When you look at the mainstream segment, you’ll find several three-row hybrid options. The Kia Sorento Hybrid, Toyota Highlander Hybrid and Sienna, Ford Explorer Hybrid, and Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid all make the cut. However, only one has a plug (the Chrysler) and it’s a minivan. If you must have a plug-in hybrid and want an SUV, your only choice is the 2022 Kia Sorento PHEV. Until the 2023 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV arrives, it has no direct competitor. That doesn’t mean Kia rested on their laurels and put this model out without much thought. Oh no. This rig just ensured that anyone else entering this segment has a high bar to clear.
2022 Kia Sorento PHEV: What’s Different Versus the Sorento Hybrid?
The biggest differences between the 2022 Kia Sorento PHEV and Sorento Hybrid lie under the skin. It adds a more powerful 90-hp electric motor, a 13.8-kWh battery, and AWD as standard equipment. Together with the 1.6-liter turbo-four and six-speed automatic transmission, the plug-in hybrid’s combined output stands at 261 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque.
On the surface, you’ll differentiate the Sorento PHEV with a PHEV badge on the tailgate and the charging port on the rear right side. You can also distinguish FWD and S AWD Sorento Hybrids with their 17-inch alloy wheels. The EX AWD model gets the same 19-inch wheels as the Sorento PHEV. All plug-in models come exclusively in SX and SX Prestige grades. Both electrified variants come exclusively as a six-seater with second-row captain’s chairs.
Thanks to its positioning as a range-topper, the Sorento PHEV features upscale materials and outstanding fit and finish. This interior feels like it’s a class above especially in the available three-tone Navy/Black/White combination. Excellent sound insulation, lots of padding, and satisfying controls amplify the SUV’s upscale ambiance. They also complement the interior’s simple and clean design, which sports silver trim to brighten things up some more.
As with other Sorento models, treat the plug-in hybrid variant as a 4+2. Use the third row only for quick trips when shuttling people or fold them down to maximize cargo capacity. Despite the larger battery pack, you don’t lose out on overall capacity since it’s mounted under the passenger compartment. The first two rows still offer plenty of space and lots of nifty storage cubbies for small items like mobile devices and wallets.
Modern Yet Intuitive
All Sorento PHEVs get a 10.25-inch main touchscreen while the SX Prestige trim builds on that with a 12.3-inch digital cluster. User-friendliness remains a highlight thanks to the straightforward layout, quick responses, and minimal submenus. This makes Kia’s interface easy to use and won’t require you to pull out the owner’s manual. The Bose surround sound system on the SX Prestige trim provides good levels of envelopment and clarity. It’s also easy to customize, allowing you to tailor it to the music you like or your preferences.
The Sorento PHEV’s Drive Wise active safety suite contains every driver assistance feature in Kia’s arsenal. Components like lane centering do a great job keeping you from drifting around, assisting in evasive maneuvers, and helping you navigate gentle turns. Highway Driving Assist takes the stress out of commuting by allowing you to follow traffic seamlessly even in traffic. It proactively keeps your set distance and will even brake to avoid an accident if someone cuts you off. Since the car also includes built-in navigation, it can use that data to predict oncoming turns. This allows it to slow down ahead of time, enabling you to complete the turn at a safe speed.
2022 Kia Sorento PHEV: Powertrain Flexibility
Plug-in hybrid powertrains give you a lot of flexibility in how you operate them. The system in the Sorento PHEV gives you many ways to drive efficiently without needing to hypermile the vehicle. With an all-electric range of 32 miles, you can do most of your commutes without activating the gas engine. Its EPA rating of 35/33/34 mpg city/highway gives it excellent efficiency, enabling it to travel 460 miles when driving as a conventional hybrid. During my week, I managed to go 37 miles in all-electric mode and averaged 44 mpg overall, which included charging whenever I depleted the battery. It takes roughly three to four hours to go from 0 to 100 percent using a level 2, 240-volt AC charger.
Despite weighing over two tons, the Sorento PHEV moves confidently. Between the engine’s broad torque curve and the electric motor’s instant torque, you get plenty of usable power. This makes passing, hill climbing, and merging at high speeds a breeze. The gearbox also does a good job giving you the right gear and doesn’t rush to get to the highest. Putting your foot down brings the engine to its sweet spot, allowing you to get the most out of it.
Efficient driving is made even easier thanks to seamless transitions between regenerative and mechanical braking. This lets you get the most out of the Sorento PHEV’s ability to recuperate energy to recharge the battery. As a result, you spend more time in all-electric mode, improving overall efficiency. It’s most helpful when going downhill where you can harvest a lot of electricity.
Balanced and Refined
The Sorento PHEV’s tweener size makes it easy to maneuver in tight spaces. Together with its surefooted handling, well-controlled body motions, and light yet accurate steering, driving this SUV instills confidence. It takes turns without much drama and doesn’t flinch at evasive maneuvers. No, it’s no high-performance crossover but it’s agile enough to make you feel like you’re driving something smaller.
A plush ride complements the Sorento PHEV’s stable handling. Despite wearing 19-inch wheels as standard, it manages to provide a nice balance between comfort and nimbleness. The suspension handily eats up poorly maintained roads, especially combined with tires that have generous sidewalls. You get good levels of isolation yet the SUV never gets floaty or bouncy over successive bumps and potholes. This turns the Sorento PHEV into an ideal multi-talented family car.
Luxury SUV in Disguise
Spending a week with the 2022 Kia Sorento PHEV showed the viability of plug-in hybrids for the masses. In addition to introducing consumers to electrified motoring, it teaches you how to drive efficiently via its different operating modes. Best of all, it’s wrapped in an attractive package that punches above its weight, backing its looks with genuine substance.
Most importantly, the Sorento PHEV proves you can have premium appointments without the high price tag. Starting at $46,485, it gives you the latest features and a wonderful driving experience in a practical, luxurious package. The SX Prestige only amplifies that with swankier trimmings for roughly $50,000 before the federal tax credit and other incentives. To put it simply, the Sorento PHEV democratizes luxury. You get the latest technologies, upscale digs, and great road manners, and you’re not paying an arm and leg? Sign me up!