Hybrid me!
April 30, 2015 4:41 PM   Subscribe

Suggestions, please, for a smallish hybrid vehicle to replace a worn-out Civic. We're in Ontario, Canada, so choices are limited (and dealers entirely apathetic). Likely to keep the car for 10 years or so, and looking for low total cost of ownership.

Completely bewildered here. Looking at a bunch of hybrids, and yet all of them seem to have huge downsides, not to mention huuuge markups on what seem to be fairly plain vehicles.

Given my line of business, and that a reasonable rebate is available for plug-in hybrids here, I'm looking at those. But Toyota dealers don't seem remotely interested in talking about the Prius plug-in ("we've got no details" said one dealer, as I was standing next to the thing), and the Fords are either mind-meltingly ugly (C-Max Energi) or are too big but have no luggage space (Fusion Energi; I mean, srsly; you could maybe get a folded pocket square in the boot).

As for more regular hybrids, local Honda dealers pretty much deny they've ever made any (which is a shame, as the now-cancelled CR-Z was pretty much ideal). Hyundai and Kia dealers fall over themselves trying to sell me their far-too-large hybrid, most likely so they can get the damn thing off the lot.

We're basically looking for a Civic replacement, except with less of the infernal combustion. So what did you buy, and what does it do well/badly?

(Answers to this question have been pretty helpful, too)
posted by scruss to Travel & Transportation (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I have a 2005 Prius and it's a workhorse. Very low maintenance cost (I go to a hybrid garage) and major savings for my commute. It's also roomy and I jokingly call it my little truck as I've transported really big items in the hatchback with seats pushed down. I like it a lot and will probably buy another once this one goes, many years from now. My mother, also a Prius owner, recently sold her old Prius and got a new Prius plug-in. She loves it. Her driving habits are mostly short trips around town, so she gets most of her miles in using the battery only. She fills up her gas tank every couple of months.

I recently asked my mechanics, who see all hybrids at their garage, what they'd recommend based on what they see in terms of long-term performance and they said the clear winner was Prius. Very dependable and not a lot of problems.
posted by quince at 4:58 PM on April 30, 2015

I bought a Prius C when they first came out in 2012. I now have 63k miles on it. It has been flawless mechanically and is surprisingly good in snow. I make no special effort to drive efficiently and I average about 46 MPG. I have found the seats to be adequately comfortable for long drives. The only complaints I have are that it is really pretty limited on cabin and cargo space, and is not a very refined car for the price - the ride isn't very quiet or smooth. I think if I had it to do over I would spend more and get a regular Prius. However, I am basically happy with the car and have had no expenses other than tires and oil changes.
posted by jkent at 5:07 PM on April 30, 2015

The Prius C is small, fairly basic, and quite reasonably priced - sort of like a Honda Civic. A pretty good deal.

The Prius Plug-in doesn't seem worth the much higher cost unless you happen to have a regular commute that fits into the parameters of it's battery range (under 100km/h, 18km) and really like the idea of going all electric for your commute. I don't think you'll find that any of the other offerings are any better (mostly, they are more expensive).
posted by ssg at 5:38 PM on April 30, 2015

Volkswagen Golf or Jetta TDI
posted by Mac-Expert at 6:49 PM on April 30, 2015

Another vote for the Prius. I have the 2014 regular base model and love it. With the seats down it fits a large road bike, flat-packed IKEA queen-size bed, or tall bookcase. I was considering the Prius C but it has much less cargo room and I didn't bother to test drive. The Prius feels surprisingly roomy on the inside, even for my 6'3" boyfriend or 3 male coworkers across the backseat.
posted by serelliya at 9:23 PM on April 30, 2015

I would buy a prius at this point simply because of their wide deployment as taxis and municipal vehicles. They're in the "nobody ever got fired for being IBM/canon" position of hybrids now. It's like the crown victoria or towncar of hybrids. There's ones driving around with 450k+ miles on them at this point, and they're newer 2nd gen ones.

