As a concept, the plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, or PHEV, was conceived to let curious drivers dip a toe into the BEV lifestyle without committing to a fully electric car.
Today’s PHEVs offer anywhere from about 25 to 68 km of electric driving. That doesn’t seem like much, but if you commute to work, 40 or 50 km is probably enough to get you there and home again on electricity alone. And in the vast regions of Canada where public EV charging infrastructure still has a lot of room to grow, a PHEV’s gas engine makes it easy to use for long-distance drives where charging stations can be hard to find.
These days, PHEVs don’t sell as well as the industry’s leading-edge BEVs, but there are some high-profile nameplates among its most popular models. The segment also includes some desirable upscale choices, like Porsche’s Cayenne and Panamera E-Hybrid models and the Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe that goes on sale this spring.
We set out to create a list of Canada’s top five best-selling PHEVs in 2021, but that was made difficult by the way some automakers tally their sales. Some brands don’t disclose sales of individual models, while others don’t split PHEV sales out from those of similar non-plug-in models. So, here are last year’s three most popular PHEVs in Canada, plus a couple more that we think are worth a mention (and are likely candidates to round out the top five).
1. Toyota Prius Prime – 5,338 sales
The Toyota Prius Prime, a plug-in version of the poster child for hybrid vehicles, was Canada’s best-selling PHEV in 2021, with 5,338 people choosing to drive one home.
To go with its promised 40 km of EV range, the Prius Prime’s 1.8L gas engine and electric motor deliver 121 hp. Toyota’s energy consumption estimates are 1.8 Le/100 km on battery power, and 4.3 L/100 km combined (city/highway) with gas and electricity working together.
Although the Prius and Prius Prime have a lot in common mechanically, Toyota styles the Prime differently to help set it apart from its more conventional sibling.
For 2022, Prius Prime pricing starts at $33,750, with an upgrade package ringing in at $36,650.
2. Toyota RAV4 Prime – 4,035 sales
Toyota also had last year’s second best-selling PHEV in Canada, moving 4,035 examples of the RAV4 Prime compact crossover, whose 68 km of EV driving range is the best of any PHEV on sale in the country today, according to Natural Resources Canada.
The RAV4 Prime is one of Toyota’s quickest models in terms of acceleration, second only to the Supra sports car. No matter how important straight-line speed is to you, the RAV4 Prime is the most powerful version of this popular crossover, with a total of 302 hp on tap when its 2.5L gas engine and dual electric motors work together.
Despite that power, the RAV4 Prime’s combined 6.0 L/100 km gas-electric fuel consumption estimate matches that of the regular RAV4 Hybrid. In EV mode, the RAV4 Prime is rated for 2.5 Le/100 km.
Toyota prices the 2022 RAV4 Prime at $44,990 in SE trim and an XSE option is $51,590.
3. Jeep Wrangler 4xe – N/A sales
Jeep’s parent company, Stellantis, doesn’t publicize specific sales figures for its PHEV models, but it did tell us the Wrangler 4xe was a top-three seller among plug-in hybrids in Canada last year. Toyota told us its Prime models were number one and two, so that puts the Jeep in third place. (What we can tell you is that Jeep sold more than 20,000 Wranglers in Canada last year.)
The Jeep Wrangler 4xe’s powertrain is built around a 2.0L turbo four-cylinder engine, which works with two electric motors to make 375 hp and 470 lb-ft of torque – matching the torque output of the wild V8-powered Wrangler Rubicon 392.
Jeep says the Wrangler 4xe will go up to 35 km on a full charge of its battery and is rated for energy consumption of 4.8 Le/100 km when running on electricity alone. However, its combined city/highway fuel consumption estimate of 11.7 L/100 km on gas power is actually higher than the regular 2.0L four-cylinder Wrangler’s 10.3 L/100 km rating.
Other popular PHEVs in Canada:
Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV – 1,915 sales
Mitsubishi launched the Outlander PHEV in early 2018, and by the end of that year the $43,000 compact crossover had sold 5,052 examples, making it the first PHEV to break the 5,000 annual sales mark in Canada.
Since then, the Outlander PHEV’s popularity has fallen off as other manufacturers have rolled out PHEVs with better performance and EV driving range. The Outlander boasts 221 hp and 39 km of EV driving range. Mitsu’s energy consumption estimates are 3.2 Le/100 km on battery power and 9.1 L/100 km when the gas engine is running. The 2022 Outlander PHEV retails for $44,198.
Watch for an all-new Outlander PHEV to arrive later this year with more impressive EV range.
Hyundai Ioniq PHEV/Electric Plus – 1,371 sales
The Hyundai Ioniq Electric Plus (now marketed as Ioniq Plug-in Hybrid) is a plug-in hybrid version of a car that Hyundai has also offered with conventional hybrid and full electric powertrains. It’s our probable fifth-place finisher, with 1,371 sales in Canada in 2021.
Under the hood is a 1.6L gas engine and an electric motor that make a total of 164 hp. On a full charge, the Ioniq PHEV promises 47 km of all-electric driving. Hyundai prices the Ioniq PHEV at $32,649.
As we write this, the Ioniq badge is making headlines for its appearance on a new Hyundai BEV called the Ioniq 5, and there are two more Ioniq models called 6 and 7 on the horizon.