Electrification, thanks to Tesla and Toyota, has become mainstream. What was once futuristic and Jetsonian — i.e. the incredibly awkward Honda Insight of the 1999 — has now become commonplace — as in the goofy, bulbous profile of the Prius. Instead of being asked “Why did you buy a hybrid?” you’re now more likely to be pressed as to why you didn’t. In other words, what was once unique has become conventional.
What hasn’t changed is that hybrids still command a premium. Oh, the price bump isn’t as big as it used to be, but with extra electric motors, batteries and gearboxes, it’s little wonder you have to pay more for their fuel-sipping ways.
How much of a premium you need to pay then is the question. So Moitruongvietnam.ca investigated the most cost-effective electrified vehicles sold in Canada, taking into account everything from MSRP to long-term fuel cost savings to pricing compared with their non-electrified siblings. Here then are the most cost-effective hybrids (and I don’t think we need to post a spoiler alert regarding the fact that Toyota figures prominently).
Overall best value
It’s hard to go wrong with a Corolla, the world’s best selling car of all time, and it’s equally hard to find serious fault with Toyota hybrids, so the combination of the two would seem pretty hard to beat. At $24,790, the new Corolla Hybrid is the simple grafting of the Prius powertrain to compact Corolla, lending a mainstream look to a futuristic technology. As for a value comparison, conventional Corollas start at $18,990, but that’s hardly a fair contrast since base gas versions — powered by a 132 horsepower, 1.8-litre four — come with a manual transmission.
Comparing apples to apples, the Hybrid is a $4,000 uptick from the Corolla L CVT. What one gets from that four grand is a combination of 1.8-litre Atkinson-cycle four and an electric motor that’s good for 121-hp, a combined 4.5L/100 km in highway and urban cycles all of which will cost you, according to Transport Canada, $1,170 a year in fuel. Compare that with the aforementioned Corolla L — 7.1 L/100 km and $1,846 annual fuel costs — and you have a payback period of around six years. If that seems like a long time, it might help being reminded that the Hybrid is actually closer to the LE CVT in trim bits. Said gas-powered LE costs $21,790 and the Hybrid would require a four-and-a-half year payback if you opted for it over the mid-priced conventional version. One thing’s for sure, this electrified Corolla, like other Toyota hybrids, will last a lot longer than that.
Quickest payback period
In terms of smallest increase in price over its conventional gas-powered, or the shortest amount of time needed to payback the premium paid for hybridization, it’s tough to beat Toyota’s RAV4. A 2.5-litre LE AWD RAV4 will set you back some $30,690, for instance, while the Hybrid version of the same LE AWD package costs $32,090. That’s a paltry $1,400, which, considering all the hardware needed to convert from gas to hybrid propulsion, is a pittance.
Meanwhile, Natural Resources Canada says you’ll spend $1,693 fueling the gas-powered version but only $1,224 for the hybrid. Do the math and that’s but a three-year payback period, an amazing bargain for any kind of electrification. The electrified RAV4 proves an even more impressive bargain when you consider that Hybrid is actually more powerful — 219 horses versus 203-hp — than the gas car. No wonder Toyota Canada says that they had sold 9,591 RAV4 Hybrids so far in 2019, fully 22 per cent of all its RAV4 sales being electrified.
Most cost-effective family of electrics
The reason I like the Kia Niro is that, not only is the Kia’s cute little electrified crossover cheap but it’s offered in three flavours — traditional hybrid, plug-in PHEV and, at the top of the range, a fully battery-powered EV.
The base hybrid starts at $25,495 and, for less than a grand more than the Corolla Hybrid, you get a larger cargo area and 139 horses while sipping just 4.8 litres of gas every 100 kilometres. Move up to the plug-in version and Natural resources Canada says the Niro’s annual fuel costs will be but a paltry $753, making it the most frugal of hybrid crossovers. That’s not necessarily a bargain, though, since it starts at $33,965, that’s an $8,500 jump for a $206 annual savings compared with the bare bones Niro Hybrid.
