Kia unveils new Toyota hybrid fighter

The booming South Korean automaker is battling Toyota by adding gasoline-electric power to one of its most popular machines.

Kia has added a hybrid model to its seven-seat Sorento SUV lineup, throwing down the gauntlet to Toyota’s petrol-electric Kluger.

The Sorento Hybrid is only available in the premium GT-Line grade, and buyers can choose between front-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive for around $72,400 and $75,500 drive-away respectively.

That’s about a $7,000 premium over the front-wheel-drive GT-Line gasoline and all-wheel-drive GT-Line diesel. It’s also about $12,000 cheaper than the Sorento plug-in hybrid which brings a bigger battery and can travel up to 68 km on pure electric power.

Kia says the front-drive hybrid gets 5.3 L/100 km and the heavier all-wheel-drive model tested here gets 5.8 L/100 km.

We managed around 7L/100km in a mix of open road and city driving, which is impressive for a big truck.

On the road, the Sorento is designed for comfort, with a well-sorted suspension that soaks up bumps and undulations with ease. The trade-off is banked turns, which is typical of larger family SUVs.

Precise steering and all-wheel drive grip provide confidence in the wet.

The hybrid configuration of the Sorento combines a 1.6-litre turbo petrol engine with a small 44kW electric motor for a combined output of 169kW and 350Nm of torque.

There’s plenty of punch off the start and decent thrust when the Sorento is called upon to overtake at speed.

For the majority of trips, the gasoline engine does most of the heavy lifting, but the electric motor kicks in occasionally. The small 1kWh battery recharges when braking.

The Sorento is quiet, with just a hint of electric motor hum and a distant growl of the turbo motor entering the cabin. On the highway, road and tire noise is minimal.

The Sorento is smaller than the Kluger and that’s noticeable in urban areas where the Kia is easy to maneuver through tight parking lots and downtown streets. Available only in GT-Line trim, the hybrid comes with the lot.

Passengers are greeted by soft quilted Nappa leather seats, electronically adjustable, heated and ventilated in the front. The second-row outboard seats are also heated.

The cabin is made up of a mix of soft-touch materials and glossy black surfaces, while ambient lighting enhances the nighttime ambience.

Entertainment includes a 12-speaker Bose stereo, controlled via a central 10.25-inch touchscreen compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. A high-resolution 12.3-inch digital pilot display provides useful information.

The cabin has multiple USB charging points on all rows and there is a wireless device charger in the front center console. Passengers in all three rows are pampered with individual air vents and there are eight cupholders.

Families will appreciate the built-in second-row sunshades, while the third row is comfortable for smaller kids and teens.

Safety equipment is complete.

The Sorento will automatically brake if it detects a potential collision with a car, pedestrian or cyclist.

It will also alert the driver if there is something in the car’s blind spot and sound an alarm if a car passes by when pulling out of a driveway or parking spot.

Lane-keeping assist tech will tug on the steering wheel if you start drifting out of your lane, while a bird’s-eye camera makes parking easier.

Kia backs its vehicles with a best-in-class seven-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty, but maintenance is very expensive at over $3,000 over five years.

OPINION 3.5/5

Beautiful and well-equipped family SUV with decent fuel economy. Cheaper grades and a more affordable maintenance program would be welcome.

KIA SORENTO AWD VITALS HYBRIDS

THE PRICE From around $75,500 by car

ENGINE 1.6-litre, 169 kW, 350 Nm turbocharged petrol and electric engine

WARRANTY/SERVICE Seven years/unlimited km, $3,080 over five years

SECURITY Automatic emergency braking, lane keeping assist, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert and 360 degree camera

THE THIRST 5.8L/100km

SPARE PART Full size

LLUGGAGE 175-1988 liters

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