Which hybrid to buy...if any

Given the scary results of the IIHS front impact crash tests for the Toyota Prius V and Camry hybrids, and the class action suit(s) against Ford for misrepresenting mpg for the C-Max and Fusion hybrids, can you recommend a 2012 or 2013 hybrid make and model?

You should first determine if a hybrid is the right choice for you. Posters on this forum usually recommend that you have to drive at least 25,000 to 30,000 miles a year to make it worthwhile. And your driving should be mostly city with lots of starts and stops. Furthermore, if you need the A/C on in the summer and the heater in the winter, the car will run mostly on the engine, not the battery. Then you don’t save much.

By now you will agree that taxi service in San Francisco or Seattle, Washington is the ideal service to save money with a hybrid.

We just bought a Mazda3, 2012 and saved $10,000 over the cheapest hybrid. We drive this car 9,000 miles per years, and will spend about $700/yr on gas. A hybrid will save 40% of that or $280 per year!! It will therefore take 10,000/280=35.7 years to get our money back!!

If you do a lot of just highway driving, a diesel compact such as a VW Jetta will be a better choice.

You get the picture.

I’d go for the '13 Ford Fusion as 1st choice in a Hybrid. Next, I get a conventional Honda Accord.

In addition to the Fusion hybrid, I’d also look at the new Honda Insight and the Honda Civic hybrid, if they still make it.

Hybrids looked so promising 10 years ago, but now they are losing their glamor. One of the main reasons is the increased fuel economy of conventional engines. Engineering developments, such as the gasoline-direct injection system, enables today’s cars to extract more energy from its fuel. Several new models are rated at close to 40 mpg highway.

In addition, hybrid owners are discovering that their battery pack doesn’t last forever. Replacement costs run into the thousands.

I can only advise you to do some more research. You may well decide to forgo a hybrid.

I wouldn’t worry about the class action lawsuit against Ford. I would just use slightly lower mpgs in my calculations to see if it’s worthwhile (40 or so instead of the claimed 47 mpg; Consumer Reports got 39 overall, “best among family sedans”).

But if you’re looking for the absolute lowest cost way to drive, it’ll likely be a conventional car. If you place some value on high fuel economy, then a hybrid might be for you, it was for me.

A good way to compare costs for 5 years of ownership is at the Edmunds ‘true cost to own’ site:

That includes estimates for fuel cost, depreciation, insurance, etc.

If you want to save gasoline, hybrids are the way to go. Safety ratings are an issue, but that class action lawsuit stuff isn’t very important. Ford hybrids are great regardless. I wouldn’t let that stuff bother you.

There are quite a few hybrids nowadays, so you can actually pick and choose from more than just two cars! You could look at a Sonata/Optima hybrid, Prius C, Any of the GM “Eco” hybrids, Jetta hybrid, Honda Insight, Civic hybrid, etc.

However, hybrids are not going to save you money in the short run. It’s going to take a decade, give or take, to recuperate your savings on gas.

Forget crash tests, nobody buys a car to drive it into a wall at 45 MPH…Go test drive a Fusion Hybrid and post back what you think…Test a Volt too, just for the fun of it…

I make no secret of being a hybrid fan, and would still recommend many of them to many people. Crash tests vary between specific models. There is no reason hybrids, as a group, would do any worse except that many carmakers design their cars with conventional powertrains in mind then add the hybrid version later. Crash forces may be transmitted through the hybrid vehicle slightly less effectively, but the differences are likely to be very slight. The existence of a lawsuit proves nothing.

As for the economic issues, whether a hybrid makes sense for you depends on how you drive and how long you plan to keep your car. If you keep your car for a decade, it will likely pay for itself, even with fairly modest increases in gas mileage. I’ve used Priuses for long enough to know one would pay for itself easily if we drove an average amount. I live in the middle of San Francisco and we drive very little, so a Prius would have taken more like twenty years to pay off for us. So we didn’t get one.

