With so many plug-in hybrids to choose from on the U.S. market—30 as of this writing—option paralysis is a real challenge to overcome when deciding which one to park in your driveway. It also presented a bit of a problem in choosing competitors for our comparison test of plug-ins; we ultimately decided compact SUVs were a reasonable starting point given the segment’s popularity. On the invite list: the Toyota RAV4 Prime, Ford Escape PHEV, Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid, and Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV.
Alas, the Escape PHEV and Crosstrek Hybrid were unavailable. Ford delayed U.S. deliveries of its model due in part to a recall in Europe, while Subaru simply didn’t have an available Crosstrek Hybrid in its media fleet. The pluggable Crosstrek and Escape remain notable entries in the segment, however, so let’s break down their powertrains, pricing, efficiency, and more.
The 2021 Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid starts at $36,395 and is eligible for a $4,502 federal tax credit, as well as potential additional incentives on the state and municipal levels. (It’s worth noting that Subaru only sells the Crosstrek Hybrid in the ZEV states of California, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont.) It combines a 2.0-liter Atkinson-cycle flat-four engine with two electric motors, one of which provides propulsion and one that acts as a starter/generator and sends energy to the 8.8-kWh battery pack. These motors are integrated into a continuously variable automatic transmission that sends the total system output of 148 horsepower and 149 lb-ft of torque to all four wheels.
According to the EPA, the Crosstrek Hybrid can go 17 miles on electricity alone, scores 90 mpg-e combined in PHEV mode, and can achieve 35 mpg combined if it’s never plugged in and left to operate purely as a conventional hybrid. With the battery fully charged and a full tank of gas, it can deliver up to 480 miles of total driving range. A Level 1 (120-volt) charger replenishes its depleted battery pack in five hours, while a Level 2 (240-volt) station slashes that time to roughly two hours.
The 2021 Ford Escape SE Plug-In Hybrid carries a starting window sticker of $33,895, as well as a generous qualifying federal tax credit of $6,843 in addition to possible state and municipal bonuses. Unlike the Crosstrek, Outlander PHEV, and RAV4 Prime, the Escape PHEV is only available with front-wheel drive. Its powertrain teams a 165-hp 2.5-liter I-4 with two motor generators in a planetary e-CVT, a 14.4-kWh lithium-ion battery pack. The setup produces a combined 221 horsepower.
The Ford notches an estimated EPA rating of 102 mpg-e (41 mpg if never plugged in), as well as an impressive 37 miles of pure electric driving range. In terms of charging an empty battery, a Level 1 (120-volt) outlet will need 10 to 11 hours to finish the job, whereas a Level 2 (240-volt) charger can do it in as little as three hours and 20 minutes. Finally, the Escape PHEV has an 11.2-gallon gas tank compared to the Crosstrek Hybrid’s 13.2-gallon unit. As of this writing, we’re still awaiting word as to when the Escape PHEV will hit dealers in the States.
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