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Are there any reliable hybrid sedans out there?

Buying Used

Are there any reliable hybrid sedans out there?

We compare the 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid and the 2013 Kia Optima Hybrid

We're looking for a hybrid sedan for under $16,000. We'd like a hybrid version of a normal sedan and not a Toyota Prius. But I'm seriously worried about reliability compared with non-hybrids – especially the need to replace the battery after a few years. – Jordan, Burnaby, B.C.

Since hybrids are still in their electric youth, relatively speaking, it's tough to predict how much life you'll get out of your battery. But it's probably more than you think.

"The expected lifespan of a hybrid battery is 20 years," said Steve Elder, an automotive instructor at the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT). "Trouble is, they haven't been around 20 years to test."

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Generally in Canada, car companies offer eight-year, 160,000-kilometre warranties on hybrid batteries.

"I know of hybrids that have gone 250,000 kilometres until some component failed that had nothing to do with the hybrid components," Elder said. "And maintenance is way lower in a hybrid – your brakes are being used 50 per cent less because as soon as you let your foot off the gas, you're getting regenerative braking."

If you're seeking a hybrid sedan under $16,000, your options include the 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid (with a $14,794 average asking price on Canadian Black Book), 2013 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid ($15,471) and 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid ($15,662).

Here, we'll look at the 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid and 2013 Kia Optima Hybrid.

2013 Ford Fusion SE Hybrid

  • Second generation: 2013-present
  • Average asking price for base: $14,809 (Canadian Black Book)
  • Engine: 2.0-litre Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder with electric motor
  • Transmission/drive: Continuously variable transmission/front-wheel
  • Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 5.3 city, 5.7 highway; regular gas

The Fusion Hybrid is a seamless, er, fusion of gas and electric.

"This is not a boring 'green' car, not at all," Globe Drive said. "It's entertaining to drive and a pleasure to look at and live with."

The Fusion Hybrid delivers 188 combined horsepower between the gas engine and electric motor, but "there is nothing sluggish about the acceleration, the gas engine shuts down at stoplights to save fuel and, even at expressway speeds, the ride is quiet and controlled," we said.

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There was also a top-of-the-line Titanium version ($17,965) and the Energi, a plug-in hybrid ($18,957 for SE; $21,247 Titanium).

"The hybrid is also the most refined of the Fusion powertrains, with smooth transitions between electric-only and engine power," Consumer Reports said. "With a light foot on the throttle, the hybrid can power itself from a stop on electric power alone up to about [56 km/h], with little self discipline."

Consumer Reports griped about the hybrid's visibility, "grabby" regenerative brakes, slightly snug cabin and small trunk opening. The battery eats up some of the regular Fusion's trunk space.

It gave the entire 2013 Fusion lineup three out of five for reliability.

There were 11 recalls for the 2013 Fusion.


2013 Kia Optima Hybrid

  • First generation: 2011-2016 (based on the third-generation Optima)
  • Average asking price for base: $15,428 (Canadian Black Book)
  • Engine: 2.4-litre Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder with electric motor
  • Transmission/drive: Six-speed automatic/front-wheel
  • Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 6.5 city, 5.9 highway; regular gas

The Kia Optima Hybrid won the 2012 AJAC award for best new family car over $30,000.

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It beat out five other cars, including three other hybrids: the Hyundai Sonata hybrid, Chevrolet Volt and Prius v.

"[The] winning Kia Optima Hybrid was the least fuel-efficient of these electrically-boosted gas misers," Globe Drive said. "But like the regular Optima, the Optima Hybrid stood out for its exterior style and value."

With 199 horsepower between the gas engine and the motor, the 2013 Optima Hybrid gets 6.2 litres/100 km. Compare that with 8.9 for the regular base Optima.

"Although it had most of the strengths of its gas-powered sibling, such as handsome styling inside and out … its hybrid powertrain lacked similar polish," Edmunds said. "When dealing with the cut and thrust demands of city traffic, the transmission could get befuddled as it hunted for the right gear, sometimes resulting in a noticeable shudder."

The hybrid battery is behind the rear seats, which cuts into the trunk space and means seats can't split or fold forward.

Consumer Reports gave the entire 2013 Kia Optima lineup three out of five for reliability.

The 2013 Optima had one recall for potential metallic debris in the engine.

Send your used car questions to globedrive@globeandmail.com.


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