Buying a new family car is a giant pain in the boo.
I’m always being asked by friends and family to help them decide what car to buy and, after over 15 years in the car business, I suppose I’ve been anointed Parent Co’s in-house car expert. I’m a real dork when it comes to car shopping. I’m one of the rare weirdos that genuinely loves the art and science of consciously coupling a car to its owner. That’s not what it sounds like, I promise.
When looking for a car, especially for a family, there are so many things to consider: Do we buy new or used? How many people can it seat? How much will the maintenance be on this thing? Does it have the gadgets and doo-dads our modern family has come to expect? How easily can I clean Gogurt from the seats?
And the always important: how far can I stretch the dead dinosaurs I’m burning?
We’ll do a follow-up on used family cars, but for now let’s focus on new cars and specifically hybrid sedans. Sure, there are Hybrid SUVs and Crossovers and we’ll cover those in another post, but the sedans tend to be the best from a dead dinosaur-burning perspective. And if you’re space savvy a sedan can work just fine as a family hauler.
There are a lot of sweet hybrid sedans on the market spanning the range of price points, but since most of us aren’t rolling in Benjamins, we’ll keep this list to cars under $40,000. Also, I will say that I haven’t driven any of these cars. I’m working strictly on the info on their websites and my (informed) opinion. With that said, if you’re a manufacturer on this list and want to change my mind by having me test out a press car, you know where to find me. Ha!
So here they are – the Top 5 Hybrid Sedans, listed in order of good to best.
5) 2016 Ford Fusion Hybrid
I’m a fan of what Ford is doing lately. Our family truckster is a 2014 Explorer and the value is certainly there compared with its peers, but I’m not sure Ford is bringing their A-game with the Fusion Hybrid.
On the plus side, 41 MPG highway isn’t too shabby, and I know from experience that the Ford Sync system is really fantastic. I’m also a fan of the styling on this car and I think it will still look pretty sharp five years or more from now. If you’re a bigger driver who appreciates a spacious cabin, Ford has this nailed.
The base price S model is tempting at just a skosh over $25,000, but the options to get a well-equipped car add up quickly. I’d personally want leather seats (for the ease of cleaning), sunroof, and definitely all the safety features available since I’d be hauling precious cargo. When you load it up, you’re looking at the Platinum model range at roughly $34,000 (without floormats). With an industry-standard 3yr/36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty and 5yr/60,000-mile powertrain warranty, I’d be a little squeamish to purchase outright and would probably lean towards a lease considering the fancy and expensive bits that make up a hybrid drive system.
4) 2016 Honda Accord Hybrid
Honda has always been a staple of reliability in the auto industry and the Accord has been a mainstay on American roads since the early 80s. The Accord and its chief rival, the Toyota Camry, are benchmarks for value in the mid-sized sedan category. The Accord Hybrid is no exception. With the Accord, you’ll get vanilla… but there’s nothing really wrong with a solid vanilla like Breyers or something like that.
The styling isn’t anything to write home about, and the starting base price of roughly $29,000 isn’t cheap, but it’s a Honda and it’s going to be a solid all-around vehicle. The 45 MPG highway rating is pretty darn good, and 4 MPG more than the Ford, but just like the Ford, when you start adding on features like lane departure warning, forward collision sensors, sunroof, and leather seats, you’re in the EX-L model at a base price of almost $33,000. With the same warranty as the Ford Fusion Hybrid, I would again lean toward a lease instead of purchase, despite higher overall resale values for Honda.
3) 2016 Toyota Camry Hybrid
Just like Honda, Toyota is a gold standard for reliability in this segment. I’ve traditionally thought of the Camry as the car people buy when they just don’t care at all about style (you can’t get more bland than a beige-on-beige Toyota Camry), but Toyota has really stepped up its game when it comes to styling refreshes across the model lineup.
The bare bones model has an admittedly attractive base price of roughly $27,000, but lacks two critical family car features – leather seats and optional Blind Spot Monitor (BSM) – making the top-of-the-line XLE model the only one up for consideration here. That model starts at roughly $30,000 and with Camry’s relatively simple package bundling strategy (versus other manufacturer’s a la carte method) you can choose a mid-range package with decent audio, moonroof, and BSM to take you up to about $33,000. It’s right in line with the others on warranty and, although slightly less gas friendly at 39 MPG, I think the updated styling, the simple package configuration, and its perceived resale value make this car an easy buy.
2) 2016 Kia Optima Hybrid
I know what you’re thinking… You put a Kia ahead of Honda, Toyota, and Ford? Yep, I did. Kia has come a long way since the Sephia rolled into the states in 1994. Sure, the Korean brands can often be seen as taking styling cues from other, more “established” brands, but you have to give them credit – it works. The Optima is a great looking car. It might even be the best-looking of the bunch.
Loaded with every conceivable option, it tips the scales at just over $35,000. Dead dinosaur burns-per-mile comes in at 39 highway, right in line with the others on this list. Although it may seem like a pretty big jump from the steadfast and well-equipped Camry at $33k, consider the bumper-to-bumper warranty at 5yrs/60,000 miles and a powertrain warranty – including the hybrid drive system – at 10yr/100,000 miles. The car looks great, and you can drive with confidence it won’t be taking any more from your wallet for some time.
1) 2016 Hyundai Sonata Plug-In Hybrid
Again, I know what you’re thinking: wha, wha, what? But just like Kia, Hyundai has come miles and miles from their entry into the US market with the ‘86 Excel. I remember my father and I went to look at one just because it was so cheap. Well, this Hyundai isn’t cheap, but it shouldn’t be, either.
This car is packed with technology, including ventilated seats that will keep your boo cool on those hot summer days. From what I can tell, this car delivers value in spades. Fully loaded up with every option and safety feature available, it’s the most expensive of the group at just over $38,000, but consider the key feature of this car that sets it apart from the rest: It’s a plug-in hybrid that Hyundai claims can run on 100% electric drive for up to 27 miles. Pretty impressive considering the average family commute to school and work is about 29 miles a day. You and your brood might just have enough juice to make your runs every day without burning a single dinosaur! Those savings will add up quickly and will more than justify the higher initial cost of the car.
The Sonata Plug-In Hybrid also has a 5yr/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper, a 10yr/100,000-mile powertrain warranty, and also free lifetime hybrid battery replacement. The Sonata is the one to buy if you’re in the market for a sedan that looks great, is packed with the latest doo-dads, and you want to spend less time at the pump. Sure, gas is cheap now… but that doesn’t last forever.