Choosing Your Next Plug-in & Hybrid SUV

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2021 Chrysler pacifica pinnacle model blue city shot
2021 Chrysler Pacifica PHEV. Photo: Stellantis

These fuel sippers could potentially reduce your fleet costs.

Many people thought gas/electric hybrids were just plain weird when the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight first arrived more than two decades ago, but today, they’re considered conventional vehicles. That’s carrying over as SUVs take more share of the market, and more get hybrid powertrains as well.

Some have the plug-in capability, known as PHEV (Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles). They’ll run solely on battery power after they’re charged, and when that depletes, they return to gasoline-electric hybrid operation.

Their range is less than an all-electric, but it reduces their fuel consumption, and they take less time to recharge. They also have no “range anxiety,” because they’ll always run as long as they have fuel. Some let you “save” the charge to use for electric-only when it’s most advantageous.

Below are some hybrid and plug-in hybrid SUVs and minivans that, while pricier to purchase than comparable gas-only vehicles, could ultimately save more with their fuel economy.

Many premium brands offer hybrids and PHEVs, but our list is a more fleet-friendly maximum of $55,000 MSRP. See your dealer for pricing, and for any available government rebates on PHEVs. Cargo ranges are with rear seats up and folded down, while “combined” power ratings are maximum gas/electric working together.

Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

Alongside the gas-only Pacifica, the Pacifica Hybrid is exclusively a PHEV. Built in Windsor, Ontario, it comes in four trim levels, including the new-for-2021 top-of-the-line Pinnacle. Available safety features include self-parking assist, adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, and blind-spot monitoring.

2021 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid specs:
  • 3.6-litre V6: 260 hp (combined)
  • Battery-only range: 51 km
  • Cargo volume: 915 – 3,978 litres
  • Towing capacity: Not recommended
  • Fuel economy, L/100 km: 8.0 city, 7.9 highway, 8.0 combined

Ford Escape

The redesigned Escape offers hybrid and PHEV powertrain options on most trim levels.

The Hybrid comes in front- or all-wheel drive, while the PHEV is front-wheel only. Standard or available features include adaptive cruise control, wireless charging, active park assist, FordPass mobile app, and safety technologies such as blind-spot monitoring and emergency front braking.

2021 Ford Escape red side profile street shot
2021 Ford Escape. Photo: Ford Motor Company
2021 Ford Escape specs:
  • 2.5-litre I4: 165 hp (engine), 200 hp (combined), 155 lb-ft of torque
  • Battery-only range: 61 km
  • Cargo volume: 869 – 1,721 litres
  • Towing capacity: 1,500 lbs
  • Fuel economy, L/100 km: 5.4 city, 6.3 highway, 5.8 combined (Hybrid FWD); 5.5 city, 6.4 highway, 5.9 combined (Hybrid AWD)(PHEV TBA)

Ford Explorer

A hybrid system is optional on the Explorer’s Limited trim, and strictly with all-wheel drive.

The option also includes 20-inch wheels and a 3.73 rear axle, plus features found on the regular Limited, including power-folding third-row seats, tri-zone temperature control, navigation, a hands-free liftgate, and safety assist systems such as blind-spot monitoring, lane-keeping, and a 360-degree camera.

2021 Ford Explorer white front profile outdoor scene
2021 Ford Explorer. Photo: Ford Motor Company
2021 Ford Explorer specs:
  • 3.3-litre V6: 318 hp (combined), 322 lb-ft of torque
  • Cargo volume: 515 – 2,486 litres
  • Towing capacity: 5,000 lbs
  • Fuel economy, L/100 km: 10.1 city, 9.0 highway, 9.6 combined

Kia Niro

The Kia Niro comes as a hybrid, in four trim levels, and a PHEV in two trims. An all-electric version is also available.

All trims include automatic headlamps, dual-zone climate control, and smartphone connectivity, while upper trims add such items as a 10.25-inch touchscreen, navigation, premium audio, and heated and cooled leather seats.

2021 kia niro white outdoor sunset lot
2021 Kia Niro. Photo: Kia 2021
2021 Kia Niro specs:
  • 1.6-litre I4: 104 hp (engine), 139 hp (combined), 108 lb-ft of torque (engine), 195 lb-ft of torque (combined)
  • Battery-only range: 42 km
  • Cargo volume: 635 – 1,789 litres
  • Towing capacity: Not recommended
  • Fuel economy, L/100 km: 4.5 city, 4.8 highway, 4.7 combined (hybrid); 4.9 city, 5.3 highway, 5.1 combined, 2.2 Le combined (PHEV)

Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

An all-new Outlander is coming for 2022, but for 2021, the plug-in Outlander PHEV receives both a more powerful gasoline engine, and a 70-kW rear-axle motor to replace the previous 60-kW motor, for a combined 31 hp improvement. The battery also gets a slight increase in range.

