Hybrid Performance Overview
In 1999, Honda released the first mass market hybrid car in the United States: the Insight. While hybrids today look fairly similar to gas-only cars, the original Insight had a futuristic look that made its green credentials apparent, and surprisingly, the original Insight is still fuel-efficient by today’s standards. With an EPA-estimated 49/61 mpg city/highway, the 2000 Honda Insight still uses less fuel than a number of hybrids that will roll off the assembly line in 2012.
However, the Insight’s performance suffered to achieve those estimates. With just 73 horsepower, the Insight wasn’t exactly poised to win any drag races, and its low-rolling-resistance tires meant handling could be better as well.
Today’s hybrids offer a significantly better balance of performance and fuel economy. If you’re looking for a hybrid that returns good fuel economy, but isn’t a complete bore to drive, here are the top picks for 2012:
Less Than $20,000 – Honda CR-Z
With 49 more horsepower than the original Honda Insight, the 2012 Honda CR-Z offers a striking balance of performance and fuel economy in a sporty, two-seat package. That lack of rear seating may mean that the CR-Z isn’t spacious enough for some shoppers, but if you’re on a budget and want a hybrid with that’s fun to drive, the CR-Z’s nimble handling makes it a good pick among small hybrid cars.
- Starts at $19,545
- 35/39 mpg city/highway
- 122 horsepower
Less Than $25,000 – Toyota Prius
Performance means different things to different people, and if you think hybrid performance means great fuel economy at an affordable price, it’s hard to beat the Toyota Prius. Everyone from Al Gore to Will Ferrell has been known to get behind the wheel of a Prius. This iconic hybrid still delivers great fuel economy in an affordable package.
- Starts at $24,000
- 51/48 mpg city/highway
- 134 horsepower
Less Than $30,000 – Ford Fusion Hybrid
In the past, buying a hybrid often meant that you would have to give up some power, but that’s not the case with the Ford Fusion Hybrid. Its gas engine and electric motor make a few more horsepower than the base Fusion, as well as a number of competing midsize cars. And thanks to features like Ford’s Sync system, the Fusion Hybrid isn’t just a solid performer, it’s also well-equipped with convenience features like USB and Bluetooth integration.
- Starts at $28,775
- 41/36 mpg city/highway
- 191 horsepower
Less Than $40,000 – Chevrolet Volt
One advantage of electric motors is that they deliver gobs of torque instantaneously, which is a reason why the Chevrolet Volt performs well. With 368 pound-feet of torque on tap, the Volt can pass slower cars on the highway with ease; its plug-in hybrid drivetrain also means you don’t necessarily need fuel for trips less than 30 miles, provided you charge the Volt regularly.
- Starts at $39,145 (qualifies for up to $7,500 tax credit)
- 35/40 mpg city/highway (gas) OR 95/93 mpg-equivalent city/highway (electric)
- 149 horsepower
Less Than $60,000 – Infiniti M Hybrid
If you’re looking for a stunning blend of performance, fuel economy and luxury, the Infiniti M Hybrid offers a tremendous bang for your buck. Its V6 engine and electric motor deliver more power than its non-hybrid sibling, the Infiniti M37, but it handles just as well. Additionally, the M Hybrid drives very similarly to the gas-only M, with nimble handling and a smooth seven-speed automatic transmission.
- Starts at $53,700
- 27/32 mpg city/highway
- 360 horsepower
Less Than $100,000 – Porsche Panamera S Hybrid
Some of the most legendary sports cars have come from Porsche, and if you’re looking for Stuttgart’s take on hybrid performance, look no further than the Porsche Panamera S Hybrid. With 80 more horsepower than the base Panamera, Porsche says the Panamera S Hybrid will rocket from 0 to 60 mph in 5.7 seconds. But this hybrid is also athletic when the road gets twisty, thanks to an adaptive suspension system that lets you fine-tune the Panamera’s handling.
- Starts at $95,000
- 22/30 mpg city/highway
- 380 horsepower
Which Hybrid is Right for You?
Hybrid cars have come a long way since their introduction in the U.S. Whether you’re looking for your first new car, or the ultimate in luxury, there’s a hybrid car that has the performance and fuel economy you want. You’ll stop less often for gas, but these cars will also put a smile on your face when you hit the open road.