questionsprius vs. insight vs. ??? or, can you help me…

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Insights are dirt cheap compared to Prius. But that is b/c the mileage is not as good. Either way you would be removing smog from the universe, so, from that perspective, you can't go wrong.

You might save so much on the purchase price of the Insight that it would make up for the lower mileage. Of course, the Insight doesn't carry the same level of cache, but who knows if you care about that...

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How far do you drive daily? Is something like a Volt an option as well? And what is your budget?

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The Insight are nice cars. My dad's got one and he has had nothing but great things to say about it.

The CRZ is the new Hybrid that Honda sells, and it doesn't look bad - but it's a 2 door. I can't testify to the quality of it though.

The Prius isn't bad, but a lot of customers are complaining about the reliability of Toyota since it's brake issues last year.

The Nissan Leaf is completely electric, but I can't say that I know of anyone locally that has one.

The Volt is Chevy's new electric with a gasoline back up. I've heard good things about it as well.

I suppose a few test drives should help you make up your mind. I recommend that

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Thanks for the advice so far! Here are some more thoughts:

@foonatic: While there is a significant price gap between the entry level Insight and the entry level Prius, that gap narrows some when you get them comparably equipped. I estimate the break-even point between the two cars at 9 years, assuming my current driving habits and $4/gallon gas.

@xarous: I hope to test-drive the Volt this weekend. It had better be pretty damn fantastic to justify the cost differential. I may test a Leaf as well, but I do take the occasional trip longer than its range. And I'd expect that range would decline over time.

[continued... stupid character limits]

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@capguncowboy: Do you work for Edmunds.com or something? I should have PM'd you and saved the last week of research; you pretty much summed up what I gleaned from the various car sites.

I owned a CRX back in the day. Loved, loved, loved that car! But I really need a back seat. So the CRZ is out.

But I'd love to know why your dad picked the Insight over the Prius: it sells so many fewer units, and I can't figure out why! I test drove both cars, and enjoyed my time behind the wheel of the Insight much more. But my wife was very uncomfortable in the back seat (the AC shuts off when the engine shuts off at red lights), so she's lobbying for the Prius.

Ultimately, you can only tell so much from a 2-3 mile test drive. I've talked to a bunch of Prius owners, but don't know anyone with an Insight. Can your dad provide some of his? (insight)

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@heymo: Ha, I don't work for Edmunds, I just read a lot of reviews.

My dad sorta' bought the car on a whim -- I know it's probably not the brightest thing to do, but they had a huge sale on them last fall and he got a good deal. I think he paid around $17k for a new EX with leather and the shiftless transmission (can't remember the actual name, but it continuously shifts so it doesn't jerk - CVT maybe?). He gets a little better milage than what's given by the EPA -- They claim 40c/43hw MPG, but he said he's gotten over 50MPG on long trips and averages about 45 all the time. He also prefers Honda's service over Toyota's service. I personally, have no preference as I've never dealt with service for either company.

I was going to mention the auto-shut-off of the insight at full stops. I was unnerved the first time I drove it. I thought it died on me.

I suppose the last remaining factor is the styling. Afterall, it's only about a $1500-2500 difference in the pricing between the two.

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Doesn't the Ford Fiesta and Focus get like 40 MPG and they're pretty inexpensive ($13,500 & $16,500).

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@jsoko: Speaking of Ford Fiesta, I remember back in the late 80's packing about ten people in the old Mark II 2-door.

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I've test driven the new Ford Fiesta and Focus and they are VERY NICE CARS

Rated 40 MPG (As stated above), but you could get upwards of 45 if you are a good driver

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@heymo: There are definite price gaps amongst the options, it's true. However, having driven many of the models in question, and having scoured reviews from Edmunds, Motor Trend, Cnet, and the likes, there is usually a pretty good reason for the disparity. While the Insight is a decent car, its hybrid system (similar thing for the Nissan hybrids) just doesn't feel as fine-tuned to me as that of a Prius. The Leaf and Volt are other options, but the same applies there. You give out less cash, but get a lesser ride for it. The refinement in engine start/response times, regenerative braking smoothness, transmission performance just doesn't ever seem to match across the board. It has always seemed to me that you get what you pay for and as you've noticed, it does cost a bit to get an Insight or Civic outfitted to match common Prius packages.

For the record, I drive a Toyota, and am very pleased with it, but I am not a fanboy. They're typically reliable, but they aren't without problems.

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Both Audi and VW produce TDI (clean diesel) engines that can get you 40+ mpg without having to buy heavy and polluting batteries/pay huge energy bills while your car is plugged in.

Volvo is in development of an updated system that puts a flywheel at each wheel, which builds up and stores energy during braking and releases this energy during acceleration. The engine will shut down at stops and stay shut off until the energy in the flywheel has been depleted. Should provide for high mileage in city driving.

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@foonatic: Wow that was awesome, thanks for that.

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Speaking as a tall, paranoid driver, go Prius. If you're around, say, six foot, the Insight is a god damned death machine on feel-good wheels. I've used one from ZipCar once or twice and have NO visibility. Can't see anything out the rear window. Side views? Not much help either. I've seen horse blinders with a greater field of view. I spent most of the trip praying there were no pedestrians anywhere.

Joking aside, the Insight is the most terrifying car I have ever been in.

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OK, just came back from driving a Volt. I liked it more than any of the hybrids. It was whisper silent. It had good acceleration, nice handling, and the braking was as "normal" as on any regenerative system I've tried out.

