Skip to main content

Sorento PHEV Road Trip: Outstanding MPG or Just Outstanding Beer

It’s finally time to take our first family road trip in our new 2022 Kia Sorento plug-in hybrid (PHEV)! We have 800-1,000+ miles (round trip) of driving in store, between our home in the Seattle area and Bend, Oregon and its environs for a week spent basking in the sun, imbibing some of the best craft brews in the U.S. and taking in some of the breathtaking natural beauty of the landscapes of central Oregon.


I say this with enthusiasm because, while we bought the Sorento PHEV back in September of last year and I did do one other road trip, just a few short weeks after we bought it someone smashed out a rear passenger window and we spent five months waiting for a replacement. But now, with our window replaced, we’re finally ready to hit the open road and see just what this electrified 3 row SUV is capable of.

Besides all of the beautiful scenery, fresh air and intoxicating brews, I am looking forward to seeing just what kind of fuel efficiency I can expect from a long road trip, loaded up with gear and people, in our new PHEV SUV.

Day 1: We pack up our gear, making sure to bring the charging cable and a heavy duty 10 gauge extension cord to make use of opportunity charging along our route. A full tank of gas and full charge shows a range of 432 miles, slightly below the advertised range, which is most likely due to not completely filling the tank past the cut-off point, and the efficiency results of my most recent drives. We have a timeshare condo just outside of Bend, Oregon that happens to have free EV charging on-site and we intend to take advantage of it while we are there. We also plan on stopping in to visit some family en route and charge up once or twice during the drive, but otherwise will drive mostly in hybrid mode getting to and from our destination. It is springtime in the Pacific Northwest and the weather is either stunningly beautiful or dreary, cold and wet. Lucky for us, the trip starts with mostly sunny skies and temperatures close to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. It doesn’t get much better than this.

The first leg of our journey isn’t that far. We are driving only about 61 miles to my brother’s house in Olympia, Washington where we’ll spend the night, get a charge, and enjoy the company of wonderful people whose company we cherish. We load up about 700 pounds of humans and stuff and though I don’t anticipate needing them, I have installed our cross bars on the roof rails. I am curious if the unladen cross bars will have much impact on fuel economy for this trip, but I don’t expect them to because on my previous car, a Chevy Volt, only when the bulky cargo box was also installed did I see a roughly 20% decrease in efficiency. There was no significant difference otherwise.

We depart late in the morning and do about a dozen miles of driving on urban streets, almost entirely in EV mode, before we hit the crowded freeway traffic we are well accustomed to. The volume of vehicles on Interstate 5 south and the pace of traffic mean that our average speed is about 45 mph. We frequently can get to the speed limit and above, but there are long stretches, for miles at a time, where we can not go faster than 30 mph and several stretches where we come to a complete stop. The upside of this slower than preferred driving experience is that we get outstanding fuel efficiency, considering the size, weight and aerodynamic efficiency of our midsize SUV.

The interstate undulates up and down hills for the rest of the journey to my brother’s house and we switch back to EV mode from HEV mode whenever the traffic slows us to less than 50 mph (which is the case through most of the Fife and Tacoma area). In spots, we are able to coast and break down long hills, regaining at times a percent or two of battery charge on a single hill. Once we pass Joint Base Lewis-McChord south of Tacoma, we switch back to EV mode for the duration of the trip because we have enough battery range to make it the rest of the way. At our destination, the Drive Info screen shows that we got 62.1 mpg on our trip to my brother’s house with about 7 miles of range left on the battery. I waited just a little too long to switch and the gas engine boosted our drive up the last steep hill coming into the Olympia area out of the Nisqually basin. Feeling very proud of our results, achieved with no other effort than trying to drive smoothly (i.e. not accelerating hard or breaking too fast, which we mostly managed to do), we head out to a local watering hole for a refreshing reward. Our next day of driving will take us the remainder of the 300+ miles to the Bend area. Cheers and let us know your thoughts on this first leg of the journey, below.

Briggs Taphouse and Pilsner PintJustin 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.


Lee Turner (not verified)    May 15, 2022 - 6:11PM

Justin: Thanks for trying to understand how best to use the 3 EV settings on long trips and posting about it. It's unbelievable that KIA has not communicated some guidelines or Best Practices on this to new owners. In late June I'll be driving my 2022 Sorento PHEV from Magnolia TX near Houston (300' elevation) to Placitas NM near Albuquerque (834 miles,13.5 hrs, 5938' elevation) with my wife in one day. We will have to run the AC, we make short pit stops, and I don't plan to try to charge along the way. Based on what you've learned so far, how would you manage the EV settings on this trip? Thanks in advance, I'm happy to make a modest consulting fee payment to your favorite charity for this advice. :) Best, Lee

JustinHart (not verified)    May 16, 2022 - 12:34PM

In reply to by Lee Turner (not verified)

Yeah, I find Kia’s owners manuals to be… lacking. My experience in owning and driving other PHEVs and EVs is what guides me (and the collective experience of other drivers on forums and online that share tips and knowledge). Re: your question about how I would manage the EV settings on your trip, here’s the things I would do and no need for any donations, just be kind to one another, watch out for yourself, and others, and drive safe!

First, you may want to precondition your Sorento PHEV if it is plugged in and battery topped off. I don’t believe the AC will force the gas engine to turn on, and the point of preconditioning it is to have it at your preferred temperature while still plugged in. Note, if it was cold out and you were trying to run the heat, it WOULD force the gas engine on… but you can turn on the heated seats and or steering wheel without using the gas engine. Anyway, get the car cooled off first if you’re plugged in and it will save just a little bit of battery for the road.

Second, try to use up at least 5-6 miles of battery range at the start of your trip. This is so you have plenty of “capacity” to recaptured some charge from breaking or coasting on long stretches. But otherwise, keep it in HEV mode (by manually switching to it with button between the front seats) except when you might hit traffic/drive through a small town/get off the freeway for a pit stop. Saving the battery mostly for driving 45 mph or under will stretch it out and let the gas engine “tap into” the battery throughout the trip. Bring your portable charger maybe in case you can charge when you get to your destination?

You’re right, not worth it to charge while en route unless you might be stopping for an hour at a restaurant or place that has a 240V charger (that can get you about 12-14 miles of range while you eat). Lastly, avoid using Sport mode (if what you care about is getting best fuel efficiency), as it will use more gas. I haven’t needed the Sport mode even for going over 4,000 ft mountain passes with a full load, but of course it is there for a reason (to give you more power/pore response from the engine), so use it as you choose or need to. Enjoy the drive!