Three Plug-in Hybrids That Cost Less than $30,000

By · July 24, 2019

What’s it going to take for everyday consumers to shift from gas to electric? Some advocates believe that the tipping point will occur when the cost of a battery-powered car and an emissions-producing gas car are identical. The magic words: price parity.

Others believe that it will only happen when an EV has the same driving range and ease of refueling as an internal-combustion vehicle.

If price parity and eliminating range concerns are the criteria, then we don’t have to wait another day. There are three highly capable, long-range plug-in hybrids available for less than $30,000. After a federal tax credit of about $4,500, the entry price for the three models dips to the mid-$20,000s. Compare that to the average vehicle transaction price these days of about $37,500.

Here’s the trio: the Toyota Prius Prime, Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid, and Hyundai Ioniq Plug-in Hybrid. They respectively provide 25, 26, and 29 miles of all-electric range—with back-up gas engines for quick fill-ups and hundreds of miles of spare range.

Toyota Prius Prime - Starts at $28,530

The most popular of the three sub-$30k plug-in hybrids is the Toyota Prius Prime. In fact, it’s the top-selling plug-in car that’s not a Tesla. The Prius Prime combines a spacious five-seat hatchback design, 25 miles of all-electric range, and a remarkable 54-mpg efficiency after those electric miles. It can be the single car for a family that wants ultra-low emissions.

In the past, the Prius Prime was a four-seater. But the 2020 model, which goes on sale this summer, changes the backseat to accommodate three passengers. At the same time, the hatchback provides a generous 19.8 cubic foot of cargo space with 60/40 split-folding rear seats. Toyota has, in recent years, improved upon the Prius’s styling and performance. Of course, it’s not the slickest or fastest car on the road, and it’s not a Tesla. But when it comes to versatility, reliability, and no-compromise electric driving, the Prius Prime is an affordable package for mainstream buyers.

Hyundai Ioniq Plug-in Hybrid - Starts at $25,300

Of the trio of affordable plug-in hybrids, the Hyundai Ioniq Plug-in Hybrid has the lowest entry price and the longest all-electric range at 29 miles. After the EV battery pack is depleted, the Ioniq offers a remarkable 52 miles per gallon of gasoline, just two ticks below the Prius. If that doesn’t convince you to consider the Ioniq Plug-in Hybrid, then ponder two other factors: styling and performance.

The Hyundai Ioniq has clean lines, a sporty profile, and a high back-end that integrates the spoiler with the rear glass hatchback. By contrast, the wavy rear lid on the Prius Prime looks awkward. And the Ioniq Plug-in Hybrid’s clear advantage is performance. Its capable 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine, when combined with electric propulsion, yields a total system output of 139 horsepower. (The Prius manages just 121 ponies.) Starting at $25,300 before a $4,500 tax credit, the Ioniq Plug-in Hybrid has a lot going for it, including a six-speed transmission for a natural drive feel compared to Toyota’s lackluster CVT.

Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid - $28,500

The third choice provides an option for plug-in shoppers wanting a small crossover. In truth, the Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid provides a similar amount of interior space as the Prius Prime—but with the higher clearance and style of a wagon-like compact SUV. We see it as a practical commuter with a little flair and extra height.

But the Niro’s main selling point is its interior, which is among the nicest in the class. Like the Hyundai Ioniq, the Niro Plug-in Hybrid uses a six-speed dual-clutch automatic-shifting gearbox to provide a more engaging driving experience than found in most hybrids. Combine that with creature comforts and a long list of active-safety features to make a compelling plug-in hybrid. The pluggable Niro’s 26 miles of all-electric range is nearly identical to the Prius, although the Niro’s 46-mpg rating (after depleting the EV battery) is not as thrifty on fuel as the Toyota’s 54 miles per gallon. Nonetheless, for many shoppers, that’s a small tradeoff for more comfort and style.

New to EVs? Start here

  1. Seven Things To Know About Buying a Plug-In Car
    A few simple tips before you visit the dealership.
  2. Incentives for Plug-in Hybrids and Electric Cars
    Take advantage of credits and rebates to reduce EV costs.
  3. Buying Your First Home EV Charger
    You'll want a home charger. Here's how to buy the right one.