My husband and I have four children, aged 6, 8, 11 and 12. We live close enough to my husband’s work for him to walk or bike, so we are a one-car household. Our commute to school is 12 kilometres one way, city driving. I work at the school part-time, so some days we drive about 25 kilometres, and other days 50. I’ve been eyeing a Kia Sorento PHEV as the gas savings would be significant for us (we live in B.C.’s lower mainland). Would we outgrow it too quickly as our children turn into teenagers? – Martha
Petrina Gentile: I like the idea of a PHEV, including the Kia Sorento. It’s a great option for transporting six people, with good second- and third-row legroom.
Mark Richardson: The beauty of a third row is that it separates squabbling children. Most three-row vehicles can fit only small children in the cramped back seat, however. This won’t be an issue while the youngest are pre-teens, but once their legs start growing, the only comfortable option will be a minivan.
Gentile: You know my feelings about a minivan. I’m not a huge fan – I prefer a three-row SUV. But I don’t have kids, so I get the practicality and flexibility of it. So let’s give Martha a couple of PHEV SUV options and maybe a minivan option at the end, too. Have you driven the Sorento?
Richardson: Yes – it’s a nice vehicle. It’s a little weird for seating, in that the higher-end trims have what are called “captain’s chairs” in the second row. These are two separate and more comfortable seats, instead of a bench seat that fits three people. So the more expensive Sorentos only seat six people instead of seven. Probably ideal for Martha’s family.
Gentile: But there’s a price premium to pay for a PHEV. The Sorento PHEV starts at $46,995, which is high compared to the gas-only base-model Sorento, which starts at $34,995.
Richardson: Let’s do some rough math. A Sorento PHEV has an electric range of about 50 kilometres, so if Martha charges every night, she can do the school run every day without using any gas. If we use her figures for the school run, that’s about 7,000 kilometres a year she can drive without using gas. (Two days a week driving 50 kilometres and three days driving 25 kilometres is 175 kilometres times 40 weeks). If she owned a conventional Sorento, she’d consume about 10 litres every 100 kilometres, so that’s 700 litres of gas she won’t be burning every year. At about $2 per litre for Vancouver gas, that is $1,400 a year, less about $200 in hydro for charging the vehicle. It’ll take 10 years to save $12,000 in fuel, which is the difference in cost between the plug-in hybrid and the standard vehicle.
Gentile: It won’t be parked on weekends and holidays, though. If you take the extra savings by powering with electricity for 50 kilometres for each of those days, that probably comes down to seven or eight years.
Richardson: And that only covers the difference in cost, though the PHEV is a nicer trim level than the base, gas-only Sorento. It does, however, play a small part in reducing emissions pollution. If we can afford to do so, we’ve each got to start somewhere.
Gentile: Don’t forget Martha lives in B.C., which has some nice provincial subsidies for PHEVs as well as federal subsidies that she can take advantage of, which will drop the price a few thousand dollars.
Richardson: Another three-row PHEV in the same price range is the new Mitsubishi Outlander. It starts at $46,538, before taxes and subsidies. The third row is tight, though – I think more squeezed than the Kia – and the second row must be pushed forward to use it. She should bring her family to a showroom to try it. They’ll all be cramped and will beg her to buy the minivan.
Gentile: You’re not giving up on the minivan yet? I think the Outlander PHEV is definitely worth a test drive. It’s completely redone for 2023 and has a quiet, comfortable cabin. But you’re right – the third row is tight, as is the cargo space.
Richardson: Fit six people into the three rows and nobody will have any legroom – especially not when the two younger kids grow into their teens. It’s not a Tardis, you know. She should just forget it now and go look at the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid or Toyota Sienna.
Gentile: Okay, maybe this time I agree. Both minivans are hybrids that come with some cool technology – you can get the Sienna with a vacuum and a little fridge with a freezer compartment for ice cream. But keep in mind, minivans don’t come cheap.
Richardson: And especially not with vacuums and fridges, which are expensive gimmicks. The Sienna is a conventional hybrid that starts at just over $45,000, while the Pacifica is a plug-in hybrid that starts at about $54,000, after the B.C. and federal rebates. I prefer the cheaper up-front costs of the Sienna, but they’re both good vans and practical for at least six people and luggage.
Gentile: I prefer the Sienna over the Pacifica, and I prefer Toyota’s track record for quality and reliability. I also found the fuel savings better on long-distance drives, although if you’re only driving locally all week on electric with the Pacifica, the Sienna hybrid can’t hold a candle to it. But I still like the idea of a three-row SUV like the Outlander PHEV for Martha. I take it, you disagree?
Richardson: Totally. A three-row crossover needs to be pretty big to actually fit three rows of legs at the same time, in comfort. The Sorento is about as small as she would want, and even then, it’s limited for luggage if the whole family is in there. Give in to the force, Martha. Embrace the minivan.
Gentile: Don’t do it, Martha. You’ll be sick of the minivan when the kids get older. Go for the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV.
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