Let's go hybrid shopping! Toyota/Lexus vs. Ford vs. Honda
October 11, 2014 8:19 AM   Subscribe

So, I think I'm ready to give up my slightly banged-up 2005 Civic. The lady and I would like to get a hybrid, since we're mostly doing city driving (with the occasional weekend jaunt). I've been shopping around and trying a few models out, but I would appreciate any personal experience with these cars...

Here's what I've tried so far and am considering:

1. 2014 Prius: Seems pretty reliable, not particularly interesting but does the job well and certainly has the experience to back it up.

2. 2014 Ford C-Max (not the Energi): Seems a bit more fun than the Prius, mileage not as good, though.

3. 2014 Civic Hybrid: Haven't tried it out yet, but it seems somewhat Prius-ish, i.e. utilitarian.

4. 2014 Lexus CT 200: Haven't tried this one out yet either, but the reviews I've seen online suggest that while it looks nice, it drives like a Prius (which isn't necessarily a bad thing for me).

Any thoughts on choosing between these? What I'm really looking for is a car that can seat 4 comfortably, has a decent but not excessive amount of trunk space, gets good mileage in the city, and will be decent (i.e. responsive) for highway driving if need be.

Your advice is most appreciated!
posted by greatgefilte to Travel & Transportation (26 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Oh, if it's any help, I'm planning to lease for a 3-4 year term, and I live in Canada (Toronto to be specific). Cost not really a huge factor.
posted by greatgefilte at 8:20 AM on October 11, 2014

If you are considering the Lexus and want to seat 4 comfortably, have you considered the Accord Hybrid? The Hybrid version is as fast as the V6 (0-60 ~7 seconds). A colleague traded his Prius for one and raves about how much he enjoys it. If you are going Hybrid for milage, also consider a diesel such as a VW Jetta.

We ended up with the Prius and put 6,000 miles on it in two months including long trips to Maine and Ohio. You quickly forget you are driving a Prius. The stereo is nice, the Bluetooth integration works very well, and I find it generally acceptable for driving. It can easily sustain 90-100mph. I have two complaints with our Prius: 1. Passing on non-highways is nearly impossible without a quarter mile of road. 2. People drive very differently around Prius, including running stop signs to not be behind a "slow Prius". There is a "power" button that lets the Prius drive very much like a normal car (eco mode retards the throttle response considerably, in power mode the car is very responsive).

The Lexus is the same motor/drive terrain as the Prius, with better suspension and interior, and slightly less cargo space.
posted by SirStan at 8:58 AM on October 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Also consider a Tesla
posted by sninctown at 9:03 AM on October 11, 2014

It's not hybrid at all, and not quite as good on MPG, but you might want to look at a diesel Jetta or Golf. I have a Golf and find that it's a tidy package that handles well, accelerates well, and delivers fuel economy that is consistently as good or better than the manufacturer promises in spite of my driving it in a way that is not conducive to efficiency. The build quality and materials of the interior are impeccable. And I think the interior is far more tasteful and ergonomic than the Hondas and Priuses that I've looked at.
posted by wotsac at 9:17 AM on October 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

I test drove the Lexus and really was not a fan of it - the reviews are right, you are basically buying a Prius at a premium cost due to the Lexus brand. Driving it felt very sluggish, it had terrible visibility out the back window (so much that you basically NEED the rear camera display that it boasts), and the dashboard felt really outdated.

The Civic hybrid is... fine. It drove just like a regular Civic in my experience, meaning it wasn't super zippy but it got around well enough, the seats aren't the most comfortable (I suppose the Lexus did offer this at least), and it's rather small, especially if you want to seat 4 people. But for an economy car, it's fine.
posted by joan_holloway at 9:36 AM on October 11, 2014

There's also the Chevy Volt and if your jaunts aren't too far (or too hurried), the Nissan Leaf. I have a friend who drives his leaf between Vancouver and Seattle with (I think) a single stop to charge along the way.
posted by Poldo at 9:47 AM on October 11, 2014

The Lexus CT (or a Prius) is not actually sluggish. You just need to floor the accelerator when required, e.g. at green lights or freeway on-ramps. Then you get quite surprising acceleration. The dual power sources, traction-control and continious variable transmission (infinite number of gears) give a different response curve than the average car.
The Lexus has a great interior, but less internal space than a Prius, so it depends how much space you need. Both have limited rear visibility due to the low-drag design.
posted by w0mbat at 10:02 AM on October 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think what SirStan says about people not wanting to drive behind a "slow Prius" is location-specific. In New England, especially in Massachusetts, you will be behind a Prius at all times. Also in front of Prius. Also to the left and right of a Prius. In short, this up here is Prius country. No one that I've ever heard of in this area would try to avoid being behind a Prius, because the only way to do that is to stay in your driveway.