Four trim levels are available, all with all-wheel drive, and standard features include heated seats, smartphone connectivity, and advanced safety features. Unusually for a PHEV, it can be fast-charged on a CHAdeMO DC public charger, as well as on a 240-volt charger.

2021 mitsubishi outlander PHEV grey driving
2021 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV. Photo: Mitsubishi Motors
2021 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV specs:
  • 2.4-litre I4: 126 hp (engine), 221 hp (combined), 149 lb-ft of torque
  • Battery-only range: 39 km
  • Cargo volume: 861 – 1,886 litres
  • Towing capacity: 1,500 lbs
  • Fuel economy, L/100 km: 9.2 city, 9.0 highway, 9.1 combined; 3.2 Le combined

Toyota RAV4 Hybrid/RAV4 Prime

For 2021, Toyota offers the RAV4 as both a hybrid, in four trim levels, and the all-new Prime PHEV in two trims. Both are all-wheel drive, and both include standard high-tech safety assist features, adaptive cruise control, and smartphone connectivity.

2021 toyota rav4 hybrid red side profile studio shot
2021 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid. Photo: Toyota


2021 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid/RAV4 Prime specs:

  • 2.5-litre I4: 176 hp (engine), 219 hp (combined), 163 lb-ft of torque (Hybrid); 177 hp (engine), 302 hp (combined), 165 lb-ft of torque (Prime)
  • Battery-only range: 68 km
  • Cargo volume: 1059 – 1977 litres (Hybrid); 949 litres (Prime)
  • Towing capacity: 1,750 lbs (Hybrid); 2,500 lbs (Prime)
  • Fuel economy, L/100 km: 5.8 city, 6.3 highway, 6.0 combined (Hybrid); 5.7 city, 6.4 highway, 6.0 combined, 2.5 Le (Prime)

Toyota Highlander Hybrid

For 2021, the Highlander Hybrid gets Toyota Safety Sense 2.5+. It includes intersection support, which activates the brakes if a driver makes a left turn in front of an oncoming vehicle. The Highlander Hybrid comes in three trim levels, all of them with standard all-wheel drive.

2021 Toyota Highlander hybrid red driving desert shot
2021 Toyota Highlander Hybrid. Photo: Toyota
2021 Toyota Highlander Hybrid specs:
  • 2.5-litre I4: 186 hp (engine), 243 hp (combined), 175 lb-ft of torque
  • Cargo volume: 453 litres
  • Towing capacity: 3,500 lbs
  • Fuel economy, L/100 km: 6.6 city, 6.8 highway, 6.7 combined

Toyota Sienna

The Sienna gets a complete makeover for 2021 and is hybrid-only, in front- or all-wheel drive. It comes in 7- or 8-passenger seating, and mobility conversions are available.

2021 toyota sienna orange side profile outdoor lake
2021 Toyota Sienna. Photo: Toyota
2021 Toyota Sienna specs:
  • 2.5-litre I4: 189 hp (engine), 245 hp (combined), 176 lb-ft of torque
  • Cargo volume: 949 – 2,860 litres
  • Towing capacity: 3,500 lbs
  • Fuel economy, L/100 km: 6.6 city, 6.5 highway, 6.5 combined (FWD); 6.8 city, 6.6 highway, 6.7 combined (AWD)

Toyota Venza

While more crossover than sport-utility, the Venza returns as a premium-styled vehicle that’s exclusively hybrid-powered and all-wheel-drive.

2021 toyota venza hybrid charcoal grey studio shot
2021 Toyota Venza Hybrid. Photo: Toyota
2021 Toyota Venza specs:
  • 2.5-litre I4: 176 hp (engine), 219 hp (combined), 163 lb-ft of torque
  • Cargo volume: 816 litres
  • Towing capacity: Not recommended
  • Fuel economy, L/100 km: 5.9 city, 6.4 highway, 6.1 combined
Categories : Editorial, Fleet
Tags : EV, Hybrid, PHEV, SUV, Technology


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