Your questions answered: What’s the best hybrid large SUV for regional driving?

Some important questions from readers this week, such as where have all the spare wheels gone, and LPG cars too? Plus, lots of interest in hybrid cars and EVs for touring and towing…

Hybrids are back on the carsales menu this week, with one buyer looking for a large SUV that won’t use a whole lot of fuel for driving in country areas.

Another wants to know why we haven’t seen many diesel-powered hybrid vehicles.

And, of course, there’s plenty of EV interest, including one reader querying where all the 800-volt electric vehicles are.

Plus, there’s a pertinent question about the curious case of disappearing spare wheels and another looking to step up to a driver-friendly SUV that can tow a two-tonne caravan.

What’s the best hybrid large SUV for regional driving?

Question: We are replacing a Honda Odyssey which we used mainly for needed cargo space for disability equipment. We live on the Sunshine Coast and travel a lot in regional Queensland and believe a hybrid is the right next option for us.

Bearing in mind our need for cargo space we have narrowed the list to a new Kia Sorento v Toyota Kluger. While the Kia has marginally less power and towing capacity it appears to be significantly cheaper for the comparative top Kluger and has more usable boot space with both rear seats down and a seven-year warranty. Do you have any comments we should be aware of? Are there any other hybrid options to replace the Odyssey? – Denis

Answer: You’re looking in the right part of the market. The Toyota Kluger has more occupant space and should also be good on boot space. There are different methods of measuring boot space and neither the Sorento nor Kluger has much on offer with all seven seats in play.

It’s a lot better if you lower the back seats to make it a five-seater. Either way, go into a dealership to measure it up for yourself.

Also stick the Hyundai Santa Fe Hybrid on your shortlist. It runs the same hybrid system as the Sorento and is a great option.

toyota kluger gxl hybrid 02 62e0

Be aware that all hybrids do their best fuel-saving work around town, where the braking regeneration system can capture energy normally lost as heat in the braking system to use later in the electric motor. Because you’re not braking much on a freeway the opportunities to recapture energy are fewer.

That’s why there tends not to be a big difference between around-town fuel and country road fuel economy in a hybrid. For that reason, a diesel may also be worth considering given the benefits it offers on the open road.

Take the Santa Fe as an example. Its claimed fuel use for ‘extra urban’ running (which is similar to country road driving) for the diesel version is 5.3L/100km whereas the hybrid is 5.9L/100km. While you’ll probably use more than that in each, they were at least tested to the same conditions so should give an indication of the difference.

Around town, it’s the opposite; the diesel uses a claimed 7.5L/100km and the hybrid 6.2L/100km.

Why do so many cars have no spare tyre?

Question: I am in the market for an SUV pretty much the same size as my CR-V. I am staggered to find how few cars have a spare tyre, whether they be EVs or ICE vehicles. What are you meant to do when you are between Wilcannia and Cobar and you have an irreparable flat tyre? Not only this even around the city if you have a flat and a repair kit, you drive your car for repair, you cannot leave your tyre as no spare. What if they cannot fix it until the next day?

I would appreciate your thoughts about options for SUVs, similar boot size as my CR-V, petrol or otherwise. Tesla is not an option for me. – Peter

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Answer: Spare wheels are becoming less of a priority with many brands. And it’s worse in the EV space where much of that floor space is often consumed with batteries.

Tesla offers a tyre swap service for cars under warranty, but with other brands you’ll need to either carry a spare in the boot or on the roof, or risk it. The latter is obviously less than ideal if you’re going remote.

As for an EV the size of your Honda CR-V, the Tesla Model Y would be ideal, but you say you can’t get a Tesla. In which case check out the Kia EV5 that’s due around the middle of the year. We haven’t driven it but it’s shaping up to be tempting on-paper.

Other mid-size electric SUVs soon to arrive include the Toyota bZ4X and Subaru Solterra, each effectively the same car and each a tad underwhelming. There’s also the Volkswagen ID.4 and Skoda Enyaq.

Why are there no diesel-powered plug-in hybrid cars?

Question: Why is no one seemingly offering or developing a diesel hybrid or diesel plug-in hybrid? It would be a perfect fit for some of the existing or upcoming Toyota and Kia utes and 4WD such as the new Prado and the Kia ute.

A diesel hybrid would eliminate the weakness of low towing capacity of most hybrids while offering some EV-only driving for short trips without compromising too much on towing capacity. Is it just the cost thing holding it back?

The only diesel hybrid still in production I am aware of is the Mercedes E 300de. – Geza

Answer: There’s very little development being done on diesel hybrid in passenger cars or SUVs/utes.

That’s partly to do with the challenges with diesel emissions in the EU rules moving forward, which require expensive after-treatment (and hybrids won’t help that).

ford ranger phev au charging close up v2 e60w

Also remember that diesel engines tend to cost more to produce (in part because of the tougher emissions requirements), which then combines with the hybrid system to make for an expensive drivetrain.

Conversely, most other brands are increasingly proposing petrol-electric hybrid as a replacement for diesel in their SUVs and utes.

There’s some diesel hybrids in light trucks. We’ll likely see more in that space and potentially larger trucks.

Which SUV should we buy to tow our 2000kg caravan?

Question: My husband and I purchased our first caravan on the weekend, an Adora 492DT Sport, and now discover our car, a Hyundai ix35, is not suitable for towing its weight.