I recently bought a 2011 Prius, and for what it's worth, I love it. I commute 50 miles both ways, all highway driving, and I've put about 7000 miles on it since I bought it. It has nary a shake or rattle. I looked at other kinds of hybrids, and also at the Honda Fit which isn't a hybrid but still gets really good mileage. The Prius won on all counts - comfort of interior, seats 4 easily, smooth driving, best mileage.

Good luck!
posted by kythuen at 10:08 AM on October 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Just saw that you are in New England, SirStan - in that case I narrow my comment to MA Prius Kingdom only!
posted by kythuen at 10:14 AM on October 11, 2014

My wife loves her Camry hybrid. Seats five easily. Hers is older, 2009, and the mileage is good but not great, 34 city, 40 on long trips but that's about 25% better than her previous non-hybrid Camry.
posted by Grumpy old geek at 10:18 AM on October 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

"It can easily sustain 90-100mph. "

This is not legal. But it does support my next point...

"People drive very differently around Prius, including running stop signs to not be behind a "slow Prius"."

I live in LA and have the exact opposite experience. In general, Prius drivers are assholes who zip in and out of traffic, speed, cut people off, and don't use signals.

After driving a Prius for a week a few months back, I finally "get it." Something about the way the car drives makes it incredibly easy to sorta "float" around on the road, not caring for traditional traffic rules. I don't know if I explained that right, but it was definitely my experience.

For in town use, only, I'm considering a Leaf.

The Accord hybrid sounds great.

I agree the bluetooth integration in the Prius is nice. That's about all the positive I can muster for it.
posted by jbenben at 10:27 AM on October 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I get a lot of aggressive driving around me in my Prius. It's pretty stupid, because it's got more get-up-and-go than my Honda Fit did (or my old Subaru, once it was old). And this is in California, where there are Priuses everywhere. I watch how other Prius drivers drive, and they drive like everyone else: some good, some bad, some fast, some slow. I think confirmation bias is *heavily* in play here. (And I have had no experience of "floating." Weird.) Well, whatever. I hope at some point this BS wears off.

That said, we sat in a couple different hybrids and the way the front seats are built really varies. The Toyota was the most comfortable for us by far.

And don't forget safety ratings; the Fit was totaled in the accident that led us to replacing , and I was later in a similar accident with the Prius. The Prius came through with flying colors. Back end repair and then good to go.
posted by wintersweet at 10:32 AM on October 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

I don't really understand the "slow Prius" thing, myself... we're in New England, and have been driving our '04 Prius for 3-4 years now, and not only does it go plenty fast, but we've never noticed any significant road-annoyance from drivers around us. (I mean, no more than I've noticed in any other car I've ever driven/ ridden in. There's always assholes!)

We drive ours a LOT -- on the interstate, up and down mountains through Vermont, etc., and slowness is not a problem. It's also been super-reliable, it's comfortable, and the trunk space is pretty awesome (plus the seats fold down in the back, so there's lots of cargo room).
posted by sarcasticah at 11:50 AM on October 11, 2014

My point wasn't to go drive around faster than road conditions or speed limits suggest jbenben, and there are certainly places and opportunities that a vehicle can be driven at 90mph (Texas, etc). Regardless.

The Prius is able to sustain speed just fine, however its acceleration isn't exactly exhilarating. For folks who want good gas mileage, it really goes hand in hand. The interesting thing about the Prius is off the line it really isn't horrible. For city driving, the Prius is peppy with both motors engaged.

This advertisement from Smart is relevant: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b1iJJZfB7i0
posted by SirStan at 12:20 PM on October 11, 2014

For what it's worth, the (April 2014) "Consumer Reports Annual Auto Issue: 2014 Best Cars" says the Toyota Prius is the clear winner:

"Most hybrid gas/electric cars have proved reliable, with a notable exception: the Honda Civic Hybrid. Last year we blasted the 2009 Civic Hybrid after almost one in five owners told us the hybrid battery had needed replacement. In this year's survey, the results were much worse.
The failure rate of the 2009 Civic Hybrids' batteries has risen to 30 percent, and the 2010s' failure rate jumped from 12 to 32 percent, the worst among any model year. For 2009s and 2010s, that's almost one in three owners experiencing a failure - an astonishing replacement rate for any part on any car. The equivalent for the Toyota Prius? A fraction of 1 percent.
Most of those Civic Hybrid batteries were probably replaced under warranty, which in most states runs for eight years and 80,000 miles. Out-of-warranty Civic Hybrid batteries cost about $3,000, plus installation. But regardless of whether someone is dinged for the replacement cost, any car with a trouble rate that high, especially on a major component, is one to avoid.
For the first time we're getting a sense of the lifespan of a Prius hybrid battery. Our latest survey sees 12- and 11-year-old Prius batteries (2002s and 2003s) with a replacement rate of 5 and 4 percent, respectively. Overall, the Toyota Prius remains among the most reliable of all cars."

