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
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.
- 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.
- Fuel economy: Typically 44 mpg (city and highway)
- Resale value: High
- Maintenance costs: Low
- Safety: Scores well in crash tests
- Cargo space: Limited trunk space due to battery storage
- Interior space: Rear seats do not fold down
|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.
- Interior space: Roomier than the Toyota Prius
- Brand recognition: Toyota is a trusted hybrid name
- Drivetrain: Six-speed manual
- 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.
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.
- 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
- Fuel economy: Miles per gallon rating decent, not as impressive as Prius
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.
- Price: Base MSRP (2011) $30,110
- Fuel economy: Impressive for SUV at 31/28
- Interior space: Seating for only five passengers
Toyota Highlander Hybrid
The Highlander hybrid is another trusted Toyota hybrid.
- Interior space: Seating for seven
- Safety : Has done well in government crash tests
- 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:
- 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
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.