However, considering what the competition charges for similar vehicles, that should not be considered so much a slag against the PHEV, but as a compliment to the base Hybrid. And if completely eliminating greenhouse gasses is your foal — and yes, I do remember that this is supposed to be a hybrid comparison — the Niro EV offer 385 kilometres of electric-only range for $44,495, still competitive amongst battery-powered offerings.
The people’s choice
Now, considering its $43,498 base price, Mitsubishi’s Outlander PHEV may seem an odd choice for an “affordable” hybrid. But the electrified SUV is literally flying off showroom floors, owners taken by its combination of performance, utility and frugality. For one thing, it’s the only affordable plug-in hybrid sport ute out there. For another, it’s far more practical than anything else on this list, with 861 litres of cargo capacity in the trunk or 2,209 with the rear seats folded down. It is also, in my experience, far more frugal than Transport Canada estimates.
According to its official rating, the Mitsu PHEV will cost you $1,316 in fuel a year. That compares to $1,856 for the all-gas version. But that doesn’t tell the whole story. With up to 35 kilometres of electric-only range, in one month-long city-only test, I managed to eke out a 1.5 L/100 km average. Even on the highway, it sipped but 7.2 L/100 km from the 2.0-litre Atkinson-cycle four, mighty impressive for an almost midsize SUV that doesn’t lack for power. For those looking for an affordable hybrid that combines inner-city frugality with long-range convenience, all mated to the go-anywhere, do-anything utility of an SUV, the Outlander PHEV is the best game in town.
New price for affordable luxury
Thanks to a recent price reduction — not just a rebate but an actual reduction in MSRP — of $4,600, the new king of the cost-effective luxury hybrids has got to be Lexus NX 300h. With a combined fuel consumption of just 7.5 L/100 km, the electrified luxury sport cute makes many a compact sedan look spendthrift and completely smacks down its gas-only NX 300 sibling, its 9.7 litres per 100 klicks seems positively gas-guzzling by comparison. That adds up to a fuel savings of $740 a year — a reduction of almost a third — which means, thanks to Lexus Canada’s recent price cut to $46,650, the upgrade from lowly NX 300 ($44,150) to hybridized 300h will pay for itself in just 3.4 years.
The 300h is no slouch, either, its 194-hp Hybrid Synergy Drive plenty peppy. It’s also roomy inside and, as we’ve found out in recent road tests, pretty darned luxurious considering its price point. It is worth noting, however, that that 2020 price cut does see things like the sunroof and power tailgate move from the standard features list into optional packages. Nothing, not even consuming less fuel, comes without a price.
The whole family wants to go green
Despite this whole trend to three-row SUVs as the family haulers of choice, nothing beats a minivan for moving people. And probably the best minivan — certainly the greenest — available is Chrysler’s Pacifica Hybrid. Mating seating for seven with a plug-in powertrain that combines an Atkinson-cycle 3.6L V6 and two electric motors, the Pacifica Hybrid is rated by Transport Canada for 2.9 Le/100 km and, thanks to its 16 kilowatt-hour battery, it will travel up to 51 kilometres on electricity alone. Like I said, it is the greenest minivan available and the $1,043 it costs to operate every year clearly undercuts such stalwarts as Honda’s Odyssey ($2,183) the Toyota Sienna ($2,203) and is less than half of what it costs to drive the non-hybrid Pacifica ($2,224) for a year. In fact, that’s even less than it costs to fuel the little, bitty Corolla Hybrid for a year.
The Pacifica also comes with FCA’s excellent UConnect infotainment system and, of course, cavernous cargo carrying ability. That said, the hybrid version only comes in a seven-seater format (unlike the gas-only version, which can be had with seating for eight) and loses the Stow ‘n Go cargo area. Consumer Reports sees this as a benefit because the actual seats are comfier, but the best thing about the electrified Pacifica is that, thanks to Trudeau’s $5,000 zero-emissions rebate and an extra $3,000 in incentives from FCA itself, you can slide into a 2019 Pacifica Hybrid for as little as $44,571, making it a bargain as well as environmentally friendly.