If you are looking for a capable mid-size SUV with a little plug-in hybrid power, three rows of seats and little to no flammable aesthetic, the Sorento 2022 Kia (PHEV) Hybrid Plug-In is cover. It’s not as flashy as Toyota’s RAV4 Prime, which is widely regarded as the pinnacle of affordable plug-in SUVs. But the Sorento is bigger and in many ways more family-friendly.

Gallery: 2022 Kia Sorento PHEV

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If you’re looking for a capable mid-size SUV with a bit of plug-in hybrid power, three seating rows and little to no fuss about the sleek aesthetic, the Kia 2022 Sorento Plug-In Hybrid (PHEV) is for you you. It’s not as flashy as Toyota’s RAV4 Prime, which is widely regarded as the pinnacle of affordable plug-in SUVs. But the Sorento is bigger and in many ways more family-friendly.

Gallery: 2022 Kia Sorento PHEV | 12 Mon.
2022 Kia Sorento PHEV

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And yet, while the Sorento PHEV 2022 offers a relatively luxurious experience, I can’t help but be disappointed every time I pass Kia’s more stylish family SUV, the Telluride. The Telluride raises the bar for affordable SUV design with its aggressive front fascia, generous seat space and Land Rover-like styling, while the Sorento is definitely more basic. Sure, it has leather seats and tons of great security and entertainment technology, but looking at it doesn’t touch my soul.

Which is a shame, because on paper, the Sorento 2022 sounds like the ideal family PHEV for anyone who doesn’t want to jump into a mini-van like a Chrysler Pacifica plug-in or an excellent Toyota Sienna hybrid. Its electric motor can move things up to 32 miles – enough for many daily commutes. In hybrid mode, also using the 1.6-liter gasoline engine, the Sorento gets 34 miles per gallon. It also offers standard all-wheel drive and up to 75.5 cubic feet of cargo space, more than double the 33.5 cubic feet of RAV 4 Prime storage. So you don’t have to worry about lugging a large TV or a box full of baby goods and equipment for two children.

If those specifications are all that matters to you, Sorento will serve you well. But as the middle child between a well-performing older sibling (the Telluride) and a newborn baby (Kia’s beloved EV6), the Sorento PHEV almost feels like a Kia afterthought. While it’s nice to have some pure EV driving, especially as gas prices continue to climb, its electric motor only makes 90 horsepower. That’s good enough for street driving under 40 mph, but highway gas needs a lot of help from the gas engine. As Car and Driver found, weak electric vehicles only hinder the overall driving experience. (It’s also unclear to me why the Sorento periodically starts the gasoline engine at low speeds.)

During my week of testing, I drove the Sorrento PHEV around winding local roads, along highways crawling along nearby mountains, and visiting family an hour away. The driving experience feels solid and never too floating, but I’m also constantly reminded that I’m behind the wheel of a 4,537-pound SUV. (The gas variant weighs 3,794 pounds.) A large battery always adds weight to a PHEV, but the Sorento felt overwhelming when I tried to hit highway speeds of 65MPH in hybrid mode. Nevertheless, I’m happy to be able to force it to only use EVs for local driving, something Chrysler still doesn’t offer on the Pacifica. Although the Sorento EV motor is relatively weak, it provides a decent amount of off-line electric torque, making it ideal for handling stop signs and traffic lights.

I usually see about 30 miles of electric drive before the Sorento gas engine starts, but its hybrid efficiency is less impressive, usually around 32MPG. The RAV4 Prime’s EV drive range is estimated at 42 miles (though closer to 35 in my tests), and can hit 40MPG in Hybrid mode. As with any PHEV, your efficiency with the Sorento depends on how often you plug it into a charge. A full charge on a standard 110-volt outlet usually takes about 12 hours. If you have a level 2 charger, you can charge it in about 2.5 hours.

Given the complexities involved in installing a Level 2 installation – including running a 220-volt outlet in the garage and installing a charger – many shoppers interested in electric vehicles might be better off with a PHEV like the Sorento. There is no need to install any additional sockets, and you do not have to worry about EV range anxiety because the PHEV automatically switches to its gas engine when it loses power. It also makes them more suitable for family road trips, as you do not have to spend time looking for electric vehicle chargers and waiting for a charge.

 

I can’t complain about Sorento’s entertainment system. The 10.3-inch center display is bright and responsive and handles Apple CarPlay with ease. I appreciate that it’s a widescreen, as it didn’t break into my road view, nor did it prevent Kia from including buttons for climate control underneath. While large, high-resolution screens might look more impressive at first, as we saw on Teslas and Prius Primes, I found them more annoying to use when driving. I always prefer physical buttons along with an unobtrusive screen. There is a circular dial under the cutting line for moving gears (which feels as elegant as on an expensive car) and another to control driving modes, as well as turning on the heated steering wheel, parking camera view and features others more button.

I would commend Kia for providing an incredible level of comfort in a relatively affordable mid-sized SUV. The Sorento leather seats are a luxury, and I appreciate the option of heating and ventilation. The chairs of the two captains in the second tier are less comfortable, but still feel better than I have found on some competitors. It was a bit difficult for me to secure my daughter’s big car seat, but once I did (thanks to a little extra cushioning from the pool noodles), I could easily lift her down and put her down. While the third-tier seats were too cramped for me to sit comfortably, they were fine for the kids. Most mid-size SUVs have limited rear seats, which is why a minivan is still a better option if you carry passengers around adults often.

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