Kia Sorento Hybrid review
|Car type||Fuel economy||CO2 emissions||0-62mph|
The latest Kia Sorento is one of the best illustrations yet of the brand's evolution from a bargain-basement offering in the early 2000s to a genuine alternative to the best established premium brands today. As well as boasting up-to-date looks, the 2021 model ushers in big changes under the metal, where previously diesel was the only engine choice.
You can still get a diesel Sorento (albeit in the 3 trim level only), but Kia expects greater customer interest in the new hybrid and plug-in hybrid options that are now available. The latter doesn't go on sale until 2021, so for now we're focusing on the non-plug-in hybrid Sorento, which is known as the 1.6 T-GDi and is available in full range of 2, 3 and 4 trim levels.
Even the 2 is priced fairly steeply, though, with a starting figure of £38,845 – more than comparable seven-seater SUV rivals such as the SEAT Tarraco and Skoda Kodiaq. As it's a Kia, though, you do get a lot of standard kit for your cash: there's an eight-inch infotainment system, heated seats and steering wheel, LED headlights and 17-inch alloy wheels. The only thing you might feel short-changed by is the lack of leather upholstery.
Mid-range 3 costs an additional £3,900 and for that you get 19-inch wheels, a 10.25-inch dashboard screen, full leather trim, seat heating front and rear, power-adjustable front seats, ambient lighting, wireless phone charging and a powered bootlid.
The range is topped off by the 4, but its near-£47,000 price tag may give pause for thought. Only you can decide if it's worth it to enjoy (among other features) 10-way powered seat adjustment for the driver, ventilated front seats, a panoramic sunroof, a head-up display, 12-speaker Bose stereo and additional active safety kit, such as blind-spot camera, 360-degree camera and parking collision avoidance system.
The Sorento hybrid's 1.6-litre petrol hybrid engine is new: it has a four cylinders and a turbocharger, plus a 1.49kWh battery and an electric motor. Together the engine and motor produce a maximum 227bhp and 350Nm of torque, so performance is strong despite the car's considerable weight. Four-wheel drive and a six-speed automatic gearbox are standard across the range.
This is a 'full hybrid' in the mold of the Toyota Prius or smaller Kia Niro Hybrid, so there's no real scope for extended running in electric mode as there is in Kia's plug-in hybrids. What the electric motor does do is ensure a sprightly getaway when you put your foot down, as well as allowing the car to coast without using the engine for short distances or at very low speeds, thereby improving average fuel economy.
When you do put your foot down, the 0-62mph sprint is done in a decent 8.7 seconds, but bursts of acceleration like this are also accompanied by a rather harsh noise from the engine, so you may be tempted to take things easier just for the sake of peace and quiet.
Another aspect of performance important to many large SUV buyers is towing capacity and in this respect it's worth knowing that the Sorento Hybrid is only rated to haul a 1,600kg caravan or trailer – a good deal less than the 2,500kg managed by the 2.2-litre diesel model. Also disappointing is the Sorento's ride quality, which isn't as smooth as we'd expect from a large family SUV. Even on the smallest available wheel size (17 inches), it fidgets about too much on the broken road surfaces often encountered in the UK. Both the Land Rover Discovery and Skoda Kodiaq do better here.
The upside of that firm-ish suspension is decent handling on a twisty back road, but that may be a less pressing priority for the typical Sorento customer. They're unlikely to be disappointed by the amount of space on offer inside, though, as well as the fact that each of the car's seven seats gets its own cupholder and USB port.
Three adults can sit in the second row without an undue amount of knee clashing, while even adults will find the rearmost seats bearable on all but the longest journeys – something that can't be said for all seven-seater SUVs. Boot capacity is excellent, too: 813 litres with the rearmost seats folded down and 1,996 litres with both the second and third rows dropped.
Overall, the Kia Sorento Hybrid ticks a lot of important boxes for the family SUV buyer: it's massively spacious, reasonably efficient, looks good and (in 2 or 3 trim at least) gives you a lot of equipment for your money. Those with a big horsebox, caravan or boat trailer to tow are still better served by the diesel, while the ride quality may also disappoint some, but there's still a lot to like about the Sorento Hybrid.