2018 PHEV Comparison – Kelley Blue Book

2018 PHEV Comparison – Kelley Blue Book

January 17, 2020 100 By Kailee Schamberger


Do you want an electrified alternative
to gasoline-powered transportation with no risk you’ll run out of juice?
Well then, let’s talk plug-in hybrid electric vehicles or PHEVs. And so we’re
all on the same page, plug-in hybrids are just hybrid cars with extra batteries
that can be charged with a normal household outlet or a 240 volt charger
to allow some degree of pure electric travel. With a growing roster of
moderately priced plug-in hybrids to choose from, we decided a comparison test
was an order. So, let’s get ready to use less gasoline. The least expensive entry
in our test is the Hyundai Ioniq. Its value-rich position is reinforced by a
$4,500 federal tax credit and Hyundai’s 10 year 100,000 mile powertrain warranty.
With a fully charged battery, the EPA predicts 29 miles of electric only
driving, but during a plodding LA commute, we knocked out 38.4 miles before the
ionics 1.6-liter engine had to intervene. With the engine involved, the Ioniq
Plug-In is rated at 52 combined mpg. Consider us dazzled. The power train’s 139 horsepower total output proved ample for normal commuting, though overtaking on
the freeway took some patience. That extra time let us appreciate the Ioniq’s
well calibrated six-speed automatic transmission, a pleasing contrast to the
continuously variable transmissions found in most hybrids. Over a route that spanned much of
California, we wished for a quieter cabin and extra support from the driver’s seat,
otherwise we like the Ioniq’s agreeable demeanor and standard niceties like
heated seats, dual zone automatic climate control, and a seven-inch touchscreen with
modern Smartphone integration. In fact, after this test, one of our editors added
the Hyundai Ioniq plugin to his shopping list. For a car reviewer that is strong
praise. Compared to the Ioniq, the 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid seems
pricey, but that price premium comes with notable advantages. Foremost are a 42 mpg combined rating and an EPA-estimated electric range of 47 miles that we
handily eclipsed. And in congested traffic with occasional sprint’s to 65 mph we achieved 56.2-electric miles. A higher speed test still yielded 46 miles
before enlisting the 1.5-litre engine’s help. Note, a normal 120-volt outlet
will charge the Clarity in 12 hours, but use a 240-volt charger and that time
drops to a mere 2.5 hours. Delivering 212 total system hp, the Clarity is
the most powerful car in our test. It’s also the heaviest, so acceleration lands
in the adequate range. For tinkerers, there are multiple drive modes that
favour gasoline or electric propulsion along with driver selectable
regenerative braking intensities. Speaking of, the regenerative brakes and
hybrid cars often feel unnatural, not so in the Clarity whose mostly normal brake
feel was the best of the bunch. That sense of normalcy permeates all aspects
of the Clarity, from its refined driving manners, to its comfortable
nicely outfitted 5-passenger cabin. While the priciest entry in our test, the 2018
Clarity’s premium is somewhat offset by a $7,500 federal tax credit. It’s also a
Honda, which bodes well for reliability and resale values over the long haul. In
our estimation, the Clarity isn’t just superbly efficient, it’s the closest
thing in this group to a normal sedan, and we mean that as a big-time compliment. Driving at freeway speeds, we covered
26.2 electric miles in this Toyota Prius Prime. Add maddeningly slow traffic to the
mix, and matching or exceeding the 29-mile EPA estimate should be no problem. Perhaps more interesting is the Prime’s comparison-topping 54 mpg combined fuel economy ratings. We achieved 54.3 mpg in real world conditions
so that EPA rating is no joke. During our test ride quality and handling proved
more than acceptable, but if you plan to Prime there are some downsides. No fifth
seat is one, tepid acceleration is another, the absence of Apple CarPlay and
Android Auto is a third. We’ll add that the optional 11.6-inch touchscreen looks
neat, but it reflects light to the driver’s eyes at certain sun angles.
Some folks on our team also preferred the more conventional dash layouts found
in the Honda and Hyundai. That said, with a supple ride a comparatively low
starting price, a $4,500 federal tax credit, Toyota’s epic resale values and
styling that you will love unless you hate it
the Prius Prime is an easily defendable plug-in purchase, especially if you favor
hybrid efficiency over electric range. Let’s close things out with the plug-in
hybrid that started at all, the Chevrolet Volt, whose EPA certified 53-mile
electric range tops our comparison. Through a soul-sucking stop and go
commute, we managed 53.3 miles before the Volt
flipped on its gasoline engine. With that kind of range gas free commuting is an
achievable reality. Out strip the batteries range, and you’ll still enjoy
an EPA-estimated 42 combined mpg. Volt has range and efficiency on its
side, but it’s also a nice car. Our elite test squad praised its handsome interior,
smartly arranged controls and standard Apple CarPlay, though one of our editors
experienced multiple infotainment crashes. Tisk, tisk. Also, sitting in the
middle seat is a bad idea for most humans, and the Volt skews towards the
expensive side of the spectrum with a base MSRP near the Clarity’s. But like
the Clarity the Volt is eligible for a sweet $7,500 federal
crédit. Just keep in mind that Chevy is creeping towards their 200,000 vehicle
limit for that federal electric vehicle incentive, so if you crave ultimate
electric range with a gasoline safety net, and you love Chevy, get your bolt while
the getting’s good. And that is a light spritz of electrified automotive
knowledge. If you’re ready to take the plug-in hybrid plunge our full
comparison is yours to enjoy when you do. Remember, it’s hard to buy a bad car
these days, but it is easy to buy the wrong car. Whether you’re shopping
plug-in hybrids or almost anything on wheels, Kelley Blue Book is here to help.