Savvy Consumer: Narrowing down best choices for hybrid vehiclesWith gas prices fluctuating unpredictably, you may be wondering whether it’s time to get a car that guzzles less. That’s why the Good Housekeeping Research Institute put 15 gas, hybrid, diesel and electric sedans – with combined city and highway mpg of 32 or better – through a slew of real-world tests.
By: Good Housekeeping Reports, INFORUM
With gas prices fluctuating unpredictably, you may be wondering whether it’s time to get a car that guzzles less.
That’s why the Good Housekeeping Research Institute put 15 gas, hybrid, diesel and electric sedans – with combined city and highway mpg of 32 or better – through a slew of real-world tests.
The engineers drove on highways and suburban streets to rate performance, dashboard controls and visibility on the road and while parking. They checked tech capabilities such as GPS navigation and cellphone syncing (if equipped) – and then a fleet of consumers rated cars for comfort, convenience, storage and more.
Here are the best hybrid cars. Their fuel-saving secrets: Hybrids use both gas engines and electric motors.
Toyota Prius Hybrid ($24,280 base, $29,131 as tested)
- Gas savings: $1,452 per year
- MPG (city/highway/combined): 51/48/50
- Driver controls: User-friendly, accurate voice recognition. Feedback from steering-wheel controls helpfully appears on dashboard.
- Interior comfort: Not that roomy. Installing a car seat took some effort. Its trunk is adequate, made larger by a folding rear seat.
- Eco displays: A braking/acceleration graphic helps tame bad habits. Display located on center console takes getting used to.
- Safety notes: Aerodynamic body shape inhibits visibility through rear windows; an optional backup camera can help.
- Bottom line: Good performance with optimal gas mileage (bettered only by an electric model) for city driving in particular.
Best luxury car
Lexus CT 200h Hybrid ($29,995 base, $36,735 as tested)
- Gas savings: $1,226 per year
- MPG (city/highway/combined): 43/40/42
- Driver controls: Intuitive controls on the steering wheel. Optional navigation system uses a joystick to control music and phone.
- Interior comfort: Plush and comfy, except for the small middle rear seat. The backseat folds down to expand trunk storage space.
- Eco displays: A dashboard dial gives feedback as to how economically – or not – you’re accelerating and braking.
- Safety notes: Joystick controls work by feel so you can keep your eyes on the road. Headrests (removable) obstruct rear view.
- Bottom line: Crisp steering and nimble handling. Optional ergonomic navigation package makes controls effortless.
Techy family car
Ford Fusion Hybrid ($29,165 base, $32,820 as tested)
- Gas savings: $1,117 per year
- MPG (city/highway/combined): 41/36/39
- Driver controls: Handy steering-wheel buttons plus voice-activated controls for phone, music and optional GPS.
- Interior comfort: Cushy, spacious seating in front and back, and ample trunk and storage space. A car seat installs easily.
- Eco displays: The customizable dash has a treelike graphic: It displays leaves if driver habits are fuel-optimal, loses them if not.
- Safety notes: Great side mirrors and an optional radar-based feature that checks the blind spot for you.
- Bottom line: Lively, near-silent ride. Excellent Sync system uses voice commands to seamlessly integrate tech features, from music to traffic alerts.
Roomy family car
Toyota Camry Hybrid ($27,810 base, $30,080 as tested)
- Gas savings: $840 per year
- MPG (city/highway/combined): 31/35/33
- Driver controls: Simple-to-use climate, music and phone controls located on the steering wheel, plus easy seat adjustments.
- Interior comfort: The roomiest feel of all cars tested; drivers more than 6 feet tall raved about the headroom. A sizable trunk holds lots of gear.
- Eco displays: A dial reveals mpg in real time; a screen shows trip mpg, whether you’re running on electricity or gas, and more.
- Safety notes: Good overall visibility, but testers wished the side mirrors were larger. Its length makes it a bit tricky to parallel park.
- Bottom line: A comfortable, spacious sedan. Its quiet, supersmooth ride and intuitive controls are major pluses.
Note: Gas savings mentioned are based on gas costs at press time and compared with average 22.5 mpg for a 2010 vehicle.
On another matter ...
Headphone users who crank up the volume for more than 90 minutes per day risk permanent hearing loss. But how loud is too loud? Do these sound checks: Limit volume level to 70 percent – estimate this on your MP3 player screen, or mark it on the dial, and resist going past this point. Turn your TV to normal listening volume, put on the headphones and limit the music to the point at which you can still hear the TV. Consider: Could your music drown out a hair-dryer, a lawn mower, a jet plane or an ambulance? If so – yup, it’s too loud.
The following products and vehicles were recalled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Unless otherwise indicated, discontinue use of the products immediately and return them to the store where purchased for a refund. For more information about the products, call the manufacturer or CPSC’s toll-free hotline, (800) 638-2772. Only some cars or trucks recalled are affected. Contact a dealer for your model to see if it is included in the recall. The dealer will tell you what to do.
- Gas-powered STIHL trimmers, brushcutters, KombiMotors, hedge trimmers, cleaning saws, pole pruners and backpack blowers that utilize a toolless fuel cap (select models): Sold at authorized STIHL dealers nationwide from July 2002 through May 2011 for between $190 and $650. The level of ethanol and other fuel additives can distort the toolless fuel cap, allowing fuel to spill, posing a fire and burn hazard. Consumers should immediately stop using these products and return them to an authorized STIHL dealer for a free repair. Consumers can contact STIHL for instructions on identifying these toolless fuel caps. For more information, call STIHL at (800) 233-4729 or visit stihlusa.com.
- 2012 Honda Civic: There is a possibility that an O-ring, which seals a connection in the fuel feed line, is misaligned. This may lead to a small fuel leak. Fuel leakage, in the presence of an ignition source, could result in a fire. Dealers will replace the fuel feed line assembly free of charge. For more information, call Honda at (800) 999-1009.