2022 Kia Sorento Plug-in Hybrid Review Update

Christian Wardlaw, Independent Expert | Sep 05, 2022

Introduction - Find the best Kia deals!

Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) are great for people interested in making the transition from traditional gasoline models with internal-combustion engines (ICE) to electric vehicles (EV). They often provide enough all-electric range to cover most of the miles a typical American drives daily. They recharge overnight using nothing but a standard household electrical outlet. And for longer journeys, they have a gasoline engine that eliminates the range anxiety that many people feel when driving an EV.

The 2022 Kia Sorento Plug-in Hybrid is an excellent example of the breed. It offers 32 miles of electric range before the gasoline engine fires up. Then, it averages 34 mpg in combined driving, as much as 10 more miles of travel for every gallon of gas compared to the traditional ICE-only Kia Sorento models.

Plus, unlike many PHEVs, the Sorento Plug-in Hybrid doesn't rely on an underpowered ICE and a droning continuously variable transmission to maximize its efficiency. Instead, it has a turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, a 6-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters, and a standard torque-vectoring all-wheel-drive (AWD) system. It also has three rows of seats and up to 75.5 cubic feet of cargo space.

In other words, it's an authentic, family-sized SUV with performance, utility, and style. It just happens to offer electric operation and impressive fuel economy, too.

Previously, J.D. Power reviewed the 2021 Kia Sorento and the 2021 Kia Sorento Hybrid. This review focuses on the Sorento's updates for 2022, the PHEV powertrain, and how they potentially impact its overall appeal to consumers.

What Owners Say About the Kia Sorento - Find the best Kia deals!

2022 Kia Sorento Plug-in Hybrid SX Prestige White Front Quarter View

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

The Kia Sorento competes in the Upper Midsize SUV market segment. According to data collected from verified new-vehicle buyers for the J.D. Power 2022 Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study, 53 percent of new Kia Sorento buyers are female (vs. 48 percent for the segment), and the median age of a new Sorento buyer is 49 years (vs. 52).

As part of the APEAL Study, owners rated the Sorento in 10 primary categories. Listed below in descending order, you'll find their preferences, from their most favorite thing about the vehicle to their least favorite:

  • Exterior styling
  • Driving feel
  • Feeling of safety
  • Interior design
  • Driving comfort
  • Setting up and starting
  • Powertrain
  • Getting in and out
  • Infotainment
  • Fuel economy

In the 2022 APEAL Study, the Sorento ranks sixth out of 15 Upper Midsize SUV models.

What Our Independent Expert Says About the Kia Sorento Plug-in Hybrid - Find the best Kia deals!

In the following sections, our independent expert analyzes a Sorento Plug-in Hybrid with SX Prestige trim, extra-cost Snow White Pearl paint, and floor mats. The test vehicle's price came to $50,040, including the $1,295 destination charge.

Changes to the 2022 Kia Sorento

2022 Kia Sorento Plug-in Hybrid SX Prestige Interior Dashboard

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

The big news for the 2022 Sorento lineup is the addition of the PHEV model. It comes in SX and SX Prestige trim levels and carries a base price of $45,190, plus the $1,295 destination charge.

What makes the Sorento Plug-in Hybrid different is its powertrain. Kia bases the PHEV on a turbocharged 1.6-liter 4-cylinder internal-combustion engine, marrying the ICE to a 66.9-kW electric drive motor, a 14-kWh battery pack, a 6-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters, and a torque-vectoring AWD system with a locking center differential. Together, these components produce 261 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, supply 32 miles of all-electric driving range, and return 34 mpg in combined driving when used as a gas-electric hybrid.

Otherwise, the SUV's updates include a new AWD option for the Sorento Hybrid, which previously came only with front-wheel drive (FWD). The Sorento Hybrid EX receives a new 19-inch aluminum wheel design. Also, Kia expands the availability of the rugged-looking X-Line treatment to more of the Sorento ICE model's trim levels. Nearly all 2022 Sorentos have a 10.25-inch touchscreen infotainment system as standard equipment this year.

Driving the 2022 Kia Sorento Plug-in Hybrid

Kia says the Sorento PHEV will accelerate from zero-to-60 mph in 8.7 seconds, but thanks to the instant torque from the electric drive motor, it feels quicker. You should have no trouble merging onto freeways, turning left across traffic, or getting up to speed on fast-flowing suburban boulevards.

Compared to a standard ICE-powered Sorento, the Sorento PHEV's electric motor and battery pack add about 570 pounds of weight to the SUV, and you can feel it while driving. The Sorento PHEV feels snugged down, but when imperfect pavement upsets the SUV's balance, that weight gets tossed around a bit, which makes the vehicle feel a little unstable. An adaptive damping suspension would be helpful.

Additionally, the Sorento PHEV's regenerative brakes exhibit a typical lack of pedal feel, inconsistent modulation, and occasional grabbiness as you bring the SUV to a stop. The last item is a common problem with these types of braking systems and is most evident in heavy traffic.

You can run the Sorento PHEV in EV (electric vehicle) or HEV (hybrid vehicle) modes. Additionally, Eco, Comfort, Smart, Sport, and Snow drive-mode settings are available.

Setting off on the evaluation drive, I put the Sorento PHEV in EV mode and the Eco setting. Starting with 31 miles of electric range, the Sorento PHEV traveled just over 40 miles before the ICE turned on and remained that way for the duration of the drive.