And they've got a pretty bad prediction for the Ford C-Max's likely lifetime reliability, too.
posted by easily confused at 1:22 PM on October 11, 2014 [3 favorites]

I've just started looking at cars and the Kia Optima hybrid caught my eye. I haven't test driven it yet, but it has an optional heated steering wheel and looks like a nice car. Again, I haven't really started my research and read reviews, but it seems like it might be an intriguing option.
posted by parakeetdog at 2:05 PM on October 11, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks for all the advice! Just a few more situational caveats to throw in to fine-tune suggestions:

I live in an apartment downtown, and have to use street parking, so I can't do a plug-in, and would really prefer a compact rather than a mid-size. Diesels are a great idea, but for some convoluted reasons I can't get into here, I'm unable to get a VW.

Has anyone actually tried the C-Max? I'm less concerned with lifetime reliability given that I'm planning to lease it, but would like to know what it's like to drive.
posted by greatgefilte at 3:50 PM on October 11, 2014

I recently drove a Prius C, and one thing I haven't seen mentioned is how high the dash is. I'm 164cm, supposedly average female height, and even with the seat cranked up I felt my visibility was compromised. Definitely have your lady do some test drives, too.
posted by Georgina at 5:55 PM on October 11, 2014

I just bought Prius C. Our only other car is a toyota corolla, I think 08.

I findthe steering very light, in a nice way. I find the brake quite sensitive. Fuel economy is good, but it's hard to evaluate as we can't easily calculate using our other car, and the drive to work goes down in elevation quite a bit, so I typically get very low 3.6L/100km on the way there, and just average on the way home (6L/100km).

Overall I like it. The doors don't seem to have the autolocking function our old corolla does which I'm finding totes annoying. I am the kind of driver that just cares about getting from A to B.
posted by smoke at 6:01 PM on October 11, 2014

Friends of ours (in Toronto) bought the C-max Hybrid this year (non-plug-in) and they really like it. We've been Honda/Toyota people up to now but my wife is seriously considering getting one. Interior feels big and the sunroof on the model we looked at was huge.
posted by bonobothegreat at 6:06 PM on October 11, 2014

I have the 2014 Accord Hybrid. It is pretty awesome. I average 50 city, 43 highway with it. It drives great and has plenty of pep to pass other cars with no problems. It fits 5 comfortably. The trunk is smallish, but can fit a weeks worth of groceries. The safety features include a backup camera standard. My wife says it sounds like a spaceship. Sound system is good, handling is good, all in all, it is pretty great car. The only issue is it is kind of bumpy sometimes. I recommend it.
posted by paralititan at 6:12 PM on October 11, 2014

My Prius is now 8 years old and it runs beautifully. I run it through snow in the winter and with siped tires it gets around just fine. I go back and forth over Blewett and Snoqualamie Pass in WA with no problems whatsoever. One caveat...cold weather will drop your mileage. I average low 40s mpg (with an occasional 38 mpg) during the winter months. Spring and fall will be your best mileage months while summer will drop just a bit due to AC use. My last tank was 56 mpg and that included a trip over the passes back to the east side of the state.

My husband is 6'2" and has no problems with the headroom.
posted by OkTwigs at 6:17 PM on October 11, 2014

Prius: I've driven many, and they're just very good, solid econobox cars. You sound like you might enjoy a Prius.

I agree with jbenben above that, in SF, there's a minority of non-Uber/cabbie Prius drivers who are uber-a-holes. It's long become passe to drive a Prius here, so I don't think it's some self-righteousness.

As an aside, Prius drivers are sometimes confused with Uber drivers in these parts. Drunk people opening your car door when you're stopped at a red light - that kind of thing.

C-Max: I've only driven two in rental fleets, but they were notably inferior to Priuses in nearly every way. The only plus is that you sit more upright in the car, if you prefer that. If you want interior volume, you could consider this - or the Prius V.

Lexus CT: Seating is cramped in the back for adults. Unless you want the brand and interior finishes, go with the Prius.
posted by ccl6yl at 6:19 PM on October 11, 2014

Seconding sarcasticah. I'm the original owner of a 2004 Prius with approximately 160K miles. I have never noticed sluggish acceleration. If anything, it's got a lot of torque and moves very nicely. It's my second Prius. I'd buy another one in a minute, but there's nothing wrong with the one I have. We'll see in another five years.
posted by Joleta at 9:24 PM on October 11, 2014

Regarding the slow Prius, my, and I would assume all, Prius has a "power mode" button that makes it much, much more powerful during acceleration. Overall, I love my Prius but it's a bit small in the backseat and I think it has more blind spots than other cars. I would buy the larger V model since I have a child and would prefer to sacrifice a bit of mileage for comfort and space at this point.
posted by waving at 2:20 AM on October 12, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks, all. We ended up going for a Prius. Delivery in a few weeks!
posted by greatgefilte at 4:38 AM on October 20, 2014

« Older Plus-sized petite tights or leggings for someone...   |   Laptop crashed - what might be wrong? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.