Best EV/PHEV Car: 2019 Canadian Car of the Year
Wheels.ca had a number journalists on-hand at Mosport to put everything to the test
The annual Canadian Car of the Year program (CCOTY) is a unique opportunity provided by the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC) for members to test the year’s latest and greatest cars, SUVs, CUVs and trucks back-to-back on road and track to determine the year’s Canadian car and utility vehicle of the year. The featured track is the driver development track at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park (née Mosport), the former the roads in and around the Caledon area where the track’s located. There’s even an advanced off-road course to really put the CUVs and SUVs to the test. While we test cars year ‘round, aside from the odd comparison choice rare is the chance to test them shoulder to shoulder as we do here.
Vehicles are broken down in to categories and Wheels.ca had a number journalists on-hand to put everything to the test. What follows are our picks for the best EV/PHEV car:
Fourth: Mitsubishi Outlander
There’s no question that Mitsu’s doing something right with the Outlander PHEV; I see quite a few of them where I live in Vancouver, and there’s a definite attraction about being able to get into a plug-in hybrid SUV for just over 42 grand, less if you factor in the various government rebates buyers qualify for in BC and Quebec. The all-EV 4WD lock option is great for practicality and usability, too – we put it on the CCOTY off-road track and it handled itself just fine alongside the likes of the Jeep Cherokee and Subaru Forester. It’s just too bad that the rest doesn’t quite live up. The interior materials lean too far to the cheap side, there’s very little in the way of styling there and the gear lever is super, super awkward-looking. It’s a little better outside what with its two-colour wheels and all. Finally, while its nice to have all that EV-ness, it doesn’t feel all that powerful and the ride is just OK.
Third: Honda Clarity
While the next two cars on this list were exactly tied, the Clarity finished just a tenth of a point behind them. The reason for that is simple: it’s way too awkwardly styled in this company, the main culprit being the rear wheels that are covered, but just barely. One may think that since this a car with a futuristic powertrain it needs to look futuristic, too, but that’s not always the case as buyers often prefer a more normal look to their EV. Otherwise, it’s pretty good; the ride is properly smooth, the interior is airy and believe it or not, progress is quite zippy, especially when in EV mode. The Clarity also gets let down a little by its infotainment, whose lack of a volume knob is a big no-no amongst both my colleagues and buyers.
Second (Tie): Nissan Leaf and Volkswagen e-Golf
It should come as little surprise that the two cars in the category that are the closest in size, EV range and price should finish in a tie. Both are great options in the compact EV world; the Leaf now has the styling to back up its good tech, while the Golf was surprisingly fun to hoon around the autocross track at the event. The Golf also does well being that it’s the opposite of the Clarity in that it’s an EV that looks almost exactly like its non-EV siblings, save for its wheels and grille.
First: Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid
The Pacifica continues its brilliance as a people-moving minivan that manages to do so even with the added heft of its EV system. It even looks cool – well, as cool as a minivan can look, anyway – borrowing some details and lines from European-market vans from the likes of Peugeot and Renault. Typically, the Europeans know how to style a car (or van). The interior is also the most spectacular here; great materials (love that two-tone steering wheel), impressive lighting and with Uconnect 4.0, the best infotainment in the category, and one of the best in the auto industry as a whole. Being of the 4.0 variety, it now gets Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, hitherto a black mark on what was otherwise a great system.
Then, there’s the drive; it’s incredibly smooth to operate and while that’s always kind of been a minivan thing, it’s taken to the nth degree here, especially if you’re in full-EV mode. What the powertrain is doing is nicely visualized on the 8.4” central display screen, so you can easily track what your inputs are doing. It hauls the family in silence and with efficiency, and it remains a perfect application of plug-in hybrid tech.