I have been driving a Mini Cooper for 11 years now. This is my third Mini, always bought them new. I drive exclusively in the city, every day (I am a broker in real estate). I love this Mini, it matches my personality, the design, performance are just perfect for me. I park this little car where most other cars would not fit, but I really want a hybrid car. Same size, lovely design, what should I buy? An electric car would be even better but I don’t have a dedicated parking or garage at home. – Monika, Toronto
Richardson: If you’re okay to wait until June, Mini is introducing its first hybrid. The battery-assisted engine will only be under the hood of the Countryman though, which is the largest of the Minis, much bigger than your Cooper and barely smaller than an X1. No reviewers have driven it yet, so we can’t tell you if it’s any good or how much it will cost. Otherwise, the zippiest little alternative-fuel cars are all-electrics, but they won’t work for you without a charging point.
Leeder: That’s a critical point, Mark. Since Monika is a realtor, maybe she’s willing to swap homes for one that would enable her to plug in. But we’re talking about Toronto here. So likely not. You’re going to have to make a trade-off, Monika, that’ll force you to choose between a peppy, high-performing sporty car and a responsible hybrid. It’ll come with a clear conscience, but it’s not going to be exciting to drive in the same way your Mini is. That said, while I love the feel of a performance auto, I find driving lower-performing hybrids unexpectedly rewarding. I’m thinking Prius, here, Mark. Thoughts?
Richardson: I’m thinking Prius Prime. I drove it on California’s Angeles Crest Highway a couple of months ago and was astonished by how peppy it was. It’s slightly smaller than the regular Prius and it’s more clever, too, charging itself quicker in regular driving. You can switch to Sport mode and it’ll use the electric motor to find instant power at low revs. It plugs in, but if Monika only drives in the city, it’ll probably keep charging and stay charged all day. It’s not available until spring, though, and we don’t know its price yet.
Leeder: I agree! But since it’s boring when we get along like this, I’ll suggest an alternative: Ford’s C-Max Hybrid SE. It doesn’t have the cachet of your Mini, but it has lots of cute. It’s compact (hello, easy parking!) and has an electric motor fed by a 1.4-kilowatt-hour battery pack. Together, they give you 188 horsepower (pep!), decent fuel economy and it starts around $27,000. Best feature: no plug.
Richardson: The C-Max is still kinda big, though. And it’s really not a sporty match for the Mini. Only exotic cars still use their electric motors for power, such as the BMW i8 and Ferrari LaFerrari. All-electric cars are sporty because of their torque, but hybrids are designed to save fuel. Not much fun in them. Except one lone exception …
Leeder: You mean the CR-Z?
Richardson: Yep – the Honda CR-Z. You don’t see many around. It was discontinued last summer in North America, but there might still be some on dealer lots for less than its $27,000 list price, and certainly some to be found used. It’s the perfect car for Monika if she’s okay with a two-seater. Probably the only car for Monika. It was never popular because the hybrid electric motor didn’t make it quicker than a regular sporty car, but it’s small and zippy and has three different drive modes: Economy, Regular and Sport. And it comes with a stick shift. Don’t delay, Monika. Start calling now, but don’t let the dealer know how keen you are.
Having trouble deciding what new car is the best fit for you? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, placing “What Car” in the subject area.
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