Which Is the Best Hybrid Vehicle?

red hybrid car

Fuel economy, cost and vehicle reliability are three key factors consumers use to decide which hybrid vehicle is best for their family. Keeping these in mind, it's important to consider additional information, such as interior size and comfort, as well as engine size and power. After all, it is important that the car you buy for environmental reasons is also one you enjoy driving.

Best Hybrid Vehicles in Each Class

All hybrids provide greater fuel economy and reduced vehicle emissions when compared to traditional gas-only vehicles of similar size and horsepower. The best hybrid SUV only has impressive gas mileage when compared to traditional SUVs. Trading your traditional compact for a hybrid SUV is not going to result in savings or reduced environmental impact. For this reason, choosing the right hybrid vehicle is greatly dependent on the size of the automobile you need, and the corresponding power you need to run it.

Best Compact Cars

Toyota Prius

Prius is the best-selling gas/electric hybrid car in the world, and has the best fuel economy in its class. The Prius has become the face of hybrid cars.

Key Features:

  • Fuel economy: 50 mpg; this is the best in its class
  • Interior space: Comfortable, if this compact is not roomy enough, the 2011 line of Prius includes Prius wagon
  • Cargo space: Adequate
  • Price: 2011 MSRP base: $23,050

Honda Civic Hybrid

The Honda Civic has more horsepower than the sedan Insight. Combined with its small size and efficient gas mileage, this compact is a popular hybrid.

Key Features:

  • Fuel economy: Typically 44 mpg (city and highway)
  • Resale value: High
  • Maintenance costs: Low
  • Safety: Scores well in crash tests

Negatives:

  • Cargo space: Limited trunk space due to battery storage
  • Interior space: Rear seats do not fold down
2011 Hybrid Car Comparisons
Model Feature Specifications
Toyota Prius Body Style Four-door hatchback
Engine 1.8 liter, four cylinder, 134 total horsepower
Fuel Economy 51 mpg/city, 48 mpg/highway
Honda Civic Body Style Four-door sedan
Engine In-Line, four cylinder, 110 total horsepower
Fuel Economy 44 mpg/city, 44 mpg/highway
Toyota Camry Body Style Four-door sedan
Engine 2.5 liter, four cylinder, 187 total horsepower
Full Economy 22 mpg/city, 33 mpg/highway
Honda Insight Body Style Five-door sedan
Engine In-Line, four cylinder, 98 total horsepower
Full Economy 40 mpg/city, 43 mpg/highway
Ford Escape Body Style Four-door SUV
Engine 2.5 liter, I-4 engine, 171 total horsepower
Fuel Economy 34 mpg/city, 31 mpg/highway
Toyota Highlander Body Style Four-door SUV
Engine 3.5 liter, six cylinder, 208 total horsepower
Fuel Economy 28 mpg/city, 28 mpg/highway

Mid-sized Hybrid Cars

Toyota Camry Hybrid

The Camry has more space inside than the Prius and features a six-speed manual transmission.

Key Features:

  • Interior space: Roomier than the Toyota Prius
  • Brand recognition: Toyota is a trusted hybrid name
  • Drivetrain: Six-speed manual

Negatives:

  • Fuel economy: Considerably less than the compact Prius, and most other hybrids
  • Cargo space: Limited trunk space
  • Power: Difficult to make steep uphill climbs
  • Price: 2011 MSRP base: $26,675

While this vehicle often loses out to the more popular Honda Insight, Toyota is a trusted name in hybrids, and the Camry has a manual transmission that some drivers do not want to give up.

Honda Insight

The Insight is one of the most popular hybrids of 2011. It has many of the features of the Prius, but comes with a little more room and a lower price tag.

Key Features:

  • Interior: Roomy, with a 60/40 fold-down rear-seat configuration to maximize either the rear passenger space or an enlarged cargo area
  • Price: Base MSRP of $18,200 makes this hybrid competitive with selling power of the Prius
  • Power: Less horsepower than most hybrids, test-drivers claim a peppy ride

Negatives:

  • Fuel economy: Miles per gallon rating decent, not as impressive as Prius

Hybrid SUVs

Ford Escape

Ford is edging into the hybrid market, with the Escape SUV holding its own against other hybrid SUVs, and even beating Toyota in both price and gas mileage.

Key Features:

  • Price: Base MSRP (2011) $30,110
  • Fuel economy: Impressive for SUV at 31/28

Negatives:

  • Interior space: Seating for only five passengers

Toyota Highlander Hybrid

The Highlander hybrid is another trusted Toyota hybrid.

Key Features:

  • Interior space: Seating for seven
  • Safety : Has done well in government crash tests

Negatives:

  • Fuel economy: Only about 28 mpg (highway and city)
  • Cost: Premium price ($37,490 base MSRP) makes poor investment return compared to price of non-hybrids

While it is difficult to justify the added cost of this hybrid over non-hybrid versions, for those needing an SUV and wanting something greener, this is a great choice.

Things to Consider Before Buying

All of these vehicles have received rave reviews for various reasons. In choosing which hybrid is the right one for you and your family, consider the following:

  • Price
  • Miles per gallon
  • Reliability (brand, make of the car, and specific model year)
  • Performance in governmental safety testing
  • Interior space
  • Resale value
  • Transmission type
  • Performance (acceleration)
  • Two-wheel versus four-wheel drive
  • Available options and costs

Ultimate Evaluation

Once you have an idea of the make and model of a few hybrids that seem interesting to you, head to a dealer for a test drive. The ideal car is the one that fits not only your criteria when you compare various hybrids, but also feels safe, comfortable and is fun to drive.

Which Is the Best Hybrid Vehicle?