Testing Kia Sorento PHEV Winter Driving Performance: Road Trip, 1st leg
Here’s some context for those that care: it was a mild winter day in the Seattle area with temperatures in the low to mid 40’s, Fahrenheit. There was heavy fog, but no rain. I had a little over 300 lbs of people + cargo in the vehicle, and a smashed out rear window (covered up in thick plastic). The trip was done from my home in the Seattle suburbs to my in-laws home in a small rural town most of the way to Portland, OR on about 90% freeway with a speed limit of 60 mph for about ⅔ of the way and 70 mph for the remainder. Because of my busted out window, the flow of traffic for much of the trip, and the fact that my cargo wasn’t staying put as well as I would have preferred, I drove gently and kept my speed close to the posted speed limit the entire time (no more than a few mph over), though there were multiple sections of a few miles each with either stop and go or slow moving traffic. The route had several long, undulating hills, but no passes or especially steep hills. And for those who want to know: my tires were inflated to 39 psi, cold. Because rolling resistance, it’s a thing!
Besides efficiency, I also tested the following: how well the heating system works (people have been mentioning disappointing results with the Sorento’s output on social media), whether the Sport mode eliminates slight accelerator hesitation noticed by myself and others when in Eco mode (spoiler, it does!), whether my earlier efficiency testing results on shorter trips would align with this much longer test, how quickly the Sport mode might regenerate range, and last but not least what my estimated maximum range would be if I had kept driving the same route and same fashion until my full tank and full charge were depleted.
Now that you know lots of detail about the conditions and purposes of this test, how did it go? First, let’s just say I still believe I am smarter than my Kia! I think that no one should use the Auto mode (toggled by the EV/HEV button between the front seats) if they care about getting the best efficiency results. In my mind it is simply there for people who prefer not to think about this specific aspect of the performance of their plug-in hybrids. And that’s fine. That will be the case for some drivers, but since the primary purpose of most plug-in hybrids (at least those with useful ranges and less than insane amounts of horsepower and torque) is to use substantially less fuel and significantly decrease emissions, most PHEV drivers will care about this. So, I’ll sing it from the hilltops if I have to: you too can be smarter than your PHEV! Skip the Auto setting and manually toggle between EV and HEV!
Here are my efficiency results on the first leg of the trip, which was about 104 miles of non-stop driving:
39 miles per gallon is 5 mpg better than the EPA combined rating for the Sorento PHEV, and remember 90% of this drive was done on the freeway as opposed to surface roads (which would have resulted in even better mpg since hybrids generally are at their most efficient when operating in slower and stop and go scenarios). I am impressed with the results and am also sure that if I had driven closer to 10 mph over the speed limit, instead, I would not have exceeded the EPA ratings. This is supported by the first ⅔ of the outbound leg where my mpg was at 41.7 until I entered a 70 mph stretch of interstate. After bumping up my speed, my mpg dropped to 34 until I exited the interstate and manually switched back to EV mode for the last 7 miles or so, which brought my mpg back up to 39. In total, I also estimate that I got about 35 miles of EV range on the full charge, with the majority of that being at speeds of 45-55 mph in traffic on the freeway or on two lane rural highways. Not bad Kia, not bad at all!
Stay tuned for my follow up article for the results of the rest of the drive test.
Top image courtesy of Kia.
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.