KIA has just added to the appeal of it's seven-seat Sorento model by introducing a plug-in hybrid version to the popular line-up.
The fourth generation Sorento was launched last year to much acclaim and boasted a taller, wider design with a longer wheelbase for extra cabin space. And at the time, the headline-grabbing news was the self-charging hybrid model.
But now, Kia has upped its game even further with a plug-in model and it certainly ticks all the boxes for anyone who can make full use of the EV-only range.
It is more expensive than the combustion-engined cars, but it can deliver 35 pure electric miles and they will be invaluable to anyone with a short commute or who drives through Congestion Charge zones.
And then when longer journeys are needed, there is the assurance of the 1.6-litre petrol engine for added range.
Costing Â£53,755 the Sorento PHEV, in range-topping ‘4' trim level, certainly looks the business with a more mature look than outgoing models.
The distinctive ‘tiger nose' grille is wider, there are refreshed bumper designs, a panoramic roof, privacy glass, new front light clusters and, at the back, vertical wrap-around tail lights, a spoiler and twin exhaust pipes. The 19-inch alloys complete the styling.
Moving inside, there is Nappa leather upholstery, powered seats that can be heated or cooled with memory settings, heated outer rear seats and a wealth of on-board technology. Creature comforts include a head-up display, a 12-speaker Bose sound system, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto with voice control, a wireless phone charger and a smart 10.25-inch touchscreen with full navigation.
The 12.3-inch information screen behind the steering wheel is really upmarket and can be personalised according to taste. Special mention to the clever blind spotmonitoring system that displays a high-resolution video feed in the driver's instrument cluster when they indicate to change lane and this will highlight any vehicles hidden from view.
Our car was powered by the 1.6-litre T-GDi engine mated to a 90bhp electric motor with a 13.8kWh battery. The car, with a combined 261bhp and 350Nm of torque, could complete the 0-60mph dash in 8.4 seconds and maxed out at 119mph.
According to official figures, it could deliver a combined 176.6mpg with carbon emissions of 38g/km. Clearly, the EV-only range would need to be utilised on a regular basis to see anywhere near these fuel efficiency numbers.
But that low emissions figure will bring with it some attractive savings for fleet buyers with a Benefit in Kind tax rating of 11 per cent. Private buyers will need to weigh up their driving needs before signing on the dotted line though as this PHEV model costs about £4k more than ICE versions.
When it comes to driving, the Sorento is deceptively agile for its size and the acceleration through the six-speed automatic gearbox is beautifully smooth. There are steering wheel-mounted paddles to manually change gear and the driver can also flick through various drive modescalled Comfort, Eco, Sport and Smart. The aptly named Smart setting monitors your driving style to deliver the best acceleration, gear changes and braking suited to your driving.
The grip on fast-moving country lanes is very confident and there is minimal body movement into sharper bends. It cruises on motorways and, for its dimensions that stretch 4.8 metres in length, it is agile and easy to manoeuvre in town centre settings.
The ride can be a little firm at times and you will feel the odd bump and dip along the way, but generally the suspension system does a worthy job of smoothing out the road surfaces and the car is well insulated against road surface, wind and engine noise.
The latest Sorento is also all-wheel drive offering added grip in mud, snow and sand with a towing limit of 2.5-tonnes.
On the practicality front, as you would expect, the cabin is exceptionally spacious, with a pair of third row seats that are easily raised and lowered when needed. The boot, accessed via a powered tailgate, can swallow 175 litres of kit with all seven seats in use, increasing to 809 litres with five seats upright. In fact, the storage limits are only a few litres less than standard models despite housing a battery pack. This is due to the car having a slightly smaller fuel tank.
And there are plenty of practical storage compartments scattered throughout the cabin, including a really deep central cubby box and practical door bins.
The latest Sorento was awarded the maximum five stars when tested for its Euro NCAP safety rating and is fitted with a comprehensive number of features, including multi-collision brake assist, forward collision avoidance assist, highway driving assist, intelligent speed limit assist, trailer stability assist, lane follow assist, driver attention warning, Isofix fittings in rows two and three, plus a full suite of airbags.
Charging the Sorento PHEV takes three hours, 25 minutes from zero to 100 per cent via a 3kW wallbox or five hours using a standard domestic socket.