This category of car at this point is kind of just "buy the newest prius you can afford". I'd go with the normal sized one too, not the C. Although there's lots of those rolling around as cabs too.
posted by emptythought at 9:40 PM on April 30, 2015

Regular prius owner here, bought in 2010, now approaching 64,000 miles. My girlfriend bought a civic in 2014. Some observations:

-A prius is actually fairly larger than a civic, especially in terms of cargo space. I have moved a great deal of furniture in the prius with the seats down, much to the surprise of several people I bought it from.

-A prius is a good deal more expensive than a civic. Fact. However, the increased cost compared to, say, a Camry or Accord, is not as much. And I'm pretty sure it'll carry more than a Camry, due to the hatchback design and the ability to fold seats down. May not be as much room in the seats, but since the people usually riding in my car are 5'5 and less than 125 pounds, it doesn't bother me. For what it's worth, my friend borrowed my car a few times in the past, and he's about 6'3 and at the time, closer to 250 pounds. He said it was pretty much fine.

-45 mpg is indeed usual making no real effort at all and even driving like a maniac (to the extent that one can in a prius on ordinary roads). You're more likely to be close to 50 mpg in regular driving.

-Careful driving can see as high as 55 mpg. It's great in traffic because the engine will try to not run as much as it can.

-As I said, only 64,000 miles in, but no repairs needed yet, other than replacing tires around the 53,000 mile mark. Probably could have pushed it longer, but it seemed like the right time to do it. The people at STS tire - I lived in PA at the time - expressed surprise that I made it so far on the factory tires. Not sure how many miles people usually make it on the factory tires.

-I think they come with better default equipment now, like backup cameras? But I've also heard rumors that it's getting a major refresh in 2015. Not sure when. Best to buy after it does get that major refresh. The car design is the same as it was in 2010, other than minor changes to equipment inside and the taillights. There's three different prius body types. Original, 2nd gen (2005-2009ish), and current (2010-present). Don't quote me on those, I'm roughly approximating from memory.

-Have you read the article about the Prius/Best Hybrid on the Wirecutter? Worth looking into, if you haven't.
posted by Strudel at 12:02 AM on May 1, 2015

too big but have no luggage space

Be aware there is a wagon/minivan-ish Prius v configuration, which offers about half again as much cargo space as the standard model (from which it is first-glance indistinguishable). Dunno if it would be "too big" for you though. I've sort of got that at the top of my green car list for next year.

Honda dealers pretty much deny they've ever made any

You've driven a Civic; the obvious option here is an Accord Hybrid. A lot of hybrid buyers seem to want their cars to stand out visually, though, so these don't sell particularly well (hundreds, vs. thousands and thousands of Priuses). They do have a loss in terms of trunk space, though, as I understand. But I guess if you think the Sonata/Optima are both too big, this would be as well? You'll have to make a choice between exterior smallness and interior bigness.

In any event, you can see what is actually selling (to a certain extent of accuracy) at Hybrid Car Reports monthly dashboard [March '15].

For the most part, I'm with others here in that the Prius is really the only choice if you want it simple. There are obviously other options but I think they mainly appeal to more niche markets, like Hyundai brand loyalists or someone who wants a hybrid but wants it to look like a regular car and so on.

a major refresh in 2015

2016 model year, so out by the end of this year. But specifics are still fuzzy.
posted by dhartung at 1:00 AM on May 1, 2015

I just realized from your post that Honda has ended both the CR-Z and the Insight. Our 2010 Insight just hit 100,000 miles and has been a fantastic little car that we expect to drive for years to come, so that's very disappointing. We had a Civic Hybrid previously, but that was before the Civic got enormous.

Have you checked out the Chevy Volt? I know it's a Chevy, but several friends have them (we have a huge tax credit for plug-ins here in Georgia), and they are surprisingly nice cars.
posted by hydropsyche at 6:28 AM on May 1, 2015

> Fords are either mind-meltingly ugly (C-Max Energi)

If you haven't driven one, you should. I rented a regular C-Max for a 300+ mile trip and it was lovely. If everything else is good, maybe you can overlook the ugliness?
posted by morganw at 3:48 PM on May 1, 2015

Response by poster: Thanks, all! We're probably going with a Prius, but looking to see if any other options were as good.
posted by scruss at 4:48 AM on May 5, 2015

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