9 June 2021

Kia Sorento PHEV 2021 Car Review

We have already been lucky enough to review the Kia Sorento - a very well equipped seven seat family-friendly diesel model, however the latest arrival is a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) variant, which adds another layer of appeal to an already compelling package.

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Kia Sorento PHEV Premium 2021
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Kia Sorento PHEV Premium 2021
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Kia Sorento PHEV Premium 2021
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Kia Sorento PHEV Premium 2021
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Kia Sorento PHEV Premium 2021
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Kia Sorento PHEV Premium 2021

It also signifies another significant step in Kia’s progress towards a more electrified future.

In March, Kia stated that by 2030, EVs, hybrids and plug-in hybrids will make up 40 per cent of all sales, with a target of 1.6 million vehicles worldwide.

There are two new PHEV options available in the Sorento range:

  • Kia Sorento PHEV AWD EX from $73,990 (+ORC)
  • Kia Sorento PHEV AWD Premium from $89,990 (+ORC)

Peace of mind motoring

The model we reviewed was the top-end AWD Premium Parallel Hybrid Drive variant, which starts from $89,990 (+ORC).

All new Kia models come with a 5 Year/100,000km factory warranty programme, and all the new Kia vehicles that are powered by a high-voltage drive battery come with a 5 Year/160,000km warranty which covers manufacturing or assembly defects.

Generally, the PHEV segment is currently quite limited in New Zealand. The most popular choice is the Mitsubishi Outlander, which is much more competitively priced than the new Sorento, with the top-end VRX 4WD model available from $68,990 (+ORC). The Outlander PHEV sold 431 units in 2020. To put this into context, the second-bestselling PHEV was the Toyota Prius with just 59 units sold.

A familiar face

The concept of ‘refined boldness’ is said to have inspired Kia’s designers, who wanted to keep the robust, tough-looking aesthetic of the Sorento. By the same token, they also wanted to improve the refinement and elegance, and even add a sporty element.

Its styling includes bold sculpted lines with classy geometric details and more swept-back, lengthened proportions with a 35mm longer wheelbase, creating greater cabin space between the axles. While the old model was a looker, the latest incarnation looks even better.

At the front of the Sorento, you’re greeted with Kia’s signature ‘tiger nose’ grille which displays a wide shape and seemingly wraps around the integrated dual LED headlights.

While the PHEV model looks similar to the variants, it is distinguishable by the fact it sits atop 19-inch machine-finished alloy wheels. It also features exclusive ‘ECO Plug-in’ badges and a charging port, which is neatly integrated into the rear three-quarter panel on the opposite side to the fuel filler flap.

Next level interior

The interior displays a leap in quality and design for Kia cabins. The innovative cabin is not only spacious and versatile, it’s’s also fitted with premium materials and a cutting-edge infotainment system.

The cabin brings a new level of class, with a sophisticated design based around twin digital displays built into the dashboard. The 12.3-inch digital driver instrument cluster is twinned with a 10.25-inch touchscreen infotainment and navigation system that sits at the centre of the dashboard.

These displays offer information clearly within the driver’s line of sight, and create an immersive wide-screen user experience.

The front leather seats are heated and cooled, and the middle row seats are heated.

The rear row of seats feature their own climate heater and cooling controls.

A wireless smartphone charger sits at the base of the centre console, and a glorious BOSE 12-speaker surround-sound system delivers an awesome in-car audio experience. There’s also a grand total of seven USB ports to charge your passengers’ devices, some of which are intriguingly mounted in the backrests of the driver and passenger seats.

We loved the expansive panoramic sunroof which made the cabin feel light and open, and in the dark, the inclusion of a mood lighting system adds a relaxing element to your drive.

Even with all seven seats are occupied, there’s plenty of leg space. With all the seat rows up, there’s a useful 175 litres of space, it also offers one of the largest luggage capacities in its class – up to 1,988 litres when the second and third rows are folded down.

A full suite of safety features

The Sorento PHEV received a five-star ANCAP safety rating in 2020, and this is partly down to Kia’s Advanced Driving Assistance Systems, which offers a high level of active and passive safety as standard. Included in this is Forward Collision Avoidance Assist (FCA), Blind Spot Collision Avoidance Assist (BCAA), Rear Cross Traffic Collision Avoidance Assist (RCAA), Lane Keep Assist (LKA), Lane Follow Assist (LFA) and Parking Collision Avoidance Assist (PCA).

The new Blind Spot View Monitor (BVM) is also included, which enhances safety for occupants and other road users by utilising cameras in the driver’s blind spots and displaying them on the dashboard.

Frugal performance

The third-gen Smartstream engine technology delivers enhanced efficiency and performance. It’s a powerful 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine with a high capacity battery pack and high output electric motor, which together provide power potential of 195kW and 350Nm of torque. Despite this, the CO2 emissions rating is only 36g/km and fuel consumption is a mere 1.6L/100km

The Sorento PHEV comes with two charging cables - one for overnight charging from a normal household socket, and a Type 2 cable and dedicated charge port which allows you to completely charge the battery in around three hours and 25 minutes.

The SUV is capable of an all-electric driving range of up to 57km from EV mode, but should you need to venture further, the powertrain combines both an electric and combustion engine so you can continue your drive.

The powertrain is able to send drive to all four wheels confidently (depending on the road conditions) via a quick-shifting six-speed automatic transmission that incorporates four modes - Comfort, Eco, Sport and Smart.

Drive modes

The Sorento PHEV isn’t just about a being comfortable family cruiser, it also offers enhanced all-terrain capability thanks to a new Terrain Mode. Controlled using the Mode Select dial on the centre console, drivers can choose from ‘Mud’, ‘Snow’ and ‘Sand’ modes. 

The system automatically optimises the drivetrain to best suit each scenario, adjusting engine torque output and distribution, as well as stability control characteristics. Terrain Mode also adjusts transmission shift timings to suit different surfaces.


The Sorento PHEV is a more luxurious and premium-feeling vehicle over its rival the five-seater Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV. If you want to be pampered and have a large family, then the Kia would be the choice for you.

The Sorento PHEV can do it all. It has enough electric-only range to not only complete short trips with zero emissions, but also handle the big family getaways in superb comfort. It can even tackle a considerable amount of off-road action, making it the ultimate large, efficienct seven seat SUV.

At a glance

Model tested

Kia Sorento PHEV


1.6L Turbocharged & Permanent Magnetic Motor


From $73,990 ($89,990 +ORC as tested)

ANCAP safety rating

5 Star


195kW, 350Nm


Six-speed auto

Fuel economy/CO2

1.6L/100km (Combined), 36g

Towing capacity

1,350kg (Braked), 750kg (Unbraked)



Seating capacity


Luggage capacity/payload

604L (With third row seats down)

Safety systems

  • Seven airbags
  • Vehicle Stability Management (VSM)
  • Forward Collision Avoidance Assist (FCA) - Car/Pedestrian/Cyclist/Junction
  • Blind Spot Collision Avoidance Assist (BCA)
  • Emergency Stop Signal (ESS) 
  • Rear Cross Traffic Collision Avoidance Assist (RCCA)
  • Lane Keep Assist (LKA) - Line/Road Edge
  • Lane Follow Assist (LFA)

Find out more on how the AA can help you when buying a new car:

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