There's a lot to be said for going plug-in hybrid. This comfy, capable SUV is proof.

2022 kia sorento phev review: one efficient, versatile beast
Kia

Considering the rate at which electric vehicles have innovated and proliferated over the past decade or so, a casual observer could be forgiven for wondering why there are still so many gas-powered rigs on the road. But a closer look reveals that at least a few speed bumps remain.

Along with EVs generally costing more on the front end, one that immediately jumps to mind is infrastructure. While America’s number of EV charging ports is beginning to rival the number of gas stations, and the Biden administration is pumping $5 billion into a network of chargers across the country, we’re not quite there yet.

Anecdotal evidence suggests a lot of chargers aren’t currently functional, and there remain long stretches of road in wide-open spaces with nary a port in the storm. That reality fuels the dreaded range anxiety, especially with the average fully charged EV traveling about a hundred miles less than a gassed-up mid-size ICE car (259 vs 360).

These hurdles may be temporary, but they dramatically increase the appeal of splitting the difference. Enter the plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV), which gives you all the gas you need for long trips, with the option to tackle many daily errands running purely electric, no fossil fuels needed at all.

The combo package seems like a dream solution, but is that actually the case? In the midst of testing out the Roofnest Condor, I got an opportunity to tool around in just such a vehicle, the new Kia Sorento PHEX SX Prestige. Here are the biggest takeaways after a few days behind the wheel.

The 2022 Sorento PHEV’s total range is outstanding

2022 kia sorento phev review: one efficient, versatile beast
KIA

Because range plays such a big role in a plug-in’s appeal, let’s get right to the numbers. As I said earlier, the average EV can go 259 miles without a charge, while an average ICE car can go 360. This vehicle blows both of those numbers out of the water, hitting 460 miles of range when fully fueled and charged. That’s enough juice to take you from New York City to Quebec City, Albuquerque to Denver or San Francisco to San Diego.

Meanwhile, when you’re commuting to work or running errands or having little microadventures around town, you don’t have to worry about gas at all. The Sorento PHEV boasts the longest EPA-estimated all-electric range of any three-row SUV: 32 miles. In other words, if you have access to a garage where you can charge overnight, and you drive like most people most of the time, you could potentially go weeks or even months without a trip to the filling station. Even with gas prices settling back down, that’s a sweet deal.

This Kia is smooth and speedy

2022 kia sorento phev review: one efficient, versatile beast
Kia

Of course, all that range would be almost meaningless if the Sorento PHEV wasn’t a pleasure to drive. In my limited time with it, the vehicle wins on this front as well. I drove it all around Manhattan and Brooklyn and also upstate to camp and ride some gravel, ample opportunity to assess.

The 1.6-liter turbocharged inline-four engine and the electric combine for 261 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. As someone who’s much more likely to hop on a motorcycle than drive something with four wheels, I don’t necessarily know how significant all those numbers are. But I do know the steering felt sharp and responsive while the acceleration was noticeably zippy, even at higher speeds, making it dangerously easy to exceed the 75 miles per hour I was supposed to adhere to with my Roofnest Condor. It’s the kind of vehicle you hate to hit tough traffic in, because it’s just so fun to gun.

While I was not exactly overlanding going from the highway to my campsite, the all-wheel-drive tires were hardly phased by the rocks and loose gravel I traversed — to be expected from the type of vehicle with “sport” in its name.

The Sorento PHEV supports a wide range of outdoor activities

2022 kia sorento phev review: one efficient, versatile beast
Kia

The Sorento PHEV is clearly designed to accommodate everyone from suburban families to itinerant explorers, and you can pick up that adaptability in myriad ways. The fact that it has the most passenger room and second-row legroom of any plug-in hybrid SUV available, for example. Or the fact that the third-row seats split 50-50 and even the second row captain’s chairs fold down for maximum gear hauling. And the fact that the Smart Power Liftgate opens auto-magically when your Smart Key is detected — offering up a dual-level cargo floor for fitting taller items or stashing valuables.

But again, these details are so much more meaningful when you experience them first-hand. In my case, what stood out was the way this vehicle opens up the possibilities of adventure. In my short time with it I not only went camping and gravel biking; I also hauled a bunch of bikes from Manhattan to Brooklyn for a memorial ride. While the Sorento does not have a standard trailer hitch, by dropping the seats and loosening up some handlebars, I was able to stack as many as four bikes in the back. That capacity was clutch.

It’s worth noting that for said camping/gravel biking trip, I was able to drive upstate and back without even thinking about charge levels or gas – putting any notion of range anxiety squarely in the rearview mirror.

This Kia boasts a luxurious interior and smart safety features

2022 kia sorento phev review: one efficient, versatile beast
Kia

I’m sometimes at a loss to evaluate a vehicle’s interior — unless it’s clearly substandard. That is certainly not the case here, especially because I was driving the more premium of the two Sorento PHEVs: the $48,090 SX Prestige, rather than the SX, which has a base price of $45,190.

The vehicles are quite similar when it comes to the exterior and to performance elements, but you get some significant interior upgrades with the Prestige, including a booming 12-speaker Bose premium audio system, a big 12.3-inch LCD display and genuine leather-trimmed seats that are much more adjustable in terms of angles and climate control.

It’s also absolutely loaded with driver assistance features, collectively dubbed Kia Drive Wise Driver Assist Technology. These include blind spot collision avoidance tech, auto emergency braking tech with pedestrian and cyclist detection and nav-based smart cruise control, keeping a safe distance from cars ahead, adjusting speed for curves and taking over steering, accelerating and braking on highways where info is available.

All this tech does take some getting used to, especially for someone who spends most of his time on a much-lower tech form of transport: a fixed-gear bike with no brakes. Whereas that ride demands lots of focus, the Sorento will cover for a lot of your errors. It’s important to remember, you’re still the one operating this 6,000-pound beast, and should pay attention accordingly.

The 2022 Sorento PHEV is hella compelling — right now

2022 kia sorento phev review: one efficient, versatile beast
Kia

So, returning to the original question of whether plug-in hybrids truly deliver the best of both worlds, based on my time with this vehicle, I can answer pretty definitively in the affirmative. The Sorento PHEV has a lot to offer in terms of practicality, performance, versatility, comfort and safety, all while eliminating concerns about getting stuck in the middle of nowhere.

It remains to be seen how far the upfront cost of EVs will drop in relation to gas-powered alternatives. (The ICE version of the Sorento, for instance, starts at $29,590.) And time will tell how much the range of EVs improves — we’re already seeing progress, with the 2022 Tesla Model S hitting a claimed 405 miles — and how quickly charging gaps across the land get filled.

All of which is to say that at the moment, the Sorento PHEV strikes me as an excellent option for around-town activities — and epic adventures far beyond your everyday sphere.

2022 Kia Sorento PHEV SX Prestige

2022 kia sorento phev review: one efficient, versatile beast
Kia

Base Price: $48,090Powertrain: 1.6-liter turbocharged inline-four + electric motor; 6-speed automatic; torque-vectoring all-wheel driveHorsepower: 261Torque: 258 lb-ftEPA Fuel Economy: 35 city, 33 highway, 79 MPGe
Seats: Six

9 Tips to Help You Conserve Gas

2022 kia sorento phev review: one efficient, versatile beast
Bloomberg Creative Getty Images

Gas prices may not be as crazy as they were, but these simple steps can still go a long way.

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