2022 Toyota RAV4 Prime or 2022 Kia Sorento PHEV: Which one to buy?

As automakers continue to flood the market with SUVs, several models are going to overlap in terms of size and price. Take the 2022 Toyota RAV4 Prime and 2022 Kia Sorento PHEV, two models that are nearly the same price and have a good bit of overlap because of the latter being a tweener. Look closely though and you’ll notice they’re closer competitors than you think. Let’s take a deep dive and dissect each vehicle to see which one you should put in your driveway.

2022 Toyota RAV4 Prime or 2022 Kia Sorento PHEV exterior

The 2022 Toyota RAV4 Prime and 2022 Kia Sorento PHEV are super close in size. With the former growing in size for the current generation and the latter being a tweener. The Sorento is 8.0 inches longer and 2.0 inches wider than the RAV4 while their height is identical. Both have upright greenhouses with a generous glass area for excellent visibility out and handsome yet imposing looks.

The RAV4 Prime doubles down on the rugged looks with lots of cues linking it to Toyota’s body-on-frame vehicles like the Tacoma and 4Runner.

You can get the outdoorsy look in the Sorento via the X-Line variants but they’re not available in the electrified versions. Instead, Kia went with a more elegant look that emphasizes its on-road mission. Even with its vertical taillights and silver blade-like trim on the C-pillar, the Sorento PHEV is closer to the K5 sedan than its larger SUV sibling, the Telluride. Kia’s new corporate face, which merges the headlights and grille into one unit, gives the crossover a timeless and tasteful appearance.

2022 Toyota RAV4 Prime or 2022 Kia Sorento PHEV interior

Things start to deviate once you take a look at the interior. The RAV4 Prime doubles down on practicality, seating four comfortably and offering lots of cargo space with the rear seats up or down.

As for the Sorento PHEV, it’s best to treat it as a 4+2 because the third row is only good for kids or folded to maximize cargo space. Both vehicles have plenty of clever storage cubbies for small items like phones, wallets, and other knick-knacks. The Kia, however, is more flexible thanks to its sliding and reclining second-row captain’s chairs.

In terms of fit and finish, the Sorento PHEV stands out because it could easily pass as a luxury vehicle. The materials used feel expensive as if they came out of a car wearing a desirable badge. Controls are satisfying to operate while the level of consistency throughout the cabin adds to the upscale ambiance.

In contrast, the RAV4 Prime falls squarely in the land of mainstream vehicles. There are soft plastics and padded surfaces but they feel more utilitarian than premium, especially with touches like rubberized knobs. However, you get a lot of chintzy hard plastics near areas you interact with throughout the rear part of the cabin.

Excellent levels of sound insulation further make the Sorento PHEV’s cabin a pleasant place to be. There’s barely any noise entering the cabin even at highway speeds and on rough roads. The RAV4 Prime lies on the other end of the spectrum because it suffers from high sound levels regardless of the surface and speeds you’re driving. You hear everything from the wind to the powertrain, the latter of which becomes intrusive on the highway or when accelerating.

2022 Toyota RAV4 Prime or 2022 Kia Sorento PHEV tech features

Toyota kept the older Entune interface on the RAV4 Prime with either an 8.0- or 9.0-inch touch screen. While the controls are simple and submenus are minimal, the response times are slow and the graphics are grainy, highlighting its age especially next to the unit in the Kia. This is most notable in the built-in navigation, which looks like it’s from a decade ago. The available JBL audio system is clear but it could cover the cabin better. Customization options are also limited, especially versus competitors from other brands.

Kia’s infotainment system is among the best in the industry thanks to its user-friendliness. It’s modern, yet intuitive, thanks to a responsive touch screen and minimal submenus. Even though Kia now uses haptic feedback controls, they’re not overly finicky because the functions tied to them aren’t used often. Opting for the larger 10.25-inch display and 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster gives you some of the best graphics without sacrificing simplicity. The Bose audio system on the SX Prestige is also a worthy upgrade, offering good levels of clarity, coverage, and customizability.

On the driver assistance front, Kia takes the lead once again thanks to its Drive Wise suite. The Sorento PHEV’s lane centering and steering assist components are subtle with their corrections once it detects you’re drifting. Highway Driving Assist, Kia’s semi-autonomous system, proactively keeps your set distance and follows traffic seamlessly, even in congestion. It will even slow the vehicle down if it detects a vehicle cutting in front of you, and reduce your speed ahead of turns so you can complete them safely.

The Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 suite in the RAV4 Prime isn’t as comprehensive as the suite in the Sorento PHEV but it’s also gentle and unobtrusive. However, you must have adaptive cruise control active for it to help you navigate through turns. Additionally, its distancing component leaves too much room between you and the vehicle you’re following. The system isn’t as alert as Kia’s Drive Wise suite because of its slower reaction times. It won’t slow down ahead of turns either, meaning you need to do that manually or take over on tighter ones.

