As the first mass-produced gasoline-electric hybrid, the Toyota Prius has become the best-selling hybrid vehicle in the U.S. and the world.
|by the Editors of MSN Autos|
|The most popular hybrids on MSN Autos, based on visits to the site’s vehicle pages. |
Hybrid vehicles are often a more fuel-efficient version of a popular gas-powered model. Ever since Honda spawned the U.S. hybrid generation in 1999 with the two-seat Insight, other manufacturers have joined the fray by offering an increasing number of hybrid sedans, SUVs and even trucks. But Japan-based Toyota has become the hybrid sales leader, and its dominance is evident on MSN Autos’ list of top ten hybrids.
Ford and Mercury represent the domestic automakers with third-place Escape Hybrid and tenth-place Mariner Hybrid. Both vehicles are updated for the 2008 model year with an all-new look.
Nissan recently introduced a hybrid version of the popular Altima sedan, yet Honda has announced they will discontinue production of the Accord Hybrid.
Eight of the ten hybrids on the most popular list are Japanese imports and Ford is the lone domestic manufacturer.
The list of the top ten hybrid vehicles on MSN Autos is based on total visits to the site’s vehicle research pages during April through June of 2007. Here is the complete list.
1. Toyota Prius
The Toyota Prius has taken the country by storm since its introduction in 2000. Starting out as a small four-door sedan, the Prius has grown into a midsize hatchback. The increase in size has resulted in a roomy cabin for front and rear passengers and extra cargo space from the 60/40 split-folding rear seats. An in-dash LCD display provides a system readout, and there’s even a rear mounted backup camera for safety. The 2008 figures from the EPA for fuel economy are estimated at 48 mpg in the city and 45 on the highway.
With a reputation for being a reliable daily driver, the Camry is the top-selling car in the country. So it was no great surprise when Toyota made a hybrid version for the 2007 model year. The Camry Hybrid looks and drives like the gas-powered version, but it is a bit more expensive. The 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine combined with the 105-kilowatt electric power system gives the hybrid a total of 187 horsepower but gets an estimated 40 mpg in the city on 38 on the highway. Prices start at just over $26,000.
Both the Escape and Escape Hybrid received a major update for 2008, with looks that resemble the Ford Explorer and Expedition SUVs. Featuring a more rugged design, raised hood and a new front fascia, the small SUV also receives a number of interior updates including an improved center console that is large enough to hold a laptop computer. The 2.3-liter 4-cylinder engine is carried over from the previous generation, and it achieves 34 mpg in the city and 30 on the highway for front-wheel drive, 29/27 mpg for four-wheel drive.
The hybrid version of the popular Honda Civic was redesigned for the 2006 model year. Named one of America’s "Greenest" Vehicles of 2007 by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), the Civic Hybrid emits low emissions while getting good fuel economy. The 1.3-liter i-VTEC 4-cylinder engine is paired with a 20-horsepower electric motor; however, unlike a Prius, the car can’t be driven solely on electric power. Starting at under $23,000, the Civic Hybrid is one of Consumer Reports‘ Best Vehicles for $25,000 or Less for 2007.
Unveiled at the 2007 Chicago Auto Show, the industry’s first 7-passenger hybrid SUV gets an extensive update for the 2008 model year. Significantly larger and roomier and than its predecessor, the Highlander Hybrid will be riding on an all-new chassis derived from the Camry and Avalon. The Hybrid Synergy Drive system is refined for power and economy with an increased output to 270 horsepower while achieving 31/27 mpg in city and hwy. Both the Sport and Limited will have 19-inch alloy wheels as standard equipment.
All new for the 2007 model year is a hybrid version of the popular midsize Altima sedan. They both look similar, but chances are many people haven’t seen one on the road yet because they’re only available in eight states—California, Vermont, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Maine. Nonetheless, the Altima Hybrid gets good fuel economy with 2008 figures estimated to be 35/33 mpg. A big plus for the Altima Hybrid is its driving range. Equipped with a 20-gallon fuel tank, this gas-electric hybrid can drive about 700 miles before a fill-up.
Lexus proved that hybrid vehicles can be posh, fast and fuel stingy with the RX 400h. The upscale interior is complemented by a soft ride, and the engine definitely has some get-up-and-go. Available in front- and all-wheel drive, the RX 400h is based on the popular RX 330 but costs considerably more; however, Lexus says the 400h has "about $6,000 worth of extra equipment." Last year the RX 400h was named one of the top SUVs in the Midsize Premium Multi-Activity Vehicle category by J.D. Power and Associates’ 2006 Initial Quality Study.
A hybrid version of the premium midsize GS sedan, the GS 450h is also the first rear-wheel-drive sedan with a gas-electric powertrain. Two electric motors work with the 3.5-liter 292-horsepower engine to get the GS from 0 to 60 mph in 5.2 seconds—making it the quickest Lexus today. The steering is responsive and the brake pedal a bit sensitive, but stopping distances are short. But the fuel economy figures won’t impress like the Prius: 25/28 city/hwy mpg, and premium fuel is required.
Designed for more performance instead of exceptional fuel economy, Honda’s Accord Hybrid went a different direction than other current hybrids. Powered by a 3.0-liter V6 engine, the combined horsepower is 253 with an estimated 28/35 city/hwy mpg. The fuel economy is good but considering that it costs about $6,000 more than the gasoline-powered V6 Accord that gets 20/29 mpg, the Accord Hybrid has not been a big hit. But for those who still want one, time is winding down because Honda has announced that Accord Hybrid production will be discontinued after this model year. The starting price for a new Accord Hybrid is just over $31,000.
Sharing the same platform as the Ford Escape and Mazda Tribute, the Mariner Hybrid receives its first major redesign for the 2008 model year. Highlighted by new fascias and a larger signature waterfall grille, the compact hybrid SUV also is fitted with new seats, center console and interior accents to give it an upscale look. Available in front- or four-wheel drive, the Mariner Hybrid is a full hybrid, which means it can run up to 30 mph using only electric power. No major changes have been made to the powertrain but the software control system has been improved for a smoother transition between gasoline and electric operation.
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