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Should they buy a hybrid car to replace their diesel VW Golf?

2013 Ford C-Max


Hello, Gentlemen: My husband and I enjoy reading your column and thought that you two were the perfect pair to turn to with our tall order: an eco-friendly, storage-friendly hatchback that is fun to drive. We own a 2002 TDI Golf that is getting to the end of its useful life. We love a lot of things about the Golf – it gets great mileage, it's fun to drive and it has amazing storage capacity. However, we have also been eyeing some of the new greener options (Ford's C-Max plug-in, Toyota Prius). Most of our driving is in the city, so long hauls aren't important. Storage, however, is – hubby is a drummer and skier and we do the occasional property reno project. Do we stick with VW? – Aara and Steve in Markham, Ont.

Vaughan: Well, I'd tell you to go back and buy another Golf TDI diesel if you liked the old one so much. The newest version – the seventh generation – comes to Canada next year.

However, you said something that made me change my mind. You said, "Most of our driving is in the city, so long hauls aren't important." Diesels are made for long hauls and hybrids are made for city driving. So I think you're saying auf wiedersehen to the VeeDub.

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Cato: And konishiwa to the Prius v ($27,425).

There is plenty of turmoil within Toyota – president Akio Toyoda, as Automotive News so quaintly notes, has essentially "signed off control of half the globe to non-Japanese executives" in a massive executive shakeup – but Toyota still knows hybrids inside and out.

The Prius v, a stretched station wagon version of the regular Prius hatchback hybrid, fits the bill here.

Aara and Steve will easily be able to stuff in all the drums and skis and hammers and two-by-fours in their travelling arsenal.

The fuel efficiency is stellar, emissions low, those old-fashion nickel metal hydride batteries do the job even if they are primitive by today's standards and the overall reliability of the Prius puts a smile on many a Vancouver taxi driver. A perfect fit.

Vaughan: I agree it would be fine for running around in the city.

But do you remember when we were test-driving one on the highway in Quebec? We went up a long hill and I thought that little gas engine was going to explode. It didn't, but what a racket.

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It's underpowered – deliberately, I'm sure, to save gas. For stop-and-go in the city, it's fine, but that's it.

2013 Toyota Prius v Toyota Toyota  

Cato: Two numbers: first, the Prius v weighs 1,485 kilograms; second, the net output is 134 horsepower.

So that's the power of a compact Corolla in a car with the heft of a mid-size Camry. Sluggish, thy name is Prius v. As long as Aara and Steve stick to the flats, no problem.

But before they pull the trigger on the Prius v, they need to test-drive the Ford C-Max hybrid, not the C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid. The plug-in just isn't practical for this eco-conscious couple, even if it has more power, more overall range, more battery-only range and better fuel efficiency than the Prius plug-in.

Vaughan: Is there a point here, Cato?

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Cato: Yes. The point is, as Ford triumphantly points out, "J.D. Power says Ford now beats Toyota for leading fuel efficiency in every segment where both compete."

So the C-Max hybrid is not only a better fuel-sipper than the Prius v, it is more powerful at 188 hp combined, and nice to look at, too. The Prius v? Looks like a taxi.

Vaughan: The C-Max is built on Ford's global front-wheel-drive platform just like the Focus, so it has acceptable driving manners.

It has a state-of-the-art lithium-ion battery pack and a base price of $27,199 makes it cheaper than the Prius v.

If Aara and Stevie are worried about their carbon footprint, here's an answer.

However, if the drumming business is slow and you want to save money, then there's a little van that might suit these musical renovators perfectly.

It's the Mazda5 – a minivan for city dwellers.

2013 Mazda5 Mazda Mazda  

Cato: I love this little rig, and a cheapskate like you will swoon over the price, Vaughan: $21,995. So more than $5,000 less than either hybrid.

The downside? The 5 uses twice as much gas as these hybrids, even though the Mazda four-banger (157 hp) is no pump pig.

Vaughan: The shame of it all is that the Mazda5 is lost in a swirl of little SUVs that cost thousands more. Why pay more for less functionality than a 5 van?

Cato: The practical choice is the Mazda. I'd rather Aara and Steve live it up a little in a C-Max even though the cargo space is tighter than I'd like. So the Ford. You?

Vaughan: Need you ask? The price of the little Mazda5 is irresistible.




2013 Toyota Prius v2013 Mazda5 GS2013 Ford C-Max SE

Wheelbase (mm)


Length (mm)


Width (mm)


Track, front (mm)



1.8-litre four-cylinder, hybrid electric motor and nickel metal hydride battery pack2.5-litre four-cylinder2.0-litre four-cylinder, elecric motor, lithium ion battery pack

Output (horsepower/torque)

134 hp combined157/163 lb-ft188/178 lb-ft combined output

Drive system

Front-wheel driveFront-wheel driveFront-wheel drive


CVTsix-speed automaticCVT

Curb weight (kg)


Fuel economy (litres/100 km)

4.3 city/4.8 highway9.7 city/6.8 highway4.0 city/4.1 highway

Base price (MSRP)


Source: car manufacturers

Jeremy Cato and Michael Vaughan are co-hosts of Car/Business, which airs Thursdays at 8:30 p.m. on Business News Network and Saturdays at 11:30 a.m. on CTV.

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