The Kia Sorento is being electrified with new hybrid and plug-in hybrid variants.
South Korea's Kia Motors took its first steps into the electric crossover utility vehicle segment in 2019 with a battery-electric version of the subcompact Niro, and still more is on the way. In an interview with Automotive News Europe, Kia's Chief Operating Officer Emilio Herrera revealed that the automaker is hard at work on hybrid and plug-in-hybrid versions of the mid-size Kia Sorento CUV.
Both models will launch next year as the Sorento, now in its third generation, undergoes a mid-cycle refresh. The refresh will be the Sorento's second since the third-gen model debuted for 2016, after a mid-2018 update brought revisions to the grille and the front and rear lamps.
Where the Kia Niro EV is so far limited to select markets in the United States, including New York and California, the new Kia Sorento hybrid models are expected to launch nationwide. Details are unknown, but it's likely that the hybrid Sorento models will derive their respective powertrains from those used in the Optima hybrids. That would mean a direct-injected 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and a 38-kW (hybrid) or 50-kW (plug-in) electric motor working in concert through a six-speed automatic transmission.
In the Kia Optima, the hybrid's peak combined power output is 192 horsepower, with up to 271 lb-ft of total system torque, to the plug-in model's peak 202 hp and 276 lb-ft of torque.
The conventional hybrid and plug-in models of the updated Kia Sorento will form an integral part of Kia's concerted effort to ramp up electrified vehicle sales in order to bring down its corporate average fuel consumption. The company's COO says that in 2020, Kia will need to sell some 40,000 battery-electric vehicles - about twice as many as it has sold in 2019 - and roughly 50,000 plug-in hybrids in order to meet its emissions goals.
That said, Herrera admits that the primary driver behind Kia's electrification push is rising global emissions standards, especially in the European Union. "Either we have the EVs, or we have to pay huge fines," Herrera revealed. Simply put, the company's strategy is to "make sure you have enough EVs so that they offset the CO2 from the combustion cars" in the European market.