
Contact the author: [email protected]