When I started car-shopping last year, I signed up for a couple of the internet buying services, including Autobytel.com. Since then, they've been sending me periodic content. Most of it gets deleted unread, since I've already bought my new car. However, they just emailed me an interesting road-test comparison of the three main hybrid cars that buyers can choose from today, the Toyota Prius, Honda Accord Hybrid, and Ford Escape Hybrid. If you're currently thinking about a hybrid, this article might help you to refine your thinking, because it does a nice job of showing where each car shines and where it is weaker than its competition. All three appear to be pretty good cars, aside from being economical. That's a significant milestone for hybrids, by itself.
I was surprised to see the Accord Hybrid, which has gotten great press and a laudatory New York Times op-ed by a semi-famous author, come in third. Of the three, this is the one that has given me twinges of buyer's remorse, since I bought a non-hybrid from Honda's Acura division. The reported 25 mpg that Autobytel experienced has cured that, because the car I chose cost only a little bit more, is only a couple of miles per gallon less economical, but blows the Accord away on styling. Don't get me wrong; Honda is on the right track in hybridizing mainstream cars. This one just doesn't deliver quite the combination of style, performance and economy that I wanted.
As expected, the Toyota Prius come out on top of this comparison. Toyota is beating Detroit financially, even after you adjust for their advantage in the pension department, and the Prius is just another facet of this dominance. It remains the hybrid for which buyers queue up and pay up, because Toyota has managed to imbue an economy car with iPod-like coolness. As much as I respect what they're doing, though, I look forward to reading a similar comparison a few years from now and seeing the Prius unseated by an American hybrid, because that would indicate that Detroit has finally figured out how to make a "must-have" car that doesn't force you to sacrifice fuel economy or the environment.