Tony Conlon: Latest Kia packs plenty of punch

A sleeker, sharper and prettier fourth generation Kia Sorento with PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle) technology is expected in Ireland early next year, several months after the diesel version arrives this October.

It promises to be the most powerful (but with the lowest emissions) of the three-model line-up that also includes a hybrid.

Sitting on a new platform that was specifically designed to accommodate hybrid and plug-in hybrid powertrains, the new variant combines a powerful petrol engine with a high-capacity battery pack and high-output electric motor.

Like the excellent plug-in Nero model, the Sorento is expected to follow in the footsteps of the practical Nero and give drivers the ability to complete shorter drives using all-electric, zero-emissions power.

The new platform and large body ensure the plug-in hybrid retains the generous cabin and luggage space and five- and seven-seat layouts that define other models in the line-up.

Pablo Martinez Masip, director of product planning and pricing at Kia Motors Europe, claims the new Sorento plug-in will be one of the most spacious, practical and versatile electric models available.

In the first half of 2020, electrified models - including mild hybrid, parallel hybrid, battery electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles - accounted for one in four of all Kia vehicles sold in Europe.

The beating heart of the turbo hybrid is a 1.6 litre T-GDi (turbo-charged direct injection petrol engine) which, on its own, produces 177bhp and 265Nm of torque. The engine is paired with a high-capacity 13.kWh lithium-ion polymer battery pack and a powerful electric motor which produces 66.9kW and 304Nm torque.

Combined, these powertrain components enable the plug-in Sorento to produce up to 261bhp and 350Nm torque.

While the Sorento’s all-electric range and CO2 emissions are pending homologation and will be confirmed by Kia closer to the car’s on-sale date, I believe that if the Sorento matches or exceeds the electric range of the Nero we could have one every interesting family carrier on our hands.

A true PHEV offers the best of both worlds. The Nero, for example, easily brought me from Tallaght to Trim (49km) driving in pure electric form. I also met a man at one of the local charging points who informed me that because he covers on average 45-50km daily, he had not put any petrol in his Nero for over four months. “I always have the petrol engine for long journeys,” he said.

Power in the latest Sorento is sent to all four wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission. The transmission allows the full power of the engine and motor to be transferred in parallel, with minimal loss of energy. The result is immediate acceleration responses at any speed, and direct access to available battery power at higher speeds.

With its wide range of innovations, the Sorento plug-in is the most advanced, efficient PHEV to date from Kia. It also offers one of the largest cargo capacities in its class - up to 809 litres (for the seven-seat models or 898 litres (five-seat models) with two rows of seats in place. In seven-seat models, with all seven seats in place, boot space is 175 litres.

Visually, Sorento Plug-in Hybrid models retain the same modern exterior design as other variants in the line-up. Eco plug-in badges and a charging port on the rear quarters are the only points of differentiation.

Kia claims the car has one of the highest-quality interior spaces found in any of its models to date, and it has to be said the latest Sorento represents a step-change in quality and design for Kia cabins.

Offering the same level of technological innovation as other Sorento models, the touchscreen infotainment system enables full, seamless smartphone integration with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Boasting a 12-speaker Bose surround-sound audio system, the Sorento comes with cabin mood lighting, with up to 64 colours for users to choose from. A full-digital instrument cluster has been redesigned, with graphics and dials to provide drivers with a clear picture of the powertrain status.

Capable of locating charging points, it also offers Kia’s innovative UVO Connect telematics system, connecting drivers by providing invaluable information via the in-car touchscreen and on their smartphone.

It also comes with a wide range of Kia’s Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) and implements the company’s first multi-collision brake system, which enables the car to mitigate the severity of secondary collisions.

Prices for the new SUV have yet to be revealed

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