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Used Cars Buying used: Looking for a used compact SUV, possibly a hybrid

I’m looking for a newer compact SUV with good gas mileage. I’m thinking about a hybrid. I like the idea of lower CO2 emissions, but I don’t want anything that I have to plug in. It would be cool to drive it electric as much as possible. What are my options for around $30,000? – Emily, Regina

Without a plug, it’ll be tough to find a hybrid crossover that’s a power ranger.

Some conventional hybrids let you drive short stretches – sometimes as little as a half a block – on pure electricity, depending on how heavy you are on the gas pedal, before it can recharge.

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But you won’t see the mostly-electric range of even the most limited plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs).

For your budget, there are really only two hybrid options – the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid and the Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid.

We’ll look at 2016, the first year of the RAV4 Hybrid and the last year of the Crosstrek Hybrid. (Subaru will offer a Crosstrek PHEV for 2020.)

2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

The 2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid.

  • Fourth generation: 2013-2018 (facelift for 2016; hybrid offered from 2016-2018)
  • Average asking price for base (XLE Hybrid): $29,281 (Canadian Black Book)
  • Original MSRP (XLE Hybrid): $34,715
  • Engine: 2.5-litre four cylinder plus two electric motors (194 hp total)
  • Transmission/Drive: CVT/AWD
  • Fuel Economy (litres/100 km): 6.9 city, 7.6 highway, 7.2 combined

The 2016 RAV4 Hybrid delivered more power and better fuel economy than the regular RAV4, but if you expected to drive around town without using gas, you were in for a bit of a shock.

“If driven at low speeds and under light acceleration, the RAV4 will run on battery power alone – but not for long,” Globe Drive said.

For 2016, the hybrid was offered only in XLE and Limited ($38,515 when new, $32,976 used) trims.

It pumped out 194 horsepower and 206 lb.-ft. of torque, compared to the non-hybrid’s 176-hp and 172 lb.-ft. It got an estimated 7.2 litres/100 km combined, which beat the gas version’s 9.5.

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It had quicker acceleration than the gas RAV and the CVT was smooth, but still, “driving excitement is not the RAV4 Hybrid’s forte,” review site Edmunds said.

Edmunds said the RAV4 was still roomy – even though, with 1,008 litres of cargo space with the seats up, it lost about 79 litres of space compared to the normal version.

Edmunds liked that the ride was comfortable, composed and quiet, but said the cabin looked a bit dated.

Consumer Reports gave the 2016 RAV4 five out of five for reliability.

There was one recall, which applied to all Toyota and Lexus models, for a dealer-installed block heater power cord that could potentially short out.

2016 Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid

The 2016 Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid.

  • First generation: 2013-2017 (facelift for 2016; hybrid offered from 2014-2016)
  • Average asking price: $29,281 (Canadian Black Book)
  • Original MSRP: $30,495
  • Engine: 2-litre four-cylinder and electric motor (160 hp total)
  • Transmission/Drive: CVT/AWD
  • Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 7.9 city, 6.9 highway, 7.5 combined

Sure the Subaru Crosstrek hybrid was a little less thirsty than the gas Crosstrek, but in a world of plug-ins, it didn’t feel, er, current.

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“This is a half-hearted hybrid,” Consumer Reports said. “When we applied the gas pedal gingerly, we managed to creep up to 20 mph [32 km/h] on electric power, but only if the outside temperature was above 50 degrees Fahrenheit [10 C] and we didn’t have the heat or air conditioner on.”

The Crosstrek Hybrid added an electric motor – with 13 hp and 48 lb.-ft of torque – to the Crosstrek’s normal 148-hp engine.

That bumped estimated city fuel economy from 9.1 L/100 km in the regular Crosstrek to 7.9. On the highway, there was barely a difference between the hybrid’s 6.9 and the gas Crosstrek’s 7.0.

“The added midrange torque helps reduce engine noise,” Consumer Reports said. “And the hybrid’s ride is more compliant and a bit more comfortable.”

Because of the battery, the hybrid had a little less cargo room – 609 instead of 632 litres with the back seats up.

Otherwise, Consumer Reports said the hybrid and regular Crosstrek’s shared some similar pros (great visibility and 220 mm-ground clearance) and cons (like the outdated infotainment system).

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Consumer Reports gave the 2016 Crosstrek five out of five for reliability. There were no recalls.

Send your used car questions to globedrive@globeandmail.com with the subject: “Buying used.”

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