Skip to main content
car review
Open this photo in gallery:

The glossy black C-pillar on the 2023 Kia Niro PHEV is distinctive, but it’s only available on the SX.Jeremy Sinek/The Globe and Mail

We’re a senior couple, recently retired looking for an electric vehicle, but we don’t have a charging station in our underground garage. We currently own a five-year-old Volkswagen Jetta that is lien-free, which could be traded in for a new vehicle. The Jetta has 77,000 kilometres on it. We live in B.C. and like driving to the islands in the summer or to wine country to golf and bicycle. We’d like to spend $40,000. – Simon

Mark Richardson: According to Kelley Blue Book, Simon’s Jetta is probably worth at least $11,000 as a trade-in, so that gives him a budget of about $50,000 for an out-the-door new car. It’ll be tight for an electric vehicle, but I don’t think he should get an EV if he can’t charge at home.

Petrina Gentile: Unfortunately I agree with you – if he doesn’t have a charging station in his underground garage, charging at public stations is going to be a pain and time consuming.

Richardson: A commenter on one of our previous columns mentioned how the Tesla charging stations in downtown Vancouver are full every morning because owners want the status of driving a Tesla but don’t have the ability to charge at their condos. It’s a waste of an hour for them as they wait with their charging cars.

Gentile: If I owned an EV, I’d definitely invest in a home charging unit so you can charge overnight. It’s not worth the extra time and hassle of going to a public charging station. And if Simon doesn’t have that option, he might be better off with a fuel-efficient gas-powered car. But let’s give him some options since he is looking at an electrified vehicle, like a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle. Where do you want to start?

Richardson: I like plug-in hybrids, or PHEVs. Drive around the city on electricity and into the countryside on gas. Charge at home or at a public station when it’s convenient, not when you have to. I’m looking at a PHEV as my next vehicle, but they’re tough to find these days. The most available are probably Hyundais and Kias, but dealers know this and some have been charging extra for them.

Gentile: Yes, it’s awful. Some are charging thousands more than the suggested price. It’s not fair to consumers. But I digress. What are you thinking for Simon – maybe a Kia Niro?

Richardson: The Niro is the right price and he shouldn’t have to wait too long to take delivery. I’ve only driven the full-electric version of the new model, though. Have you driven the PHEV?

Gentile: I’ve driven all three versions: PHEV, hybrid, and full-electric. The Niro is completely redone for 2023 and looks more stylish than the first generation. I really like the new PHEV. It gets more electric range, up to 55 kilometres – that’s an increase of 13 kilometres compared to the last version. The PHEV has a 1.6-litre hybrid engine with a 62-kilowatt electric motor and a 11.1-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion polymer battery. And 180 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque. I was pleasantly surprised by its performance and pleasant road manners.

Richardson: Did the plug-in feel any different to drive compared to the conventional hybrid version?

Gentile: It did. I actually preferred the PHEV over the conventional hybrid. The hybrid felt underpowered and underwhelming at times, especially when accelerating. It has a 1.6-litre hybrid engine with a 32-kilowatt electric motor and 1.32-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion polymer battery that delivers only 139 horsepower with the same 195 lb-ft of torque. Not the most impressive numbers.

Richardson: Hmmm. As it happens, I’m driving the Kia Sportage PHEV this week, which is a size up from the Niro and very capable. It doesn’t have quite the electric range of a couple of others, but it’s a pleasant and comfortable package. I’m seriously thinking about it for myself.

Gentile: Simon doesn’t need a bigger, more expensive Sportage PHEV – he drives a Jetta and his price range is $40,000. The Niro hybrid is $29,995, while the PHEV is $37,995 before taxes, freight and pre-delivery inspection. That’s in his budget.

Richardson: You’re right, the Sportage is larger than Simon needs, but my point was that Kia has the technology figured out these days. The company knows what people actually want in a vehicle. Hyundai too, which is Kia’s parent company in Korea.

Gentile: Let’s talk about Hyundai. How about a Kona?

Richardson: The Kona is a nice car that Simon would probably appreciate, but it’s all or nothing for electrification: it’s either gasoline or fully electric, with no hybrid options. That’s the thing with small vehicles. Their light weight benefits being an electric car, but hybrids are about saving gas and the regular cars already use such little gas that it’s hardly worth it to fit additional motors. A Hyundai Elantra hybrid would do the job, though.

Gentile: That’s a good option. It’s fuel efficient and starts at less than $30,000 before taxes, freight and PDI. So it’ll fit into his budget.

Richardson: Simon isn’t asking for a crossover or SUV – he’s happy with a sedan like his Jetta, as long as it can fit golf clubs. Bicycles can go on a trailer-hitch rack. He might also be happy with the Toyota Corolla hybrid, for $29,100, or best of all, the Prius Prime plug-in hybrid that starts at $37,000 before rebates, if he can find one.

Open this photo in gallery:

2023 Toyota Prius Prime.Handout

Gentile: That’s a big if, but those are good options. I like the conventional Corolla hybrid because he won’t have to worry about charging, either. It’s comfortable, rides well, and is affordable.

Richardson: I think Simon will like the electrification of the Prius Prime, not to mention its greater comfort, and it will be reliable and hold its value well. There’s an updated model coming out for this year, too. If Simon likes the look of it, he should put down a deposit now and drive his Jetta until the Toyota is ready.

Gentile: Agreed – it might be a while before he’ll get it. So if Simon’s in a hurry, Hyundai and Toyota will be happy to sell him a hybrid Elantra or Corolla more quickly.

Open this photo in gallery:

2023 Hyundai Elantra Hybrid.DREW PHILLIPS/Handout

What car should you buy? Write to Mark and Petrina at globedrive@globeandmail.com and use ‘What car’ as as part of your subject line. Emails with different subject lines may not be answered.

Shopping for a new car? Check out the new Globe Drive Build and Price Tool to see the latest discounts, rebates and rates on new cars, trucks and SUVs. Click here to get your price.