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More Love Anyway: Unpacking Contradictory Car And Driver Reviews Of Kia's Plug-In Hybrids

I find it interesting that one of the most highly regarded automotive publications in the world, Car and Driver, has essentially contradicted itself when it comes to its assessments of Kia’s two AWD plug-in hybrid (PHEV) SUVs: the Kia Sorento and Kia Sportage. The contradiction is right in the headlines for each: one has “zippy performance” and the other “needs more motor”. So which is it C&D?


The powertrains for these two vehicles are identical, and while the Sorento is larger and heavier, it isn’t by much and the two vehicles are built on the same N3 platform. So what makes the Sportage “zippy” and the Sorento in need of “more motor” if they both have the same powertrain and platform? The relative zip for these whips may be all about kicks, grips and tips (i.e. wheels, tires and the scale). Sorry about that, but this awkward dichotomy is breaking something in me, and it’s my funny bone. But here’s the performance related specs that matter to those that feel the need, the need for speed; and I really need to lay off the 1980’s pop culture references. ;)

The Sorento PHEV weighs a little over 4,500 pounds (that’s more than two 1989 Mazda Miatas!), and it struts around on 235/55 R19 alloy wheels and typically Continental or Michelin all season tires. It is 189.4 inches long by 74.8 inches wide by 66.7 inches tall (in case that matters to you, but it shouldn’t really affect its zippiness factor much). It also has 6.9 inches of ground clearance and can accelerate from 0 to 100 KPH in 8.7 seconds (aka 62.1 MPH, for all you metric system haters out there). Motor Trend noted a more impressive 7.4 second 0-60 MPH in their tests of the identical 2022 model, for reference. The Sportage PHEV in contrast weighs 4,270 pounds (in its highest trim/heaviest form) and has identically sized alloy wheels and tires (the tires could be more aggressive in their tread though, depending on trim). It is 183.5 inches long by 73.4 inches wide by 66.9 inches tall, has 8.3 inches of ground clearance and can accelerate from 0 to 100 kph in 8.6 seconds (according to, or 7.1 seconds 0-60 MPH according to Motor Trend). So, somewhere in that fraction (or fractions) of a second, Car and Driver found the extra motor they were looking for, apparently. 230 pounds (nearly the average weight of an NFL quarterback, by the way) is not a very significant difference, but it may be just enough to account for the small difference in the two SUV’s acceleration stats. With identically sized wheels and similar tires in most trims, the zippiness differential isn't likely to be determined by these things.

Who's out there drag racing their SUVs anyway? Car and Driver writers of course! I kid, I kid. While vehicle weight is the most likely reason the Sportage is a skosh faster than the Sorento, I think the real thing that brings ratings of zip for one and ho hum the other comes down to the simple fact that two different writers came to two different conclusions about two vehicles with the same foundational components and very similar levels of performance. But as Howard Jones said: maybe love is letting people be just what they want to be… so there you have it, Ezra Dyer and Caleb Miller, you each get to be the (PHEV) driver you want to be and no one, no one ever (at Car and Driver), is to blame!

What do you think dear reader? Do the 0-60 (or 62.1) MPH times of these plug-in hybrids matter? Would you agree either is zippy, or snoozy? Which would you rather drive if given your druthers and why? Please leave your comments, questions, or song references below.

Images courtesy of Kia and Justin Hart.

Justin Hart has owned and driven electric vehicles for over 14 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.