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Hybrid showdown: Prius vs. Civic

I’ve searched a lot of the discussions here, but still would like to get a few opinions. I’ve decided on buying a hybrid, but wanted to get opinions on the Prius vs. the Civic. The poor student in me loves the Civic (thanks discussions for opening my eyes to this car), but what about durability? I follow the “you get what you pay for” mentality… how true is that in this case? The poor student in me doesn’t want to be making semi-annual repairs!

I do mostly highway driving in Minnesota (I know hybrids over fuel-efficient non-hybrids may not be the best choice, but the environment side is a very strong selling point for me).

How much does '07 vs. '08 models matter?

Or any other models I should seriously consider?

First off if you do mostly highway driving then you won’t benefit greatly from a Hybrid.

As for longevity…Both are very well made vehicles and if properly maintained should give you 2-3 hundred thousand trouble free miles.

Mike’s right. And the problem with going the Prius/Civic route is that if you’re relying on the gasoline engine, your mileage will only be fine. It won’t be great, and it won’t beat what you’d get in a smaller car.

If you’re truly trying to help the environment, what you should look for is an econobox partial zero-emissions vehicle (PZEV). PZEV models are sold in CA, ME, MA, NY, and VT, and are available in states that share a border with them. Hybrids are advanced technology-PZEVs, so the tailpipe emissions for a non-hybrid with PZEV will be similar.

I realize in Minnesota you’re somewhat far from those states, but there are some PZEV cars for sale in Minnesota based on what I could find online. Here’s a 2007 Hyundai Elantra PZEV: for example. If you ask around at dealers, you might be able to find others.

With a small PZEV car, you’ll get better fuel economy on the highway, spend less money, and possibly use less gas than a hybrid, and you won’t be polluting any more than you already would be. Incidentally, they say that emissions from a PZEV car are cleaner than the ambient air in a smoggy city. Cool, huh?

I don’t mean to be a jerk, but the poor student in you doesn’t need to be buying an expensive new car. A hybrid is really a luxury item for people for whom it is worth spending a lot of money to appear “green”. Unless you’re operating a taxi fleet they barely make economic sense compared to a regular new car, let alone a couple year old used car. You will be much better off buying a 5-10 year old conventional economy car. They’re not as flashy, but something like a Suzuki Swift or a Honda CRX will kick any hybrid’s butt on the highway.

If you feel you must spend a lot to save a little at the pump, a small diesel will work out much better for doing a lot of highway miles.

Good luck finding any used ones, some might even be going for more used than they sold for new. If you can, a New Beetle will net you around 40 in the city and 50~60 on the highway, atleast according to one of our regular poster’s testaments.

Get either one but a Yaris gets 33 mpg overall. That means 40 MPG on the highway to me. 7000 dollars buys a lot of gas. Environmentally, it is about the same. There are other choices that probably ride better and get nearly the same mileage. Consumer Reports April issuu will tell you about them. Buy it today.

A Corolla with a manual transmission will get better mileage than a Yaris with a manual.

Heck, the owners of the new Ford Focus (all 2 of em) with a manual transmission are reporting better average mileage than Yaris owners with manual transmissions are.

A lot of these subcompacts really aren’t getting any better mileage than some compacts. Heck, look at the lousy mileage people are getting out of Nissan Versas.

“but the environment side is a very strong selling point for me”

The jury is still out on that one. There are some trade offs taking place. For example what about the disposal or recycle of the batteries? Personally I have been very impressed with the quality of the hybrids. For a new complex technology the auto manufactures have done a fantastic job. Still there are questions.

Another way the OP might look at it environmentally would be that if he buys a hybrid and drives it mostly on the highway, he could be theoretically depriving someone who drives mostly in town of owning it, where it would be used to its full advantage.

Also, like I was hinting at in my first post, keeping an older economy car on the road is far more “green” than buying a new one that gets marginally better mileage. New cars cost a lot because there’s a lot of raw materials and energy (well, and labor) that go into them, even more so with the more complicated hybrids.

If you end up choosing between the Prius and Civic Hybrid you might want to talk to an owner. I have yet to meet a Prius owner that wasn’t enthuastic about his car. Luggage space is the only complaint.

I’m beginning to wonder if hybrids may not be good for the environment, if you calculate in the added resources need to make the batteries, the electric motor(s), the extra mechanical transmissions and clutches and the extra electronics. And probably reduced life. And weigh these resources off against the (frequently small) improvement in fuel economy.

These calculations may have been done somewhere, I’ll poke around.

Of course they let you stand up and shout “look at me, I’m green”.

Compared to a regular new car and if used in an application where it can be used to maximum advantage, there’s no question that a hybrid makes sense economically and environmentally. What bothers me is the way they’re marketed. Most hybrids get used as commuter cars by people who feel guilty about their commutes but feel that owning a big green status symbol will absolve them of the sin of driving a bunch of miles to work. Most commutes are mostly highway miles (well, maybe not in parts of SoCal) so the hybrid isn’t living up to it’s potential.

If the automakers really wanted to maximize the environmental benefits of hybrids, they’d sell them as fleet vehicles-- of course you can imagine from their perspective the profit margin difference between what is basically being marketed like a luxury car now and what would happen if they started selling them wholesale. I’m hoping that in the not-to-distant future the hybrid fad will die out and, along with many cities planning to mandate hybrid taxis, that the fleet vehicle is the future of the hybrid.

Hey hoffmalr & MikeInNH: guys check my apology on the post concerning the other Prius. It’s genuine, I hope you do, thanks, meaneyedcatz