Buyer's Guide: 2014 Plug-In Hybrids From Toyota, Ford, Honda & More Page 2

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2013 Chevrolet Volt, Catskill Mountains, Oct 2012

2013 Chevrolet Volt, Catskill Mountains, Oct 2012

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2014 Chevrolet Volt

The Chevy Volt will continue in its fourth model year with just a handful of changes, though it will be joined on the assembly line by the Cadillac ELR range-extended electric coupe that shares its Voltec powertrain.

The five-door four-seat compact hatchback is rated at 38 miles of electric range, after which its 1.4-liter gasoline range extender kicks on to generate electricity to power the car another 300 or so miles.

Under certain limited circumstances, the engine can be mechanically clutched into the drive unit to supplement the electric power. The driver will never know when this happens, however, and the Volt driving experience remains electric in feel: smooth, quiet, and without any gear shifting.

For 2012, the Volt was the best-selling plug-in electric car in the U.S. For the first four months of 2013, it was likely slightly outsold by the Tesla Model S.

2014 Ford C-Max Energi

2013 Ford C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid, Marin County, CA, Nov 2012

2013 Ford C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid, Marin County, CA, Nov 2012

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The Ford C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid enters its second year, which provides an electric range of 21 miles and then reverts to being a (slightly heavier) version of the conventional hybrid C-Max.

The C-Max Energi will hit 85 mph in all-electric mode, and it will hold in electric-only mode much longer than the plug-in Prius (below) which switches on its engine under anything more than light to medium load.

The plug-in C-Max is one of two Energi models from Ford, both using identical powertrains based on a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and Ford's twin motor-generator hybrid system, along with a lithium-ion battery pack in the rear.

One drawback to the Energi version of the C-Max: the larger battery pack mounted under the load deck raises rear deck height significantly, both making for a higher liftover height and cutting into cargo volume.

Pricing starts at $33,745--cheaper than its plug-in Prius rival.

2014 Ford Fusion Energi

2013 Ford Fusion Energi

2013 Ford Fusion Energi

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Like the C-Max Hybrid (above), the Ford Fusion Energi is a plug-in adaptation of the higher-volume Fusion Hybrid.

Both vehicles use a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and Ford's hybrid transmission, but the plug-in Fusion sedan provides 21 miles of EPA-rated electric range and an efficiency rating of 100 MPGe. (MPGe stands for Miles Per Gallon equivalent, or the distance that a car can travel electrically on the amount of energy contained in 1 gallon of gasoline.)

The Fusion Energi has the advantage of looking just like a regular Fusion--if you disregard a few trim details and the charging-port door on the left-front fender--for those buyers who don't want their choice of a plug-in vehicle to make them stand out from the crowd.

While the C-Max competes against the Toyota Prius, the Fusion Energi is more likely aimed squarely at the Chevy Volt.

Like its sibling in Ford's plug-in lineup, it can run in all-electric mode at speeds as high as 85 mph under the right circumstances.

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