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Engine options, top speed, acceleration and refinement

Kia’s implementation of a hybrid powertrain in this latest Sorento comes across as a slightly hollow gesture. This is entirely down to its underwhelming electric performance.

With more than two tonnes worth of metal to shift, the Sorento’s 59bhp electric motor simply doesn’t have the muscle required to move the SUV off from a standstill, or bring it up to speed, without the petrol engine doing the vast majority of the heavy lifting. In fact, the only instances where our testers found they could reliably run on electricity alone was when travelling downhill or while maintaining a constant speed on clear, flat, open roads.

The Americans must find us comically twee over here in Britain, with the ‘huge’ Sorento. They get the V6-engined Kia Telluride, whose wheelbase is 86mm longer and whose presence on the road really is absolutely monstrous

As a result, the Sorento is only an averagely efficient car in the sorts of stop/start, inner-city driving environments where you’d typically expect a hybrid to excel. We saw an overall average economy figure of 35mpg during our time with the car, making the Sorento only marginally more efficient than the 177bhp diesel-powered Land Rover Discovery Sport (31mpg) we road tested at the beginning of 2020. And given that even the most powerful oil-burning Discovery Sport is still only a few benefit-in-kind tax brackets higher than the Sorento, it’s difficult to see exactly what it is you’re gaining by opting for this particular electrified powertrain. In reality, it doesn’t feel or perform like anything more than a glorified mild hybrid.

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Viewed as such, it’s a bit easier to appreciate. As feeble as the electric motor is in isolation, it combines effectively with the petrol motor to lend the Sorento a respectable turn of real-world pace. On Millbrook’s mile straight, it bettered its claimed 8.7sec 0-60mph time by 0.2sec, and the 30-70mph run was dealt with in a respectable 7.9sec. By way of comparison, the Discovery Sport required 10.3sec to hit 60mph and 10.5sec to cover the 30-70mph dash.

Acceleration off the line is generally pretty smooth, too, thanks to the torque fill provided by the electric motor, although sudden throttle inputs at speed can easily catch the six-speed ’box out. Smaller applications made while on the move aren’t always answered swiftly, either, leaving the electric motor to feel as though it’s occasionally playing catch-up. The switch from electric to petrol power could be less conspicuous, too.

Still, it’s refined at a cruise, and on the motorway its fuel efficiency is a degree more respectable: we extracted a touring economy figure of 43.3mpg.