Having just announced the addition of a plug-in electric hybrid version of the 2022 Kia Sorento, you might wonder why Kia bothered with a traditional hybrid variant. Maybe it’s plug-in envy. After all, 40% of Americans do not live in a single-family home, making access to a plug-in recharging difficult or impossible.
By offering both variants, the Sorento offers something for everyone. That said, the Sorento PHEV does outdistance its traditional sibling, with an additional 34 horsepower and 30 miles pure electric driving range, enough to give it an EPA rating of 79 MPGe.
Of course, pricing hasn’t been announced, so how much additional it will cost remains to be seen. And given the limited number of vehicles available due to chip shortages, the availability of the 2021 Kia Sorento Hybrid might be worth considering instead, despite Hyundai’s intentions of introducing a slew of new electric vehicles.
We’ve already sung praises of the Sorento, introduced hot on the heels of the fast-selling Kia Telluride. It’s become the go-to choice for those who financially can’t swing the larger, pricier vehicle. Despite its smaller size, the Sorento is far from a consolation prize. And the availability of a hybrid makes it a far more fetching proposition for those needing a family hauler. Unlike its traditionally powered siblings, which are offered in five trim levels with either front-wheel or all-wheel drive, the 2021 Sorento Hybrid is offered in S or EX trim with front-wheel drive only and a 6-speed automatic transmission rather than the 8-speed automatic or dual clutch transmissions offered in the rest of the line.
Our test vehicle, an EX, cost $3,000 more than the S, adding such frills as LED fog lights, gloss black exterior trim, panoramic sunroof with power shade, height adjustable power tailgate, wireless phone charger, smart cruise control with stop and go, and forward collision avoidance assist.
Fashioned at Kia’s Irvine, California design studio and built in West Point, Georgia, the Sorento shares some styling cues with the Telluride, but this is clearly a different vehicle. Its appearance is contemporary and more sporting. However, its large chunky taillights recall those of the Ford Mustang Mach-E, although its side window shape and D-Pillar design are distinctly Kia, as is the gloss black grille. Its chiseled look is more appropriate for the class, and more distinctive than the 2020 model.
While not as opulently trimmed as top-level Sorentos, the EX test vehicle feels well-trimmed for the price. Interior space is identical to that of the gas-powered Sorento, as is cargo space, at 12.6 cubic feet. Given that meager number, it’s best to leave the third-row seats folded, as space is in short supply.
Also, keep in mind that the hybrid comes standard with second-row captain’s chairs; a bench seat is not available. The standard leatherette seats offer an admirable balance of comfort and support. There’s also plenty of head and legroom in the first two rows. The EX includes such conveniences as steering wheel controls for Bluetooth, audio and cruise control, and dual automatic climate control.
There’s one powertrain: a turbocharged 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine paired with a 44-kilowatt electric motor and a 1.5-kilowatt-hour battery funnels 227 horsepower through a 6-speed automatic transmission to the front wheels. All-wheel drive is not available on the hybrid. That neatly splits the difference between the Sorento’s base powerplant, a 191-horsepower 2.5-liter 4-cylinder, and the 281-horsepower turbocharged 2.5-liter, and the upcoming Sorento PHEV’s 261 horsepower.
Safety and Technology
As we’ve come to expect from Kia, the list of standard driver-assistance safety technology is impressive, and includes rear cross-traffic collision alert, parking distance warning, forward collision alert, driver attention warning, lane keep assist, lane departure warning, lane following assist, high beam assist, and safe exit assist. EX models get enhanced forward collision alert and parking distance systems.
As for technology, the Sorento Hybrid EX comes with an AM/FM audio system with Satellite Radio, UVO telematics, wireless charging pad, and wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. It also has the smaller 8-inch touchscreen, not the 10.25-inch touchscreen offered on some Sorentos. While adequate in size thanks to the Sorentos easy-to-operate user interface, it proved quick to the touch.
The hybrid doesn’t seem to suffer from the turbo lag of its conventional siblings thanks to the electric assist. In fact, the electric assist comes on more frequently than you’d expect, lending the driveline a smooth quiet demeanor. There’s plenty of grunt, more power than this model’s front-wheel drive can handle without spinning its wheels at times.
The driveline shines once at speed, and manually shifting using the car’s paddle shifters noticeably quickens the hybrid’s pace. And while you’ll notice the gas engine’s moan, you won’t notice the transition from electric to gas, as it happens seamlessly.
The EPA rates the Sorento’s combined fuel economy at 37 mpg. Our test drive easily surpassed that, returning 40 mpg in a mixed driving loop.
One caveat, however. If you regularly tow, keep in mind the Sorento can only haul 2,000 pounds, 1,500 pounds less than its conventionally-powered siblings.
2021 Kia Sorento Hybrid EX specifications:
|Dimension||L: 189.4 inches/W: 74.8 inches/H: 66.7 inches/Wheelbase: 110.8 inches|
|Powertrain||1.6-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder hybrid driveline, 6-speed automatic transmission, and FWD|
|Fuel Economy||39 mpg city/35 mpg highway/37 mpg combined|
|Performance Specs||227 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque|
|Price||Base price: $36,590; As tested: $38,205 including $1,170 destination and delivery charge|
|On-Sale Date||Available now|
Very much the middle child of the Sorento line-up, it proves to be an excellent compromise between power and fuel economy. And once you compared the hybrid’s two trim levels to its gas-powered sibling, the extra green will easily be made up within a few years by the amount of fuel you’ll save. This one’s a no-brainer. If you’re buying a Sorento, buy the hybrid.
2021 Kia Sorento Hybrid EX – Frequently Asked Questions
How much will the 2021 Kia Sorento hybrid cost?
It starts at $34,760, notably more than the non-hybrid 2021 Kia Sorento that starts at $30,560.
Does the 2021 Kia Sorento Hybrid come in AWD?
Front-wheel drive is standard on 2021 Kia Sorento Hybrid. It’s not available with all-wheel drive.
Is the Kia Sorento reliable?
The Kia Sorento Reliability Rating is 4.0 out of 5.0, which ranks it 12th out of 26 for compact SUVs, according to Repairpal.com. Consumer Reports recommends the Sorento, and rates the 2021 model’s reliability as average.