2022 Toyota RAV4 Prime or 2022 Kia Sorento PHEV driving impressions

There isn’t a plug-in hybrid crossover in the mainstream segment that can match the RAV4 Prime in straight-line performance thanks to its power-split hybrid system. It couples a 2.5-liter four-cylinder to three electric motors, a planetary gear set, and an 18.1-kWh battery. With 302 hp on tap, you get effortless acceleration when you put your foot down even with the RAV4 Prime’s 4,300-pound curb weight.

The Sorento PHEV uses a parallel hybrid setup pairing a 1.6-liter turbo-four to an electric motor, a six-speed automatic transmission, and a 13.8-kWh battery. With 261 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque combined, there’s plenty of power to work with even when considering the 4,537-pound curb weight. Credit the instant response from the electric motor, quick-shifting gearbox, and the engine’s broad torque curve for making the Sorento PHEV feel zippy but don’t expect it to outrun the RAV4 Prime anytime soon.

Things continue to diverge in the ride and handling department. Despite having a standard sport-tuned suspension, the RAV4 Prime is the softer of the two. It does a great job isolating the passenger compartment from road imperfections, resulting in a cushy ride. The tradeoff for that is agility and body control, because you notice more vertical motions when going over big bumps. Additionally, you feel the car rolling around more while the steering is accurate but light and a little numb on center.

Kia tuned the Sorento PHEV for on-road driving and it shows in the crossover’s road manners. Body motions are better sorted versus the Toyota and you get fewer roll and vertical motions. Tight, communicating steering makes the Sorento drive smaller than its size suggests and eases the act of maneuvering through tiny spaces. While this results in a slightly firmer suspension, it’s far from unlivable because the Kia remains plenty comfortable. Road imperfections like ruts, potholes, and expansion joints are slightly more pronounced but are still filtered out nicely.

Toyota and Kia take a different approach to AWD systems in their hybrids. The former uses an electric motor on the rear axle to add traction but due to it having less power, there’s a distinct front-drive bias. You get torque steer in some situations because there’s so much power going through the RAV4 Prime’s front wheels. Additionally, the e-AWD system could be better tuned because there are times when the rear motor doesn’t react in time, preventing the car from getting traction right away.

Kia uses a mechanical AWD system on the Sorento PHEV, meaning there’s a driveshaft connecting the front and rear axles. This allows for quicker power distribution between the four wheels, meaning you get grip right away. You also don’t get any sensations of bias because the car manages to split the available power evenly. The Sorento PHEV also uses the brakes and electric motor to slow down the inner wheels to improve cornering and traction.

The RAV4 Prime and Sorento PHEV have onboard chargers rated at 3.3 kW and 3.6 kW, respectively. That means a full charge takes around 4.0 hours on the Toyota and 3.5 hours for the Kia with a Level 2 charger. On the XSE grade of the RAV4, you can also opt for a 6.6-kW unit that cuts charging times to 2.5 hours. Both vehicles are well-rounded when it comes to driving range. When driven as a hybrid, the RAV4 Prime can travel up to 600 miles while the Sorento PHEV is good for 460 miles. EPA ratings for the Toyota are 40/36/38 mpg city/highway/combined and 35/33/34 mpg for the Kia. However, the former offers the longest all-electric driving range of any plug-in hybrid mainstream SUV at 42 miles. The latter is good only for 32 miles.

2022 Toyota RAV4 Prime or 2022 Kia Sorento PHEV pricing

The RAV4 Prime starts lower at $41,515 for the base SE trim. Load up a range-topping XSE model and you’ll easily crest $50,000. Kia only offers the Sorento PHEV in upper trims, which starts at $46,445 for the SX grade. Sitting above that is the SX Prestige, which gets goodies like a digital gauge cluster, a hands-free power liftgate, and the blind-spot view monitor. That model is priced similarly to the RAV4 Prime even with the optional panoramic sunroof.

For the moment, the RAV4 Prime still qualifies for the full $7,500 federal tax credit but that won’t last because Toyota is about to run out. The Sorento PHEV, on the other hand, will be eligible for the $6,587 federal tax credit for some time.

2022 Toyota RAV4 Prime or 2022 Kia Sorento PHEV summary

You have two solid options with plugs in the 2022 Toyota RAV4 Prime and 2022 Kia Sorento PHEV. Each one has strengths that allow them to stand out.

The Toyota has so much power, yet it’s efficient and comfortable.

As for the Kia, it’s upscale, versatile, and has fantastic tech features.

Whichever one fits your family best depends on how well they check off your requirements. Either way, these two offer a lot, making them perfect for a wide range of duties from hauling people to carrying your gear.

Get the 2022 Toyota RAV4 Prime if you want:

  • Lots of power
  • Generous all-electric range
  • Comfortable ride

Get the 2022 Kia Sorento PHEV:

  • An upscale interior
  • Nice ride and handling balance
  • Extra space and versatility


Written by Stefan Ogbac
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