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what car should i buy?

Honda has an excellent track record for reliability and dependability.Jeremy Sinek/The Globe and Mail

I drive a Toyota RAV4 and I am pretty happy with it, but both me and my car are getting old and the time to replace it might be coming soon. In an ideal world I’d like a hybrid or electric vehicle that is a little smaller than a RAV4. It should be high enough that my old bones can get in and out, and have GPS and AWD and all the safety bells and whistles like lane departure warning and variable cruise control and the cool rear-view mirror that is actually an image of your backup.

I don’t really have a budget in mind ($25,000-to-$60,000?) and am probably flexible on almost everything I have mentioned, aside from definitely wanting a hybrid or electric vehicle. One other big factor is reliability, hence I have driven a lot of Toyotas! Any ideas? – Dorothy

Richardson: You and me both, Dorothy! We have a 2009 RAV4 that’s been through the wringer now that my kids drive it, and I expect we’ll replace it next spring.

Gentile: And like Dorothy, you’re not so young.

Richardson: Ouch! It’s officially my wife’s car though, so she has the final word on what we’ll get next.

Gentile: Of course, you have no say. Women drive auto purchases – they influence more than 80 per cent of all car-buying decisions in a household.

Richardson: There’s a difference between influencing and making the final decision, you know. Naturally, in my household, my wife does both.

Gentile: I think that’s probably the case in many Canadian households.

Richardson: Anyway, on to Dorothy’s dilemma. She’s been happy with her RAV4 but wants something a little smaller and which is up-to-date on safety technology. She also wants a hybrid or electric model, so the obvious first choice is to stick with Toyota and look at the Prius. It’s not an SUV or even a crossover though, and it’s probably a bit too low to the ground for her.

Gentile: I agree. A Prius would definitely be too low for her. Another Toyota hybrid worth looking at is the RAV4 Prime, which is a plug-in hybrid. Since she loves her old RAV4, I’ll bet she’d like the new plug-in-version even better. It can travel about 60 kilometres on the electric power alone – that’s one of the highest ranges for a plug-in hybrid. Although it won’t be smaller than her current model.

Richardson: She wants something smaller and I don’t think she’ll care about the 300-plus horsepower of the RAV4 Prime. She’ll have more options if she goes with a gas-powered vehicle. And it’ll be cheaper.

Gentile: It will. But let’s give her some other hybrid options first. Since she likes the Toyota family, maybe moving up to their premium Lexus brand might be worth a look. Lexus just introduced its first plug-in hybrid in the Lexus NX. Didn’t you just drive it?

The Lexus UX hybrid has a basic list price of $40,700.Courtesy of manufacturer

Richardson: I did and it’s a lovely car. You can read my review here. It even offers the digital rear-view mirror that flips up to show the view from the rear camera. But Dorothy, if you wear glasses to drive, you won’t use it much – your eyes will get tired from focusing on the screen of the mirror rather than the view it displays. I only use the digital view if the mirror itself is blocked.

Gentile: I like that fancy mirror. But Dorothy should know all cars now come with a rear-view, backup camera as standard, either in the mirror itself or on the main display screen. It’s a nice added safety feature to have in a vehicle.

Richardson: The NX is more expensive than the RAV4 and it feels it, too. It falls into the top end of Dorothy’s price range, with the basic hybrid at just under $50,000, but the plug-in hybrid version is $60,000 before taxes and the stupid freight and PDI charges. She’ll get the features she wants in a new RAV4 without wasting her money on better quality leather.

Gentile: Maybe Dorothy should treat herself with the smaller Lexus UX hybrid. It’s a lot less expensive, with a basic list price of $40,700.

Richardson: She might like that if she doesn’t want the space of the NX, though it’s quite a drop in size. The UX is the same size as the Toyota C-HR, but not as wedgy in its looks, and there’s no hybrid version of the C-HR in Canada.

Gentile: To be honest, I think she might like a more affordable, gas-powered vehicle like the all-new Toyota Corolla Cross compact utility vehicle.

Richardson: I’ve not driven the Corolla Cross, but I’ve driven plenty of Corollas and they certainly have reliability and value for money. Does the Cross have a taller seat, for Dorothy’s old bones?

Gentile: Yes, it has a taller seating position – excellent egress and ingress, lots of safety features and many bells and whistles. But I haven’t driven it, just seen it in person, so I can’t comment on the ride and handling, either.

Richardson: Toyota’s been cutting back on production too, thanks to the worldwide shortage of computer chips. Dorothy might have a long wait if she holds out for the Cross. How about the Honda HR-V?

Gentile: Sure, if she wants to buy a new vehicle within the next six months. Like Toyota, Honda has an excellent track record for reliability and dependability. The HR-V is a nice compact size: it’s smaller than her current RAV4, but it still has a high ride height and its size makes it easy to drive and park in tight spots.

Richardson: It’s about as boring a vehicle as you can buy, too. I’d have to carry a photo to remember what it looks like, and drink even more coffee than I do already to stay awake while driving.

Gentile: Fair point. So what are you thinking that might add a bit more excitement?

The Hyundai Kona electric looks good and is very satisfying to drive.ULI_SONNTAG/Handout

Richardson: Off the top, Hyundai Kona electric. It’s the right size, it looks good, and it’s very satisfying to drive.

Gentile: The Kona electric is expensive for what you get – it’s almost $44,000! But it does come in a gas-only version that’s way more affordable, starting at $22,000. So Dorothy can get two gas Konas for the price of one electric Kona. But I don’t think it should be top of her list, because the Kona is geared more toward a millennial than a senior. Wouldn’t you agree? LOL.

Richardson: I just drove the electric Kona again and was totally impressed by how well it compares to the other all-electric competition in every important way. And don’t forget that Dorothy gets a $5,000 federal rebate off that list price, and even more if she lives in Quebec or British Columbia or Nova Scotia.

Gentile: And don’t forget PEI and New Brunswick – they now offer up to $5,000 in provincial EV rebates. Coupled with the federal rebate, that’s a big saving that definitely makes the price tag more reasonable. But what about the ride height and seating position? Think it’ll meet Dorothy’s needs?

Richardson: There’s an easy way to find out. Go to a Hyundai dealership and sit in one. While you’re there, ask about the out-the-door price difference between the regular Kona and the electric Kona and decide how much you want to be electrified.

Gentile: So we’ve given Dorothy several options. What’s your recommendation?

Richardson: If she wants all-electric, go for the Kona, but only if she can charge it easily at home. If she wants a hybrid, try the Lexus UX for a bit of treating herself. And if she wants basic but practical transportation from a gas-powered engine, have a close look at the Honda HR-V.

Gentile: Dorothy, treat yourself to the best of both worlds – the luxury and fuel-savings of the Lexus UX hybrid.

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