The trunk space is awful; it's mostly battery packs. Oddity: it has bucket seats in the back (room for only 2 passengers), but they were really comfortable!

It costs more than the Prius, but the tax credit helps narrow the gap. You'll make up much of the rest in fuel cost if you mostly use electricity.

So we have a winner, right?? Nope. Turns out that they don't have any for sale. As in, they're only available in some markets, and I don't happen to live in one of those. But if I'd like to make a deposit, I can be toward the head of the line when they become available (they can't say exactly if that will be Q3 2011 or Q1 2012).

It was just a teaser to get me in the showroom hoping I'd buy a different Chevy. THERE's two hours of my life I'm not getting back.

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@heymo: If you like the larger sized cars such as the Camry and the Volt, and want to be environmentally friendly with a car that doesn't depend on batteries, you can try a diesel car. I have a friend that reports 50-55mpg with his Jetta TDI (http://www.vw.com/en/tdi/jetta.html)

The diesels won't be quite as efficient in the winter, because it takes a bit for a diesel engine to warm up, which is why I didn't get one (I live in the northeast). But anywhere where it's normally above 40 in the winter should be great.

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@jyelle, @wootbretz: The TDI engine sounds really intriguing. Unfortunately, none of the four gas stations on my normal driving route sell diesel.

Plus, I had a horrible VW experience and will never buy another Audi/VW.

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I recently bought a new car, and was in the same boat as you, wanting something efficient and env-friendly. However, I also wanted something fun. (read: FUN, in this case, hybrid alternatives...I hate the way they drive, like rubberbands)

That being said, I also like compacts, particularly hatches. I ended up getting a 2012 focus, and opted to spend a bit more to get some of the brilliant, luxury-esque features. Here is why (in comparison with the competition):
Golf TDI: almost went with this, but VW reliability scared me off (this was my number 1 option until '12 focus was announced). LOVE the low-end torque, very fun car with very good broken-in-engine-economy.

Honda fit sport: Just didnt like the interior..felt outdated and old. Wasn't as fun to drive as focus and not as good economy. LOVED how the rear seats folded up...would never use that feature though :P

Ford fiesta: too small...need golf club room. If you can swing this purchase, not a bad move.

Toyota any: boring.

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@zarfus:
Honda civic ex: this was my number 1 used option, as a 2004-2006 can be had for a decent price with decent features with great economy. New civics have the same 5spd auto tranny, the same low-feature interior, and worse fuel economy...wtf have they been doing for 7 years?

Mazda 3: interior felt outdated compared to 2012 focus, and was surprisingly less fun to drive with MUCH worse hatchback fuel economy. This was my second used option (a 2005-2006 can be had for a decent price).

I hope this gives you some insight...i just love what ford's been doing lately, and love my focus. I have 1k miles on it, and i got 40mpg the last highway trip i took. The base end model felt pretty average in comparison to the model I bought (SEL), however, so if you can't swing the optional prices, and the fiesta is big enough for you, that would be my recommendation.

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@zarfus: I guess I have one more thing to say :P When I say Toyota = boring, i'm not trying to troll, i just could not find anything to get excited about them (corolla, camry, and prius were driven). If you REALLY want a hybrid, I honestly believe the prius is still the hybrid king, plus they have 3 new models coming out (came out?) if memory is correct, varying in sizes and things.

Happy car shopping! :)

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the volt has one advantage: It plugs in over night.
if you're buying this car for the "green" factor, overnight is when there is a surplus of electricity, and the electricity being produced is probably at it's "greenest".

On a hot summer day, just about every power plant (gas, oil, coal, hydro, wind, solar) will be running to keep up with demand, while overnight the most inefficient methods are idle. If your daily commute is short, you could potentially end up going weeks without using any gasoline. With the LEAF you're stuck when your power runs out, with the VOLT, gas kicks in when the batteries are low. A plug-in upgrade to a prius costs around $10,000 last time I heard, and is an aftermarket purchase.

Also, be aware that your driving style will drastically effect mileage per gallon. I watched an episode of Top Gear where they ran a prius and a gas-guzzler supercar against each other at their respective top speeds. Prius got the worst gas mileage.

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If you're willing to wait a few years, TESLA motors is supposed to begin mass-producing something that will be easier on the wallet than their sports car.

Either way, I think we still have at least 3 years to go before battery technology lives up to the hype we've been hearing for the last decade.

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@foonatic, @xarous, @jsoko, @capguncowboy, @arosiriak, @promyst, @wootbretz, @gatzby, @jyelle, @zarfus, @kamikazeken:

Just wanted to thank you all for weighing in. I went with the Prius. Just finished my first tank, so far, so good: 46 MPG. I'd do even better, but it turns out that the engine has to run for a "warm up period" at the start of each drive, making short drives less efficient than longer drives. And a lot of my drives are 1 1/2-2 miles. That's too far to walk (one way would be OK, but RT takes too long), but not long enough to get the best mileage.

I wish I could have held out for the Volt or the Prius plug-in to enter my market. But the old car just wasn't going to make it that long.

Still, 46 is a bit more than twice what my old car got. So it definitely doesn't suck. [Er, I mean inhale deeply.] Thanks again!

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@heymo: Congrats, enjoy your new car :)

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@heymo: Sorry that it's not the perfectly ideal solution, but likewise congrats on the new car, and hope it does well for you!