2006 Toyota Prius and 2015 Nissan Leaf [photo: John C. Briggs]Enlarge Photo
The joy of a plug-in hybrid is that the best of them run largely as electric cars, but occasional long trips can be made with the convenience of using the ubiquitous gasoline filling stations, at the cost of additional environmental damage.
As long as the majority of miles covered in the new vehicle are made on electricity, using some gasoline on occasion seems like a reasonable compromise to me. (Some readers may disagree.)
The 2017 Chevrolet Volt is, arguably, the most obvious choice as a replacement vehicle. With 53 miles of electric range and a price below $40,000 for even the "Premier" trim level, it certainly meets all the requirements. Right now, discounting makes them very affordable.
Having driven the Volt, it is clearly a great vehicle with excellent acceleration and beautiful flat-panel displays.
The main downside is its limited cargo space (just 10.6 cubic feet) and slightly cramped rear seats, which might be a challenge for my 6’4” son during long family trips. I suppose my 5’10” wife could ride in the back seat, but that risks upsetting a delicate family dynamic.
Another possibility is the not-yet-on-sale 2018 Hyundai Ioniq Plug-In, with 27 miles of range and likely more cargo space than the Volt, though its seats seem a little low to the ground.
2016 Ford C-Max EnergiEnlarge Photo
The two Ford Energi plug-in hybrid models, the C-Max tall hatchback and the Fusion mid-size sedans, meet our requirements. Neither produced much interest from me or my wife: the former is slightly awkwardly shaped, and the latter is a perfectly nice sedan, for anyone who wants a sedan.
This has left us with the most obvious choice for a 2006 Prius owner to replace the car: the 2017 Prius Prime plug-in hybrid.
With 25 miles of rated electric range, it should easily handle the daily 16-mile commute, and it would manage long trips on gasoline at an impressive 54 mpg combined.
The Prime, in many ways, is a compromise car: it is not the all-electric car I would prefer.
It has only four seats rather than five; it has only 25 miles of electric range rather than the Volt's 53 miles; and the cargo space has been reduced from 27.4 cubic feet on the regular Prius to 19.8 cubic feet on the Prime. Acceleration is also not its strength, particularly in EV mode.
2017 Toyota Prius Prime PremiumEnlarge Photo
However, the Prime might offer the right compromises at the right time, in a nice modern car with an 11-inch center display and many active safety features that just weren't available when we bought our last Prius a decade ago.
So what advice can you offer, Green Car Reports readers?
Is the Toyota Prius Prime the right vehicle to replace my wife’s trusty 2006 Prius—or should it be something else?