As electric cars grab the headlines, not all new car buyers can make a pure-electric vehicle work into their driving lifestyle. Instead, a plug-in electric hybrid vehicle (PHEV) may be a better option.
Each of the 2023 model-year PHEVs listed here offers at least 55 kilometres of electric-only driving, an MSRP under $50,000, and some even qualify for Canadian federal and provincial EV purchase rebates.
If you are shopping for such a vehicle, here are five affordable PHEVs with the longest driving ranges, according to Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) testing.
2023 Toyota Prius Prime
Fully redesigned for 2023, NRCan hasn't tested the Prime PHEV version of Toyota's iconic Prius compact hatchback. But the automaker is targeting up to 72 kilometres of electric-only range compared to only 40 km in the outgoing model, and a 4.5 L/100 km combined fuel consumption target in hybrid mode with pricing that starts at just $38,150.
Beyond its lower, wider, and longer design, the 2023 Prius Prime is more powerful. Toyota's fifth-generation hybrid system marries a 2.0-litre four-cylinder gas engine, an electric generator, and an electric motor for 220 horsepower — about 100 hp more than the previous generation. The new Prius Prime's higher output also adds 32 per cent more torque, rising from 105 to 139 pound-feet, resulting in a 40 per cent quicker zero-to-100-km/h time of 6.8 seconds.
2023 Toyota RAV4 Prime
If you like the Prius Prime's efficiency but need the extra room only an SUV can offer, Toyota has you covered with its RAV4 Prime. With a $49,950 MSRP nipping just under $50k, the compact SUV can be driven 68 km before needing a charge and is rated at 6.0 L/100 km overall.
Often necessary for Canadian drivers, the RAV4 Prime comes standard with Toyota's electronic on-demand all-wheel drive system that uses an electric motor at each axle to channel torque where needed.
The Prime is the most frugal RAV4 in the 2023 lineup and the most powerful, with a 302-hp rating. And with a remarkable range of up to 911 km on a full tank of gas and a full battery charge, your kids will probably need to take a nature break before you need to stop on your next road trip.
2023 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV
Like the RAV4 Prime, the $46,538 Outlander PHEV delivers traction at all four wheels. Matched with a 2.4 L four-cylinder engine, Mitsu's setup involves a front electric motor to drive the front wheels (and the gas engine when needed) and a rear-mounted motor to drive the rear axle. The Outlander PHEV EV-based all-wheel control allows for quick acceleration and smooth driving.
With a larger fuel tank and enhancements for greater efficiency and range, the Outlander PHEV offers up to 61 km of electric driving and a 9.0 L/100 km overall fuel efficiency estimate. Both electric motors are more powerful than the first-generation Outlander plug-in, with a net 248-hp figure.
2023 Ford Escape Plug-in Hybrid
Ford has given its compact SUV a thorough makeover for 2023. New exterior styling and interior options include a 13.2-inch centre-stack screen and a 12.3-inch digital instrument panel cluster. What hasn't changed is the $47,499 Escape Plug-in Hybrid's mantra: maximum fuel economy. It can travel up to 60 km on battery power alone and is rated at 5.9 L/100 km overall.
The Escape Plug-in Hybrid (and the regular Escape Hybrid) uses Ford's fourth-generation hybrid system, a naturally aspirated 2.5L four-cylinder gas engine paired with an electric motor for a combined output of 210 hp, sent to the front wheels only. The PHEV Escape also offers four EV modes that let drivers select the settings most suitable for their driving needs.
2023 Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid
Like its Prius rival, the Kia Niro compact hatchback has been thoroughly redesigned for 2023. In addition to the regular hybrid and battery-electric versions, the Niro Plug-in Hybrid may be the best compromise for buyers looking for an affordable, stylish, and efficient compact car.
Starting at just $37,995, the Niro PHEV can be driven up to 55 km on an electric drive alone. With a 4.8 L/100 km estimate, the Kia gets close to the Toyota PHEV's excellent fuel efficiency estimate. The Niro PHEV's hybrid system combines a 1.6L four-cylinder gas engine with an electric motor for a total output of 180 hp.
The new Niro keeps a compact footprint but is incrementally larger than the model it replaces. The room for passengers is about the same, meaning there's enough space for four comfortably, plus the added convenience of the Kia's rear hatch opening.