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2017 Honda Civic hatchback

Bill Petro/Honda

The Honda Civic, recently redesigned and re-launched as a hatchback, was the most searched car on Google in 2016.

"It has been a best-selling car, or one of, for years, and is creating buzz and excitement in the market again," said Deepak Anand, head of industry, auto, for Google Canada, in an e-mail. The Civic has been Canada's best-selling car for 19 straight years. "When you have a popular car with lot of interest for future sales, you do very well in search growth."

Review: 2017 Honda Civic hatchback is the most useful Civic yet, but comes at a premium

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The list of most-searched vehicles is often reflected by the top-selling vehicles and by those that see a large growth in sales, said Anand. And this rings mostly true in 2016. The Ford Mustang (7,300 sold through November 2016) and Honda CR-V (41,700 sold through November 2016) round out the top three. Canada's best-selling vehicle, the Ford F-150 (135,000 sold through November 2016), was fourth.

The Mustang, at No. 2, was an exception. However, it underwent a redesign in 2015 and was the most searched car that year. Another exception would be the Range Rover, which was No. 7 on the list.

"This would be the biggest surprise of the list this year," said Anand. "Nearly every other vehicle is No. 1, 2 or 3 in its category or segment. The Range Rover is definitely up and coming, but doesn't have the dominant sales to match its spot."

In 2015, the BMW 3 Series cracked the top 15, a rare feat for a luxury car. But Anand said searches are increasing for luxury brands and customers are spending more on cars.

Google also monitors the most-asked questions in car-related categories. The most-asked questions in the electric car and hybrid car category were "How long does it take to charge an electric car?" and "What is a hybrid car?"

"This is a pretty standard trend we see," said Anand. "People start off with the thought of (buying an) electric or hybrid and, at some point, discover a better option for various reasons such as price, hybrid mileage isn't as good as expected, or their home won't support charging."

A study by Altman Vilandrie & Co. says about 60 per cent of U.S. drivers polled didn't know a car can be plugged in and 80 per cent have never ridden in one. But the study also finds that a good chunk of people who have been in an EV liked the experience.

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While hybrid, plug-in hybrid and fully electric vehicles make up a small fraction of new cars sold in Canada, sales are increasing.

More people are learning about green car because more are on the road and new options are available to consumers.

BMW began offering plug-in versions of its 3-Series and X5 in 2016 and now has the most plug-in options of any retailer.

This trend will continue in 2017 with a number of affordable, average-priced plug-in vehicles coming to Canada – including the Chevrolet Bolt, Volkswagen e-Golf and Tesla Model 3.

Searches for green vehicles are up 20 per cent from 2015 and half of Canadian buyers say they would consider a hybrid or electric vehicles for their next purchase.

"Given new laws, and entrants to the field, in addition to searches, we anticipate seeing hybrid sales increase, but not dramatically," says Anand.

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The most-searched vehicles on Google in Canada

  1. Honda Civic (No. 3 in sales)
  2. Ford Mustang (No. 66 in sales)
  3. Honda CR-V (No. 11 in sales)
  4. Ford F-150 (No. 1 in sales)
  5. Jeep Grand Cherokee (No. 30 in sales)
  6. Ford Escape (No. 8 in sales)
  7. Range Rover (No. 183 in sales)
  8. Toyota Corolla (No. 9 in sales)
  9. Toyota RAV4 (No. 7 in sales)
  10. Ford Focus (No. 25 in sales)

*Sales figures are through the end of November 2016

Video: The 11 cars worth waiting for in 2017
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