We need a car with minimum towing weight of 2000kg and a minimum tow ball weight of 200. The choices are endless and confusing. We would not go off-road and do not need seven seats or a ute. We planned to look at second-hand cars from 2023 to 2016, and although cost may be an issue we would appreciate any advice you could give us. – Catherine

Answer: If you need to tow 2000kg then you really need a car that can tow more than that, preferably close to 2500kg. That’s because in many instances by the time you attach the trailer you’ll find that the payload – how much weight you can put in the vehicle, inclusive of people – can be quite low. And obviously going on a camping adventure means you’re likely to want to take a lot of gear.

Unfortunately, vehicles that can tow that much tend to be larger so may naturally come with seven seats. On our shortlist would be a Hyundai Santa Fe (the diesel engine is far preferable for towing), which can tow up to 2500kg but only has a 200kg tow ball capacity (should work for you).

subaru outback xt tow test 15 fdx1

The latest Subaru Outback XT (with the turbo engine) also has a 2400kg tow capacity, although Subaru recommends a maximum speed when towing of 80km/h.

Many versions of the Volkswagen Tiguan also had a 2500kg tow capacity, although the tow ball download on some models is only 100kg, but 200kg on others.

The Volvo XC60 is also an excellent premium SUV and comes with a 2500kg tow capacity.

You could also look at a Ford Everest, which obviously has that off-road ability that brings on-road compromises.

And… I know I said cars with a 2000kg tow capacity should be avoided. But the Ford Endura is a left-fielder that may get the job done. It has a circa-600kg payload (depending on the model) so once you have the tow ball pushing down on the rear of the car it would reduce that to about 400kg.

If you think you can live with a 400kg payload – remembering that’s for people and luggage – then it had a grunty diesel engine that would work nicely for towing.

For how much longer will you be able to buy LPG?

Question: Has or when will EVs kill off Autogas? I know petrol and diesel are safe for many years to come, but surely Autogas must be rapidly approaching its demise? Are there that many vehicles left that run on gas? – Greg

Answer: Autogas, or LPG, has been in demise for decades. And it’s not EVs that are killing it off but hybrids and more efficient petrol and diesel engines. Taxis once exclusively ran on LPG, whereas these days most taxis are hybrids.

As for how many cars are still running on LPG, it would be fewer and fewer every year. The last dedicated LPG car sold in Australia was the Ford Falcon in 2016. So there would obviously still be some on the road.

As long as there is demand somewhere there’s likely to be service stations offering it. But just as we’ve seen LPG removed from many servo forecourts, you can expect that trend to continue moving forward.

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Can I fit a heat pump to my 2023 Hyundai IONIQ 6?

Question:

I own a Hyundai IONIQ 6 (March 2023) which I don’t believe was fitted with a heat pump. If a heat pump can be installed, retrospectively, is there any benefit of doing this? Also, would you have any idea of the cost of retrospectively installing a heat pump? – Sandeep

Answer: The heat pump was introduced across the range on all IONIQ 6 models later in 2023. In modern EVs they’re a common piece of hardware that improves efficiency by scavenging heat to utilise in the operation of ancillaries such heating the cabin.

The benefits of a heat pump are greater in cooler conditions where you’re likely to be using the cabin heater more. And the biggest benefit is better efficiency, which extends the driving range.

It’s incremental, though, and we’re not sure it’d be worth the trouble of retrofitting a heat pump to an older model.

We suspect it would be cheaper to trade your car in on a new one, something that also has a cost but is likely to be more affordable than going to the effort of fitting out an older model.

Hyundai IONIQ 6

When will we start seeing more 800V EVs on the road?

Question:

There were several articles written around 2022 talking about new 800V (or 900V) architecture EVs coming to Australia – such as this article about Jeep.

Since that time it seems like we’ve had rumblings from some brands like Jeep and JLR on their release dates for the US and UK but no one seems to know what’s going on for Australia.

I’m obviously biased given my interest in an 800V EV but I do think trying to do some digging on this would be of great interest – the difference between 800V and 400V is quite significant and I do think it would make a difference to EV demand for cars in Australia which has been slow. However, we’re not getting any firm dates from anyone! – Andy

Answer: Interesting subject. Brands like Kia and Hyundai are looking at both 800V and 400V architectures, the latter for cheaper models with less performance. As a general rule it seems 800V architectures are being reserved for more premium/expensive model variants with the big advantage being faster charging times.

The soon-to-arrive new Porsche Macan EV also takes it a step further by effectively splitting the battery into two 400V units when charging from a 400V charger, something that allows them to omit additional hardware – replacing a voltage converter with a simpler switch – while still getting the 800V charging benefits when using an 800V charger.

porsche macan bev macan track 009

The engineers like the higher-voltage platforms as double the power can be generated from the same current. The bean-counters like the cost savings 400V and its cheaper hardware can deliver. Same goes for getting power into the battery. In truth, the situation isn’t quite as clear-cut, but you get the idea.

We’ll see more 800V vehicles filter into the country over the next year or two, although so many EVs tend to run late as a result of manufacturing and supply chain delays.

The Jeep Recon is confirmed for Australia but won’t be here until late 2025 at the earliest, possibly slipping into 2026. We’ll also see 800V charging on the Jeep Wagoneer S, which is due in 2026.

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