Some cars, like the Volt, can’t be easily estimated because it can be plugged in. You couldn’t pay me enough to own such an ugly, cramped car. The interior is especially unattractive. I don’t think plug-in hybrids are going to make sense until the next generation of batteries. Current batteries are too heavy and expensive to get adequate range. The plug-in C-Max only has a twenty mile range and the batteries push the rear deck up by about four inches over the regular C-Max hybrid, which is already slightly raised. Not good.

However, hybrids are not going to save you money in the short run. It's going to take a decade, give or take, to recuperate your savings on gas.

Again…you have to do the Math to figure out the savings. If you have a commute like my neighbor (40k+ miles/yr and mostly rural driving)…then the savings is less the 5 years. If you drive only 15k miles a year…then it could take as much as 15 years to recoup the extra cost of a hybrid.

And if gas prices go up…recoup time is faster…but if gas prices go down…then recoup time is longer.

If you MUST have a hybrid, I would still recommend the Prius. I believe it’s only the offset head-ons that the Toyota’s do poorly in. So, if you see one coming, instead of trying to avoid a collision, just aim for the license plate of the other car for maximum protection. ;=(

"You couldn’t pay me enough to own such an ugly, cramped car. "

It’s so subjective. I’m sure that you think the Cruze is ugly, too, since the Volt is just a hybrid Cruze at this time. I like the Cruze, and I do think it is prettier than the Volt (rear lights).

GM has said that they will make numerous improvements in the next generation Volt. It was built on the Cruze platform to save them money in the short run. Odd as that sounds, it would have been too big a gamble to build a completely new platform for the hybrid. But since it has been such a success, they plan to build a special platform for the Volt that will make unit costs substantially less than they are now. Apparently it isn’t easy or cost effective to shoe horn the batteries and electric motors into a Cruze.

..but if gas prices go down...

As Tom and Ray often say: “what are the chances of THAT?”


I don’t love the styling of the Cruze (mostly the arching greenhouse) , but it doesn’t look anything like the Volt. They share some oily bits, but GM wanted the Volt to stand out so people would notice they were selling something new and different. I’m even more bothered by the interior styling and the lack of space. The rear headroom is very poor and the touch controls of the center stack are a strange wrinkly, shiny plastic. Plenty of distinctive cars are also attractive, but GM tried too hard to be different and it ended up with a strange car. Like what’s up with the black stripe down the side?

@jtsanders The cruze has NOT been a success. It’s only sellling at the rate of 12,000 per year, even with the huge $7500 or so subsidy. Obama predicted to have 1 million pure electric cars on the road by next year as a justification for the GM bailout. The Ford Mustang sold 500,000 units in its first year!!! The Prius is the only really successful car so far using electricty.

But nearly every manufacturer feels they have to offer hybrids or electric cars. Mazda being a notable exception. Nissan has publicly stated that the LEAF is and will always be a “niche” vehicle and not suitable for most motorists. At least someone is being honest.

The new Cruze will have to be at least $9000 cheaper to atract more buyers.

The Volt (I’m sure that is what you meant @Docnick) is also a niche car and is selling despite it’s high initial cost. And compare it’s cost to the plug-in Prius and Leaf. The equivalent Prius is about the same price hnd has less than half the range on battery. Leaf sells for about $36,000 and is strictly a commuter car.

@jtsanders Yes, the Volt is also a niche car, but it is selling at about 1/4 the volume GM had planned. Without the huge tax credits, it would sell even less. The main difference is that GM and Obama laud this car as the future.

Recent article points to ‘regular’ hybrids being the way that carmakers will meet the new mpg standars, with up to half the fleet being hybrids over the next several years:

Another talks about the failure of EVs to attract buyers:

@Docnick, the Volt has gotten many good reviews and from seasoned reviewers. Price is it’s biggest problem. As I said, GM plans to address that in a big way when the next generation comes out.