The Low Down on Hybrids

by The Car Family

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There are over 35 hybrids on the market from the new Toyota Prius C for under $20,000 to the Lexus and BMW hybrids at over $100,000. Gas mileage varies all hybrid models can vary from  over 50 to 21 mpg depending on the size of the vehicle and its use of the electric motors. What they promise is more power for less petroleum dollar. They aren’t offering a free lunch, but a healthier one. Most of these vehicles are capable of a 500 round-trip without even looking at the gas gauge. In town they are even more fuel friendly in daily commutes with 40 mpg and up figures common.

As usual, there is a trade-off and that is the fact the battery packs wear out and can be expensive to replace. Toyota charges about $2500 plus installation, but that expense could go down over time. Kia and Hyundai have announced a limited life time warranty on its’ batteries. Regardless, with gas around $4 a gallon and high resale values on used hybrids, it is financially well worth your time to consider a hybrid.

Kia’s Optima and Hyundai’s Sonata hybrids combine a 2.4-liter engine with a six-speed automatic transmission, a 30-kw electric motor and lightweight lithium polymer batteries to provide 206 horsepower and 35 city /40 highway and 37 mpg combined figures. Both have lots of features but the trunk space is limited.

If you need a tough SUV, Volkswagen’s new Touareg hybrid is an option worth considering. It is expensive, but very fast, especially considering it is rated at 20 mpg city and 24 highway and has a 7700 pound towing rating.

Toyota’s gas savers are the Prius and the plug-in Prius. Both are gas misers with 50 mpg ratings. We were able to get over 60 mpg with the new plug-in version. Easy to love, but if you need more room the Prius V is a larger version with a station wagon design. It will cost you ten miles per gallon, but may be worth it for those who need to haul those Mastiffs to the vet.

The Chevrolet Malibu Eco assist has 25/27/37 ratings. The Malibu is am excellent family sedan and the interior and ride are exception for a vehicle priced around $26,000. General Motors calls this a soft hybrid because the battery pack alone cannot power the sedan. The interior is grand and the ride exceptional. This is perhaps the best family sedan Chevrolet has ever made for the price.

At the other end of the family hauler hybrid category is the Infiniti M35h Hybrid with a MSRP north of $50,000 and fuel economy ratings of 27/29/32 mpg city/highway. The rear wheel drive Infiniti is another very fast hybrid and can use its battery power for long periods of time in traffic. It handles well and the leather-wrapped interior is very smart. Perhaps the best of the luxury hybrid sedans and certainly one of the fastest ever with 0 to 60 times in a little over five seconds. Wow. And we got 32 mpg in mixed driving. A wonder car.

Mom:s view: With all new Toyota Camry hybrid raises the bar for family hybrids with a starting price around $26,000 and room for five adults. It clearly is better than the Ford products at this moment. I didn’t like the Kia or Hyundai as much as the Prius plug-in and the Chevrolet. If I just wanted to save on gas I would get the Prius, if I wanted more comfort the Chevrolet would be my choice.The Kia and Hyundai are good looking, easy to use, but not as smooth as the others. No doubt the non-hybrid versions are nearly as frugal and less expensive.

Dad’s view: The Touareg was a wonder. It is very powerful and handles any conditions you can throw at it with ease. This Volkswagen is loaded with special features that makes it ideas for those with homes in the the mountains or who like off-roading. It has a very large fuel tank which can make most weekend trips fill-up free. However, my favorite was the Toyota Prius plug-in. If you stick with the base model it is $33,000, but you lose your spare tire as the extra battery pack goes there. We drove one to Santa Barbara and back and had over 100 miles left and the gas tank only holds 10.6 gallons.

Young working woman’s view: Call me stuffy, but I love the Infiniti and its glorious interior and peppy ride. This car is luxurious with just the right touch of dignity and economy to justify the expense. The reality is that the Kia or Hyundai are more in my price range. I really like the Hyundai best in looks and feel. The transmission was a bit hesitant at times, but the exterior, ride, and cost make it well worth the payments. If I had a family the Chevrolet would easily be my choice. It is the only one that really makes it easy to put in a car seat outside of the mundane Camry and expensive Infiniti. However, if I had the means the glorious interior and jet like performance of the Infiniti would be in under my car port and a lucky girl I would be.

Infiniti Interior

Young working male’s view: I like the look of the Kia, but the handy nature of the Chevrolet makes it my choice in terms of pricing, mileage and interior space. Before you go car hunting I would spend some time getting a fix on what options you want because these hybrids are pretty well loaded and so spending extra may not be necessary.

Family conference: The average commute for readers is over 40 miles and with weekend trips to the beach putting 20,000 miles a year on a vehicle is not uncommon. If that is the case these hybrids could save you a couple of thousand dollars a year on fuel.

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