My wife and I are starting the research for our upcoming hybrid purchase (hence the blog) but we’re not buying until October. I’ve set up some preliminary selection criteria, but they are likely to shift a bit once I start digging in and driving a few cars.
My primary use of the new car will be going to and from work. I live about 7 minutes away from my office, all residential streets (no highways). It’s a short, quick drive with minimal traffic but a few stoplights and stopsigns. My current car (Volkswagen Passat) gets abysmal mileage on this trek– around 13mpg. (I might as well be driving a Hummer!) When I drive my wife’s Escape Hybrid to and from work, I average about 42mpg both ways, considerably higher than the EPA city estimates (32mpg) and our average mileage for the car (30.5 mpg– my wife does a lot of highway driving, and is less willing to alter her driving style for maximum mileage than I am.)
Basically, my drive to work is a perfect ideal for a hybrid: It’s short, stop-and-go, and I can generally keep it below the ~31mph barrier that forces the gas engine to kick in. This to-and-from-work drive is probably 90% of the driving I do. We’re not planning to move in the next 3-5 years, which means that it’s likely my current residence and office will not change in the time that I own the car.
Based on my primary use, there I’ve identified some selection criteria in rough order of importance:
<ol><li>General comfort - This includes seats, ride quality, etc.</li><li>Quiet - I like to use drive time for phone calls, and my wife’s car is too loud for this use.</li><li>Gadgets and googahs - **Nav system, blutooth, etc. I’m a geek, and LOVE this kind of stuff.</li><li>Acceleration** - There are a couple of occasional squirts into small holes in traffic in my daily driving where good acceleration makes a big difference</li><li>Gas mileage (for specific primary use - to and from work.) - This is important, but anything is going to be a huge improvement over current car– especially since my route is tailor-made for a hybrid. </li><li>Interior styling - this is important to me– I like a car that looks nice on the inside, even though I care very little what it looks like on the outside. (How often do you sit OUTSIDE your car and look at it? I mean REALLY?)</li><li>Safety - not as important to me because the primary use of the vehicle will be to and from work, where I generally don’t exceed 30mph. </li><li>Performance - handling, top speed, etc. Everything other than acceleration. </li><li>Gas mileage (other) - for driving other than my primary use</li><li>Exterior styling - I really don’t care what the car looks like on the outside, within reason. </li></ol><p>These criteria will be drastically different for many shoppers– that’s why I mention them. Based on this list, I’ve tentatively (pending research) narrowed the list of cars in consideration to a few front-runners listed below (in no particular order):</p><ul><li>Toyota Prius - maximum “hybrid-ness.” These are great little cars, and I’m confident I could average 70mpg in my daily drive. </li><li>Toyota Camry Hybrid - nice compromise of luxury/quiet and mileage </li><li>Lexus GS450h and RX400h - More luxury, less mileage. Very quick acceleration. Also, a bit spendy. Lexus does beautiful, elegant, and comfortable interiors, which I’m willing to spend more on.</li><li>Honda Accord Hybrid - I think the Accord is a GREAT car, but it’s towards the bottom of the list– I think I would get considerably better mileage out of one of the Toyota-based products that can run on electric power alone, since I’m usually able to make it 3/4 of the way home from work without the gas engine.</li></ul><p>In the coming weeks, expect to see detailed profiles on each of these cars, and an updated list of front-runners in consideration. </p>