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My problem with traditional hybrids

As discussed, we needed a new car. Our Honda Civic didn’t meet our needs anymore. We needed:

  1. More cargo space.
  2. To be more environmentally conscious by choosing, at the very least, a hybrid.
  3. Better fuel efficiencies in the city.
  4. The ability to visit friends and family in the GTA, about 400km away, a few times each year.

With those criteria in mind, we started our research with traditional hybrid vehicles. A hybrid seemed like the perfect choice in my mind. The technology had been around forever, so surely it had progressed to an amazing level and was available in basically all vehicle models by now, right? Right!?


Despite the fact that I can’t even remember a time that hybrids didn’t exist (the first Toyota Prius came out since 1997 – that’s nearly 21 years ago!), there really aren’t that many to choose from (unless you want a sedan, your choices are quite limited), and they haven’t really developed all that much. The first Prius to hit the road in the US achieved 5.6L/100km (42mpg) in 2001. Today’s Prius? 4.5L/100km (63mpg). Wow. That’s what 17 years of development gets you.

While I wasn’t that impressed with their progress, and although most sedans didn’t meet our first criterion, more cargo space, we did look at the Prius and it’s larger sibling, the Prius V.

The Prius was nice, but it didn’t quite meet our cargo needs. We also didn’t feel like it went far enough to help the environment. After being on the market for so long, I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed in its progress. It’s combined fuel efficiency of 4.5L/100km (63mpg) might have impressed me five or ten years ago, but I really feel like we should be better at this by now. I also didn’t like the way it looked, but that’s a personal choice. Ultimately, it was the cargo capacity that was the biggest issue for us.

To solve the cargo capacity problem, we looked at the Prius V. We really didn’t like the way it looked, and couldn’t get over the same concerns we had with the regular Prius. With a combined fuel efficiency of 5.8L/100km (49mpg), it left a lot to be desired in our books.

Next, we looked at the Kia Niro, a relatively new entrant in the market. Right away we liked the Niro better. Its fuel efficiency wasn’t too much better – a combined 4.7L/100km (50mpg) – which was disappointing in general, but I suppose pretty good comparatively for a crossover with so much cargo capacity. In fact, its cargo capacity ended up being its most impressive feature, particularly with the rear seats folded down – 1,789L (63.2 cu. ft.). It also had an advantage over the Prius in that it actually looked cute. To top it off, a plug-in hybrid version of the Niro was coming soon. Unfortunately, our Kia dealership had no models to test drive and had no models in stock. We didn’t have a lot of interest in putting down a deposit to join a waitlist for a vehicle we hadn’t even seen in person, let alone driven.

Finally, we looked at the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid. I thought I’d found it. The one. The car for us. It looked good, had tons of cargo space, and had Toyota’s good reputation behind it. But then I saw it’s mileage rate. At a combined 7.3L/100km (32mpg), it was basically the same as our Civic. Worse still was the feeling I got when I looked at the price. Our plan was to finance it over five years, and with a downpayment of $2000, we’d be looking at $714/month! Ouch.

So that was our experience with traditional hybrids. They were either too small, too expensive, too inefficient, or some combination of the three. The one we did really like, the Kia Niro, was unavailable to purchase. I’m a firm believer that if you want me to buy your vehicle, you better have it ready for me to buy. We’re not picky about trim levels or colours, we’ll take what you have available. At the very least, have one ready for me to look at and test drive.

Overall, my biggest disappointment with traditional hybrids is their relative lack of progress. From 5.6L/100km (42mpg) 17 years ago to 4.5L/100km (63mpg) today, the progress just wasn’t what I was expecting.

With traditional hybrids out of the picture, we turn to plug-in hybrids in my next post.

Published inReviews

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