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Kia Sorento Hybrid Is Amazingly Fuel Efficient

I’m on vacation with my family in the beautiful state of Hawaii and I happen to have rented a Kia Sorento Hybrid (HEV). I also happen to own a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) version of the same vehicle and I think it may be useful to compare the fuel efficiency of the two versions as it may help those considering which makes more sense for their specific needs and driving habits.

Fuel economy, or the cost to fuel, may be the most obvious difference between the two versions of the hybrid Kia Sorento (PHEV and HEV) besides feature sets and the manufacturer’s suggested retail price. I am focusing on their respective fuel economy first. In Hawaii, one generally will never need to use the heat and outside temperatures are never particularly cold. This simple fact is important because winter driving in cold temperatures is something that will result in worse fuel economy as most hybrids, these included, need to run the gas engine to provide heat. My week’s worth of driving in the Sorento Hybrid thus represents ideal circumstances for a hybrid vehicle use case: no need for heat and mostly (or completely) slower speed driving. On Kauai, where I am, 50 mph is the fastest you can legally drive. I am also driving around with factory roof racks on the Sorento Hybrid, but with nothing fastened to them, and typically with 4 adults and a child in the car along with some beach gear and or an ice chest. This is just to say that those things likely have a small (negative) impact on the hybrid’s fuel efficiency. Kia Sorento Hybrid fuel economy figures and images of Kauai From the start then, on my drive from the pick up location of our Sorento HEV to our resort, a distance of about 35 miles that was driven at an average speed of about 35 miles per hour, we got an impressive 47.7 mpg. Much of the drive was on a two lane highway with a limit of 50 mph, interspersed with sections at 25 - 40 mph through the towns along the route. Consider me impressed! Of course in my Sorento PHEV, I could have made the entire trip on battery only and not used any gas, but as far as the gas used by this mid-sized, 3-row hybrid SUV my first impression is just… wow! Getting nearly 50 mpg from a vehicle this size is outstanding and makes me wonder what I would be able to get in another large hybrid people mover like the Toyota Highlander Hybrid or Sienna hybrid minivan. If I were otherwise running my PHEV on the same trip, in Auto mode I would expect to get something like double the mpg (because the Sorento PHEV would likely have run on battery for most of the sub 50 mph sections, at least). If I were driving the whole distance in Hybrid mode though, then I expect I would have gotten less impressive fuel economy results (I am guessing about 37-43 mpg based on experience). The extra weight of the larger battery, and perhaps the more powerful electric motor in the PHEV contribute directly to its lower hybrid mode fuel efficiency compared to the HEV. During my next few days of driving we took some shorter trips to the beach and a slow drive out to the end of the road. Max speeds were about 40 mph for a few miles but otherwise 25 - 35 was the norm. The first trip to the beach was mostly downhill and only about 7 miles, and we got 55.7 mpg for that short jaunt (thanks to the downward slope). On a 13 mile stint that was mostly done at 25 mph we ended up getting a more mundane 38 mpg. In addition to driving slowly we had to stop multiple times to allow other vehicles to cross one-lane bridges ahead of us and or for pedestrians. It was analogous to an errand running trip in a small town or dense urban core filled with lots of traffic. Note, the Sorento hybrid is rated at a combined 37 mpg, but 39 mpg for the “city” cycle. On our return trip of 3.4 miles, which included a long uphill section, we only managed to get 26.8 mpg, again thanks to the hills. On a separate beach outing of about 11 miles roundtrip, we got an average of 37.4 mpg. Had I been driving my PHEV Sorento, again all of these trips would have been doable on battery power alone, however I anticipate that in Auto mode I would have gotten double (or better) the mpg due to mostly favoring battery powered propulsion or a couple mpg lower should I have had an empty hybrid battery and no means of recharging it from the grid. The Sorento hybrid we rented had 6,881 miles on it when we picked it up and the cumulative MPG figure for it over the last 1,050 miles at that point was 44.1 mpg. I’ll report back in my next piece on what it was at the end of our week of driving along with a measurement of our efficiency based on total miles driven and fuel consumed and the results of a long distance drive over 50 miles. But in short, the Kia Sorento hybrid is capable of impressive fuel economy under gentle driving conditions and mild weather (it never got below 70 at any time we were there) though if you mostly use it for short distance driving of under 50 miles at a stretch, the PHEV version will be vastly more efficient. Images courtesy of Justin Hart. Justin Hart has owned and driven electric vehicles for over 15 years, including a first generation Nissan LEAF, second generation Chevy Volt, Tesla Model 3, an electric bicycle and most recently a Kia Sorento PHEV. He is also an avid SUP rider, poet, photographer and wine lover. He enjoys taking long EV and PHEV road trips to beautiful and serene places with the people he loves. Follow Justin on Twitter for daily KIA EV news coverage.