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Testing Kia Sorento PHEV Winter Driving Performance: Slushing Down Range

What I really want to know about my Sorento PHEV is: how good will my EV range be in the cold? I’ve owned and driven several EVs and PHEVs, driven them long distances in below freezing weather, braved mountain passes and snow packed city streets and I know plug-in vehicles handle well in harsh weather (especially when equipped with good snow tires!). But range always suffers when it's cold, period.

Since the 2022 Kia Sorento PHEV has an independent battery pack water cooling system (a first for Kia, according to the Hyundai Motor Group), I wasn’t sure how well it would do when the weather outside was frightful. I mean, “water cooling”, it’s all there in the name, right? Come summer, I am sure that water cooling is going to come in handy, but right now it’s making me think about zambonis and ice rinks (well, that and VW’s first car powered by a water cooled engine). In my previous winter driving test, I only did some local errands in freezing temps and snowy conditions. Today, I did a longer drive of 37.6 mi and decided to test how far I could go on battery alone in the cold. The conditions: It was 36-37F outside and raining/hailing hard enough to use the wipers on the high intermittent setting. There was ice and slush on the road in places. Here’s a picture:

Slushy street

I drove about 85% of these miles on the freeway, pretty much at the speed limit (60 mph), sometimes a touch over, and for at least a few miles a little slower at 45-55 mph due to traffic conditions. I meant to do the entire drive without turning on the heat, just using the heated seat, steering wheel and rear defroster as long as it was safe to do so. I have a smashed out rear passenger window that is covered up in plastic, but it still started fogging up about ⅓ of the way into my outbound leg, so I turned on the defroster. I was in EV mode up until that point and then the engine switched on to idle because the previous driver had left the heat set to 73F. Oh well, at least I would be a little warmer.

Once the engine came on it stayed on for the duration of the outbound trip (about 13 mi), even though I tried turning off the defroster and or setting it to “Lo”, which means only outside air comes through the vents. I assume this is by design since it would add unnecessary wear to the engine to turn it off and on for such short durations. But I admit I am annoyed that it won’t turn off later, once the engine warms up and heat is turned off. Perhaps that won’t be the case when outside temperatures are warmer? I’ll have to test that later too. In any case I still got 160 mpg on the outbound trip which is outstanding for a vehicle of this size. Note, I also used exactly half of the estimated EV range (which was 32 mi when I started and 16 mi when I arrived). That means it’s possible the idling engine provided some heat to the battery (if that’s how Kia designed it to work). Or maybe it just means even in temperatures near freezing, I was still able to get slightly better than the estimated maximum range from my battery on the first leg of my drive. Nicely done Kia, nicely done. This hasn’t been my experience with other EVs or PHEVs I’ve driven, range is always less than stated maximum when it's cold enough for there to be ice or snow on the roads.

Outbound mpg

I also learned a lesson on this leg of the drive: if you intend to keep the gas engine off but want to use the vents for defrosting, you need foresight to make sure to leave the heat set to “Lo” before you turn off the vehicle.

I left my Sorento parked and off for 45 minutes (and made sure I set the heat to “Lo” before turning it off when I arrived). I managed to keep it in EV mode for almost the entire drive home. With 1.3 mi left, out of a 19 mi drive, it switched into hybrid mode. This means I got almost 18 mi of range from an estimated 16 miles on the inbound leg and 36.3 mi total from a full charge in near freezing temperatures. When the engine idles, though it may help the battery stay warmer, it does not appear to add charge. If it did add charge, I would have had more range half-way through the drive since it is more downhill than the return. For reference, I also had 12% charge remaining on the drive battery when I got home (because Kia doesn’t let us use up 100%). My mpg for the return trip was an even more impressive 257.

Inbound mpg

Now I just need to test my Kia Sorento PHEV on a much colder day on a longer trip (because some on social media have said the heater doesn’t work that well in extremely cold temps, like -33F). Brrrr, I can’t wait!

Header image provided by Kia Media.

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.


Lee (not verified)    January 4, 2022 - 2:21PM

Would you have total mileage can be driven from full to empty gas tank?

Kia Canada says it is twice efficiency as Forte which claims about 640km per tank.
It would be about 1200km or so.

Thank you!

JustinHart (not verified)    January 4, 2022 - 9:46PM

Hopefully I will be able to do such a test later this month (well except for the running to empty part, want to avoid that, but at least close enough to estimate full to empty range more accurately). If and when I can do this, I will write it up for certain.

Catherine Robin (not verified)    January 27, 2022 - 7:17PM

Hi Justin, thanks for all your reviews! I am a brand new Sorento PHEV owner (since last night), in Canada (-6 C today). I am not getting a lot of info from Kia on how the EV mode works. On a short trip today I managed to stay on EV mode the entire trip, but as I watched the energy flow it looked like the combustion engine was feeding the electric engine and battery the whole time, and my mileage was at 6.1 l/100km after 10 km - I was expecting it to be zero or close to it. Does the ICE work in EV mode to feed the battery? Fan and temperature were on lowest settings, but maybe it was on for that, in which case it would have been 0 l/100 km in the summer. Second question: I have a mileage indicator which always has mileage marked at 12-14 l/km, no matter what mode I am in - that is a lot higher than stated in the 'Accumulated Info' snapshot for the trip. Does this also happen to you? Thanks!

Justin Hart    August 5, 2022 - 9:02PM

In reply to by Catherine Robin (not verified)

Catherine I apologize for missing your post so many months ago. I believe the Kia main force the heat on when outside temperatures are low enough (i.e. more than a few degrees below zero Celsius), at least at times, in order to make sure the engine isn't too cold if you need it suddenly, so basically warming it up enough to provide heat. Also, if you press down too firmly on the accelerator, it will start the gas engine even if you are in EV mode and it will stay running for a time (until the engine heats up) or until you turn the car off and restart it. I hope this helps if you haven't figured it out already!