The four-wheel drive Sorento wagon landed in Australia two decades ago, with two-speed transfer case and full chassis. It was a reasonably smart wagon with some off-road ability but could prove skittish down a back road.
By 2009, the second generation Sorento had lost its dual-range gearbox and the ladder chassis. This was a more refined Sports Utility Vehicle for family motoring.
The current, fourth generation in 2022 has gained further refinements and sophistications in style and substance.
Kia’s Sorento is also one of the few, if not only, machines on the market with a choice of four engines – petrol, diesel, plug-in hybrid and hybrid.
The latter, the hybrid with petrol-electric power and either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, is the top of the range, arriving with a full gamut of premium features.
These run from interior mood lighting to cameras which show what’s in the blind spot when indicators are used.
With all the technology, with all the creature comforts comes a decent price tag of close enough to $70,000 for the AWD model. Apparently worldwide demand and supply issues mean Australia only gets the dressed-up Sorento Hybrid for now.
Once things settle down, less expensive versions could be available.
These full-on Kia hybrids run with a 1.6 litre, 132kW turbocharged engine plus a 44kW electric motor fitted between the petrol motor and the six-speed automatic transmission with a 1kW/h lithium-ion battery under the floor.
That’s charged by the petrol engine and, as with all-electric cars, under braking.
Combined, the power output is 169kW and 350Nm, enough for the two-tonne Kia to be a competent wagon for town traffic or highway cruises.
For ordinary starts, the Kia moves smooth and quiet under electric power. For harder starts off the line, for acceleration and brisker motoring the petrol motor chimes in – the transition is pretty seamless, only noticed by some engine noise from under the bonnet.
The factory reckons this eco-friendly powertrain should return an average 5.8 litres per 100 kilometres, although a week’s run in and around a water-logged Brisbane saw returns in the high 7 litres per 100km.
Maybe flicking those steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters to drop a gear for extra urge didn’t help much.
It is a handsome wagon, quite practical despite all the bling GT-Line versions bring to the Sorento. Responsive and engaging enough to steer and comfortable too, although those 19-inch wheels weren’t keen on potholes.
Ground clearance of 176mm plus the ability to dial up different engine and transmission responses – for sand and mud and such – means the Sorento should not be embarrassed in tackling a bush track or heading out into the never-never. (There’s even a proper spare tyre.)
Yet with this ever-growing sophistication from hybrid drivetrain to a wagon-load of comfort and convenience features, plus a host of driver aids, the hybrid Kia Sorento is more the luxury cruiser for back roads than a family camp-mobile these days.