If all goes to plan, the Kia Sorento will therefore become the only vehicle on sale in Australia with diesel, petrol, regular hybrid, and PHEV options. It’ll also be the first electrified Kia sold locally.
“[Kia head office] has given us the green light to develop, for our market, both the plug-in and the hybrid for our Sorento,” said Kia Australia’s head of product planning, Roland Rivero.
“We expect to have the development and homologation processes completed ASAP, and stock arriving early 2021.”
Rivero added during a later conversation the PHEV will likely hit our market first, shortly after Europe gets it, in the first quarter of next year. The hybrid should follow shortly after.
“We’ll be conservative in the initial stages, we don’t see more than 10-15 per cent of the [sales] mix being hybrid,” added Kia Australia’s chief operating officer Damien Meredith. He expects overall Sorento volume to be 4800 sales annually.
In seeking to show what a step up the new Sorento is for the brand, Kia claims to have benchmarked the flagship $65,000 GT-Line grade against premium products including the Volvo XC90, Volkswagen Touareg, and BMW X5.
It brings to market Kia-first features such as a remote parking feature using the smart key, in-car intercom, and 12-inch digitised driver instruments projecting blind-spot camera feeds.
The hybrid and PHEV are both made at the same Hwasung production facility in Korea, as diesel and petrol Sorentos.
The PHEV pairs a 1.6-litre T-GDi (turbocharged, direct-injected, petrol) engine with a 67kW/304Nm electric motor and water-cooled 13.8kWh-capacity battery, that can be recharged via a wall plug.
This takes the system outputs to 195kW/350Nm and allows a projected 40-50km of pure electric driving before the petrol engine kicks in.
Given the Sorento GT-Line diesel costs $64,990 drive-away, it’s easy to imagine the PHEV version will launch above $70,000, making it the priciest Kia SUV yet in Australia.
The Sorento PHEV will join a number of other plug-in hybrid SUVs that are either already on sale, or coming.
Existing options include the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, Mini Countryman SE, Volvo XC40 Recharge, Volvo XC60/XC90 T8s, Mercedes-Benz GLC 300e, BMW X5 xDrive45e, Range Rover Sport PHEV, and Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid.
Plug-in hybrid SUVs slated for Australia include the Ford Escape (this year), Peugeot 3008 PHEV, MG HS PHEV, Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross PHEV, and all-new second-generation Outlander PHEV (all expected 2021). There are also PHEV versions of the Land Rover Discovery Sport and Range Rover Evoque on the cards.
The Sorento Hybrid’s new powertrain pairs the same 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine as the PHEV with a 1.49 kWh lithium-ion polymer battery pack under the cargo floor, a 44kW/264Nm electric motor, and six-speed automatic.
The system makes 169kW of power and 350Nm torque at maximum levels of cooperation. Kia is yet to release fuel efficiency figures, but for context the diesel’s claim is 6.1 litres per 100km, and the petrol’s 9.7L/100km.
This hybrid car will take on the new-generation Toyota Kluger which, from early 2021, also launches in Australia with a model-first hybrid drivetrain – a 179kW 2.5-litre setup.
Market leader Toyota has achieved spectacular success with its hybrid range this year, with 26.6 per cent of its total sales (equal to 33,500 units) sporting this type of mild electrification. RAV4 Hybrid was the nation’s top-selling car altogether in August.
Toyota’s secret has been keeping the price of its hybrids between $1500 and $3000 greater than regular petrol modes, so expect Kia to do similar here if it hopes to achieve success.
As we reported a month ago, it could be 2022 before we see a pure-electric Kia in Australia, as the next logical step.
After pushing to run a fleet of e-Niro electric SUVs at the 2020 Australian Open tennis tournament, demand in Europe has forced Kia to push back the car’s arrival – potentially until as late as 2022.
“I would have liked an EV range two years ago,” COO Meredith told us.
“Unfortunately supply and government legislation are the drivers for Kia globally in that regard.
“So if countries have legislation that requires EVs in that part of the world they get first dibs, which is fair enough, it makes sense.
“We’re still working very, very hard to get an EV line-up going in Australia. I think we’re close, but it just hasn’t been finalised.”