Plug-in Hybrids under $60K? Here's what we'd buy
Search Driven for Mitsubishi for sale
The popularity of Plug-in Hybrid Vehicles – PHEVs - is growing. It’s by no means dominating the market, with just 926 vehicles sold in 2019. However, that was 31 percent up on 2018 (let’s just forget about 2020).
Technically, a PHEV is an electric vehicle that’s also fitted with a conventional engine that’s used for both charging and driving when the battery runs low, or when extra power is needed.
There isn’t a huge amount of PHEVs on the market: just 21 in fact sold in 2020, from the cheapest (Prius), to luxury models from Volvo (4), Mercedes-Benz (3) and BMW (2). And while generally speaking hybrids and electric vehicles have been viewed as expensive, the prices are coming down.
So with that in mind, we set out to find which PHEVs we’d spend our money on, if $60,000 were the price cap.
That immediately cut the choice by more than one-third, down to just six, with the Mini Countryman recently going from just under, to just over our price barrier. While very good, the Countryman EV is now $65k.
At $59k, Ford’s new Escape PHEV isn’t far off from launching in NZ, but it’s not here yet. So, by process of elimination, it leaves us with just four. And while the Kia Niro PHEV squeezes in at $59,990, it sold just one in 2020, and eight in 2019, buyers preferring the Niro Hybrid (262 sold) or pure battery BEV (72 sold).
So that leaves us with just three to choose, and interestingly, we’d all go for different models for slightly different reasons. Here is DRIVEN’s pick of PHEVs under $60k.
Editor, Dean Evans: Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV
It’s the number one selling PHEV for good reason: Mitsubishi sold 300 Outlander PHEVs in 2018, 460 and 2019, and is on track to sell 430 in 2020, despite Covid. That makes it the best-selling PHEV by a mile, almost 10:1 to Toyota’s Prius, the second-most popular PHEV (42 sales).
Why so popular? It’s just a good, well-priced and practical SUV, which is a big reason, and it’s popular with both private and fleet buyers.
It loses the seven seats of its petrol-only stablemate, but still has a big boot and uses the advanced all-wheel drive system. It has a new Sport mode which makes it a little more exciting to drive, for maximum braking and charging, done with the paddles. It’s also gone up to a 2.4-litre engine (from 2.0), and the battery is 15 percent bigger, it offers 94kW and 199Nm from its petrol engine, and uses a 13.8kWh battery.
The petrol engine powers the front, and two electric motors power the front and rear, not that you needed to know that. But you can select B mode to charge the battery, using the petrol engine, though that’s best used during big, long brakes or downhill.
Also recently new is the snow mode; it’s one of the only PHEVs to charge in a DC and charge to 80 percent in 25 mins and a new feature is the power accessories can be used while it’s charging, and get the cabin temperature up to ideal before unplugging and departing.
It drives well, and with an EV range of 55km and ability to recharge, offers an astounding economy figure of 1.9l/100km. In an SUV – I’m sold!
Deputy Editor, David Linklater: Toyota Prius Prime
I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: the Prius Prime is the unsung hero of the Electric Vehicle (EV) world. So if we’re refining the choice down to PHEVs, it’s basically a superhero.
Prius and superhero in the same paragraph? Perhaps I’ve said too much. But if the idea of a PHEV is to give you pure-electric commuting combined with the long-range ability of a combustion-engine car at an affordable price, the Prius Prime ticks every box.
The Prime has one of the best pure-electric ranges in this genre: a real-world 50km on a full charge, which means you genuinely could commute the whole week (plugging in at home overnight) and not use a drop of fossil fuel. But when the battery runs out, the petrol-electric hybrid system steps in. Even taking the pure-electric running out of the equation, a Prius is still a super-thrifty machine.
At $48,990 the Prime isn’t just an affordable PHEV: it’s pretty much normal family car money, which means there’s really no premium for that plug-in power component.
But a Prius is boring, I hear you say. Well, the Prime has eight headlights. Eight! The tailgate is made from lightweight carbon fibre reinforced polymer that’s shaped around an aerodynamic “dual wave” piece of glass for the rear window. So who’s boring now?
Digital Writer, Andrew Sluys: Hyundai Ioniq PHEV
Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of living with Hyundai’s Ioniq PHEV, and I was left convinced that plug-in hybrid motoring was the best way to live.
For just $53,990, the base model Ioniq PHEV is a reasonably inexpensive way to get into a BEV, but just like the Prius there aren’t many luxuries at that price.
But what it does offer is incredible efficiency that makes fuel feel like an afterthought when driving, with the official figure of 1.1L/100km easily achievable. This is possible thanks to the pure-electric range of 52km, and the Ioniq’s ability to travel at 100km/h on electric power alone — as long as the battery possesses sufficient charge.
To achieve these figures, a 1.6-litre petrol engine making 77kW is paired with a 44.5kW electric motor, which is powered by an 8.9kWh lithium-ion battery. When charging at home, the Ioniq will take around six hours to reach 100%, but using the optional Fast Charge Wall Box will more than halve this period.
As you’d expect, this combination doesn’t make for the most thrilling drive, but the electric motor is very responsive, which keeps things interesting.
In terms of looks, the use of the Kamm tail design has the Ioniq looking reasonably similar to the Prius, which isn’t a great selling point unless your name is David Linklater. But besides this, it’s a pretty good looking car.
On the inside, the inoffensive theme carries through, with the cabin and dash looking like any other Hyundai on the market. As a bonus, the Elite model features a 10.25-inch infotainment system that features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity.