Anyone had any experience with hybrid cars?
January 24, 2004 7:13 PM   Subscribe

Anyone had any experience with hybrid cars? (more inside)

We're thinking of getting a Honda Insight, but we don't know anyone who has them. Anyone have one/done research on one? Anything out of the ordinary I should know?
posted by answergrape to Travel & Transportation (17 answers total)
Just curious: Why are you looking at the Insight, as opposed to the Civic Hybrid or the Prius? I've seen an Insight or two on the road, and they looked claustrophobically tiny.
posted by kickingtheground at 7:29 PM on January 24, 2004

Response by poster: There is a used 2003 on the lot at our favorite Honda dealer with about 500 miles on it for about 5k less then a new one would be. It's also a pretty blue.
posted by answergrape at 7:46 PM on January 24, 2004

My parents recently got a (used) 2003 Hybrid Civic. I only got to drive it for two weeks or so while I was home from school, but some limited first impressions:
  1. Coolness factor: high. It has a gizmo next to the speedometer that shows you when it's using battery power vs. when the gas assist is on. You will find yourself staring at this thing and trying to drive at the perfect speed all the time so that you never use gas. It's addictive.
  2. It's amazingly quiet. The engine literally shuts off completely when the car isn't moving (unless you have the heat on high), which can be a little disconcerting at first.
  3. Gas mileage is good. The odometer has a miles-per-gallon-o-meter (have those been named yet?) and I averaged between 30 and 40 most of the time. In theory it's capable of 50+, but that decreases dramatically when you're going uphill or if you drive aggressively (accelerating rapidly uses the gas, not the battery). YMMV (pun intended).
  4. It slides around a little bit on the snow. Could just be because I'm used to having four wheel drive (Subaru Legacy).
If you have any more specific questions I'd be happy to forward them along to my dad.
posted by Aaorn at 8:04 PM on January 24, 2004

kfox owns a Prius2, I believe. Check his weblog at
posted by scarabic at 9:38 PM on January 24, 2004

I haven't driven or owned one, but like most of you I love the idea. If anyone has specific experience or knows of a good resource for exploring the mechanical reliability of the technology across the spectrum of models, please post it here.
Without any real data, I assume that getting one repaired is relatively expensive.

Two things prevent me from getting one now (and I need a new car): I'm not an early-adopter. First, I didn't have the first iPod or iAnything, I always wait a few years and watch while others do life's beta testing.

Second, I have yet to see a model that isn't, I'm sorry, crap ugly. What's with all the obtuse angles and severe wedge shapes? I know there's a certain "look at me!" factor with a gadgety car, but if someone would put out one that looks like a Honda CRV or a Del Sol, they would have my money.
posted by squirrel at 11:29 PM on January 24, 2004

I meant CRX, not CRV. Now I'm sure you'll sleep better.
posted by squirrel at 11:31 PM on January 24, 2004

I've test-driven Prius, both last year's model and the new one, and love it. The new model improved the leg room by reshaping the dash (I'm big and tall). Had last year's model an entire weekend and found no issues with driving in the hills in Wales.

Just ordered one 2 weeks ago, and anxiously waiting to see if between Toyota and the leasing company, they can manage to deliver before the end of the week. The company won't take delivery in February.

The most serious question about hybrid cars is their resale value. Batteries wear out with time, and the battery in a hybrid car is not just another car battery. As our car is leased by the employer, that's not an issue.
posted by Goofyy at 11:56 PM on January 24, 2004

I know someone who traded in a series 1 prius for a new model and the trade in was very good. The thing to worry about an older Insight is that they were truly the bleeding edge. A year ago, the replacement batteries were $6K. I'd save for a prius rather than buying the honda.
posted by machaus at 12:20 AM on January 25, 2004

squirrel: Honda has mentioned that it's considering a hybrid CR-V, but it has yet to advance past the vaporware stage. That's too bad as a big hybrid wagon/sport utility minivan like that would probably have an enormous market. I'd want one.

The CRX, however, is a dead model which is an awful shame. They're nice little cars. I'd want one of those, too, hybrid or not!
posted by majick at 6:46 AM on January 25, 2004

Jude Nagurney has a blog where he talks a lot about his hybrid car, a Prius I think. He's been really really happy with it and discusses things like tax breaks for hybrids being considered in other states, etc. [might have to scroll or search archives, he hasn't been talking about the car too much lately]. I keep considering one but people tell me that living where I do, in Central Vermont, the super cold temperatures can play hell on the battery banks.
posted by jessamyn at 7:23 AM on January 25, 2004

Ask how much the battery bank replacement costs and when you would expect to have to do it. We have a (first-gen) Prius and the battery life in our northern (Ottawa, Can) have made the car a rather uneconomical choice.
posted by bonehead at 9:22 AM on January 25, 2004

Cold weather is definitely the Achille's heel for hybrid cars. In addition to electrical problems and shorter battery life, you can expect relatively poor fuel mileage. In very cold weather the gasoline engine may need to run continuously to keep the catalytic converter warm (and passengers too!), thereby defeating the whole hybrid concept. (The EPA mileage tests are conducted at 72F). My sister and brother-in-law in NH test drove a Prius a couple of years ago and really liked it but ultimately rejected it because they have 6 months of winter. The only time I was in Albqq it happened to be bitterly cold so I'm not sure how this applies to you.
posted by TimeFactor at 10:06 AM on January 25, 2004 [1 favorite]

While I have no firsthand experience, I follow these things (I live in Detroit). I know that replacing the battery packs is a potentially huge expense and that for most real-world drivers, the Prius doesn't get near to what the EPA fuel economy numbers say. (That may be true for the others as well; the article I read specifically discussed the Prius.) Unlike conventional vehicles, hybrids get better fuel economy during stop-and-go driving, so if you have a long highway commute, you may be disappointed. Cold weather is definitely an issue as noted above. Those are the downsides. Of course, there is the coolness factor.
posted by pmurray63 at 11:37 AM on January 25, 2004

For Insight-specific information, check the forums at Insight Central

A friend of mine has had one for four years and loves it for his daily commute, but also has a cargo van for when he needs to carry more than himself and a passenger.

He modified his driving habits according to Honda's suggestions of when to accelerate and brake and gets above 75 mpg. His wife drives it like a normal car and only gets in the 50s. This has led to some household strife as he is now very protective about his lifetime fuel efficiency (close to breaking 70 mpg). Apparently there is competition among Insight owners, so be forewarned.
posted by sardonista at 11:57 AM on January 25, 2004

I've spent some time driving a friend's Insight. Nice little car, -great- mileage. On a road trip through a mountainous area, uphill driving was a bit of a pain. But that was an unusual situation, for everyday city driving it's great. He drives his almost two hours a day in commuting back and forth, and still seems very happy with it.

kickingtheground - it's bigger inside than it seems. Seats two comfortably and he regularly puts his mountain bike (one wheel removed) in the back.
posted by jheiz at 3:04 PM on January 25, 2004

I literally just got my Prius -- picked it up Thursday night. It promptly snowed here in Chicago, so I got to test how it did in cold, unpleasant conditions. While the gas mileage has been a bit lower than promised, I'm still averaging 42 MPG over the past couple days.

I'm incredibly happy with the car. I test-drove the Civic Hybrid and wasn't as pleased -- it seemed less peppy than the Prius, and the back seats don't go down (the battery is back there). I didn't even consider the Insight due to the tiny interior. The Prius has a larger interior than the Camry.
posted by me3dia at 9:22 PM on January 25, 2004

We've had a Prius for three years now and have been very pleased. The technology is not limiting in any way and the car generally performs as well as any car in its class and is substantially roomier than most.

The 2004 model is a substantial re-design that has resulted in numerous improvements including more room and better mileage. It is Motor Trends Car of the Year.

I've had no experience with the Civic Hybrid but my sister in law likes hers. I would not even consider an Insight - it has seriously limited payload capacity and IMO was a half-assed effort to get a hybrid to the U.S. market before Toyota.
posted by krtzmrk at 7:53 PM on January 26, 2004

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