How did the Sorento PHEV travel 40 miles on the battery charge if we started with 31 miles of indicated range? Mainly, this was due to an 800-foot descent in elevation and the associated energy recapture while braking down the mountainside. Additionally, on a few occasions, the ICE temporarily assisted the electric drive motor even though I had the SUV in EV mode. This is common when you accelerate hard in a PHEV, and the electric motor cannot accommodate the driver's request for power without some help from the ICE.

In total, I traveled 88.6 miles, and the Sorento PHEV averaged 44.7 mpg. How does this result translate to your life? Well, if you recharge the SUV every night, you have a 40-mile one-way commute to work, and then you run a couple of errands during the day, you can expect to get about 45 mpg without even trying. That's pretty good for a 3-row midsize SUV with AWD.

Expanded Availability of 10.25-inch Touchscreen Infotainment

2022 Kia Sorento Plug-in Hybrid SX Prestige Infotainment System

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

Unless you buy a 2022 Sorento LX, you'll get a 10.25-inch touchscreen infotainment system. For 2022, Kia has made it standard on all Sorentos except the base LX trim.

This widescreen system includes navigation, access to Kia Connect connected services including a Wi-Fi hotspot, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, satellite radio, and a voice-recognition system. Wireless smartphone charging and a total of eight USB ports are also standard, and in the Sorento PHEV, when you upgrade to SX Prestige trim, you get a 12-speaker Bose premium sound system.

Kia employs highly stylized graphics, color themes, and text fonts, making the infotainment system's displays an acquired taste. However, the infotainment system is intuitive to use. Unfortunately, the voice-recognition system is a frequent source of aggravation. You're likely to use it only when absolutely necessary or simply connect your smartphone via the USB data port and switch to Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.

One thing I particularly liked about the Sorento PHEV's interior was the 12.3-inch digital instrumentation display. It shows the Sorento on a road passing through a calming rural landscape with a city skyline and mountain range ahead. Better yet, as night approaches, the display's sky transforms from blue with white clouds to a sunset view. It is absolutely fantastic and quite sophisticated for this price point.

PHEV Powertrain Does Not Impact Sorento Comfort or Utility

When you compare the Sorento PHEV to its ICE counterparts, you'll find that the electric motor and the battery pack don't compromise the SUV's passenger space or cargo volume. There are minor changes to the PHEV's departure angle, breakover angle, and second-row legroom, and that's it.

Unfortunately, Kia offers the Sorento PHEV only in SX and SX Prestige trim levels, which makes second-row captain's chairs standard. Since a second-row bench seat is unavailable, you can carry four people and 38.5 cubic feet of cargo simultaneously.

If you need more seating, you can use the cramped third-row bench to add up to two more passengers while tossing almost everything you carry in the trunk into your garage. Or you can tell those extra people to call an Uber or a Lyft. If they join you for the journey, they'd better be short and unconcerned with how close they'll be sitting to the SUV's rear liftgate.

While getting a second-row bench seat in this SUV would be nice, the Sorento PHEV is nevertheless comfortable. The SX Prestige test vehicle had genuine leather upholstery instead of Kia's SynTex artificial leather, a 14-way power-adjustable driver's seat with a power-adjustable thigh support pad, and a 10-way power-adjustable front passenger's seat. In addition, the SX Prestige equips the Sorento PHEV with heated and ventilated front seats and heated captain's chairs.

These features, coupled with the Sorento's stylish interior, quality materials, and rock-solid construction, make this plug-in hybrid SUV look and feel more like a luxury model inside. And that helps to justify its lofty price tag.

Independent Expert Opinion - Find the best Kia deals!

2022 Kia Sorento Plug-in Hybrid SX Prestige White Rear Quarter View

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

The recent Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) signing immediately raised the price of the Kia Sorento Plug-in Hybrid by $6,587. That was the federal income tax credit available for the model prior to the IRA, which, if you qualified for the full amount, effectively provided you with a refund of $6,587 for your SUV purchase.

Why doesn't the Kia Sorento PHEV qualify for the tax credit anymore? Because the vehicle's final assembly takes place in South Korea, not North America. Post-IRA, for the time being, the tax credits are reserved only for plug-in hybrids and electrics made in North America (Canada, Mexico, and the United States).

For many people, the Sorento Plug-in Hybrid's 32 miles of electric-only driving range may not be worth the $7,500 premium Kia charges over and above the Sorento Hybrid SX Prestige. That's a shame because the PHEV version is a terrific SUV with a practical electric range for daily driving and the ability to take you and yours on longer trips without any range anxiety or concern about finding a charging station.

However, there is another way to look at this situation. Our test vehicle's price tag was $2,755 less than a fully loaded Toyota Highlander Hybrid with Platinum trim and AWD. Sure, the Highlander is a little bit larger inside, but not significantly. And the Toyota doesn't provide any electric-only driving range unless you're puttering along in bumper-to-bumper traffic or around a mall parking lot.

Value, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. And the angle from which you view it.

Christian Wardlaw is a veteran digital automotive journalist with nearly 30 years of experience in test-driving vehicles. He has held editorial leadership roles with Edmunds, J.D. Power, the New York Daily News, and others. In addition to JDPower.com, his work has appeared in numerous new- and used-car buying guides, newspapers, and automotive industry trade journals including Autotrader, Capital One Auto Navigator, CarGurus, Kelley Blue Book, WardsAuto, and more.

The opinions expressed in this review are the author’s own, not J.D. Power’s.

No portion of these reviews may be reproduced, distributed, publicly displayed, or used for a derivative work without J.D. Power’s written permission. © 2022 J.D. Power

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