A litre of regular gas will cost you $1.72 in Metro Vancouver, which leads me to ask: how would you like to cut your fuel bill by 25%, even 50%?

Ugh. Who’s responsible for this overwrought grille?

If you’re driving a midsize sport-utility vehicle, we’re talking about saving $1,000 a year at the fuel pump, perhaps more, depending on how much you drive. There’s a catch, though: you need to give up on a muscular V-6 or a thumping V-8. Instead, think hybrid.

To save the most, you need to go all the way to a plug-in hybrid. That adds the complexity of charging up regularly, every 40 kilometres or so, when the small on-board battery runs dry. Yes, it can be a hassle.

But the benefits are real and impressive.

The 2022 Hyundai Santa Fe Plug-in Hybrid:

  • rates a combined 3.1L/100 km;
  • has a battery range of about 50 km;
  • has an overall range between fill-ups of 655 km;
  • and, as Natural Resources Canada notes, will run you about $1,081/yr for fuel.

If you care about global warming, note this number: 69 g/km for CO2 emissions.

Lots of numbers there. They need context and meaning.

Well, if you go for a regular Santa Fe hybrid rather than the plug-in, your fuel bill will jump 50% to about $1,500/yr. and CO2 will more than double.

Slide over to a regular Santa Fe with its modest 2.5-litre turbo four, and your fuel bill doubles to $2,000/yr compared to the plug-in and your CO2 more than triples.

Here’s the rub: That Santa Fe with a plug starts at $44,099, while the base gas-only Santa Fe beings at $33,699. You will save perhaps $12,000 on fuel over the next dozen years, but you’ll pay that up front.

Not quite, actually.

Because Hyundai loads up the plug-in with all manner of upscale features, AND if you purchase or lease for at least 48 months, you are eligible for $4,000 in combed government rebates (in British Columbia, at least). Safe to say, with all the inputs and subsidies combined – dealer prep, fees, taxes and subsidies – you’re out the door in a Santa Fe plug-in for about $50,000 or, say, about $700/month for the next seven years.

For that you get a lively SUV with a modest 1.6-litre four-cylinder gas engine and electric drive. Combined output: 226 hp/258 lb-ft torque. Max towing is 2,000 kg or about 4,400 lbs, which is the weight of a decent-sized boat or trailer. All-wheel drive is standard.

The look of it? The exterior has a distinctive but clean design, other than the overwrought grille up front. The grille is absurdly ostentatious, but the Santa Fe’s total design package is quite pleasant. LED head- and taillights, along with 19-inch alloy wheels, finish the look.

Inside, there’s seating for five on leather surfaces and the front buckets are powered and heated, with the rears also heated. The rear seatback folds 60-40.

The standard audio display is 8.0 inches. The best sound system is the 630-watt Harmon/Kardon unit with 12 speakers. Terrific sound. Apple CarPlay/Android Auto? Of course. The rest? Dual zone climate control. Bluetooth, cruise control, a leather steering wheel, the full 12.3-inch digital colour LCD multi-information display and all the rest of what you’d expect in an upmarket SUV – all the gear is on board.

This is really quite an excellent rig. The ride quality is…it’s quiet, composed and completely pleasant. The materials are perhaps the best you can get in this price range. The thoughtfulness of the design is such that you find everything where it should be. You will not struggle to make sense of the infotainment, not at all.

Hyundai offers the second-best warranty in Canada and this brand’s quality rankings have moved to the top of the industry. Yes, you should cross-shop it against the Toyota Highlander and even Toyota’s Venza, and most certainly Hyundai’s sibling brand offering, the Sorento.

They are all priced in the same ballpark, which means in the end, this will come down to personal preference. If it were me, I’d opt for the Sorento plug-in. It feels the richest of the bunch, without being any pricier.

Regardless, with fuel prices soaring and likely to stay there, barring another pandemic, the only sensible choice in an SUV today is a hybrid, or a plug-in hybrid.



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