Cheap Hybrid Cars

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Price Range
Cheapism $18000 - $26000
Mid-Range $26000 - $40000
High End $40000 and up

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Electric and hydrogen fuel seem to be the way of the future for the auto industry. Check out more ways your car will change here: 10 Futuristic Changes Coming to Our Cars (and One That Isn't)

Our Picks

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Toyota Prius C Review

From $18950 Best

This small hybrid with the famous Prius pedigree is the most affordable model in the line and one of the cheapest we researched. It's slow to accelerate and doesn't offer a lot of power, but it's built for city driving, with fuel economy of 53 mpg (46 mpg on the highway) -- easily the best for a non-plug-in hybrid.

The Toyota Prius has been the champion of hybrid cars -- the standard with which all other models are compared. Toyota's 2012 lineup includes several versions of the Prius; the Prius C is the smallest and cheapest. Prius C reviews universally laud the car's excellent fuel economy, although they have some gripes about its performance. A review at Car and Driver, for example, pans the car for being slow to accelerate and generally sluggish. On the other hand, the reviewer approvingly notes the standard features, in addition to the hybrid bells and whistles, and the comfortable, supportive front seats.

A reviewer from The Car Connection rates this model 7 out of 10, noting the car's fantastic fuel efficiency and nimble handling in Toyota Prius C review. An Edmunds editor also praises the Prius C for being so stingy with gas and for its handling, declaring that the smaller model is more fun to drive than a regular Prius. However, the hard plastic in the car's interior is a turn-off, the editor says in his review. Like other reviewers, he complains about slow acceleration and disappointing power.

The Prius C has a very modest 99 horsepower between the four-cylinder gasoline engine and the electric motor. This is a front-wheel, five-passenger car with 87.4 cubic feet of passenger room -- much less than the sedans on our list but more spacious than you might expect, according to The Car Connection's Prius C review. No non-plug-in hybrid we researched can match its 53 mpg city/46 mpg highway fuel efficiency. The Prius C comes in four versions (the C One, C Two, C Three, and C Four) with various features. The cheapest model, the C One, includes automatic climate control, a CD player with Bluetooth support, and iPod connectivity.

If you have your heart set on a Prius, this is the cheapest model you can buy. The Toyota Prius C is an attractive hybrid that delivers the impressive mpg consumers have come to expect from the Prius name. This car is certainly no speedster, but it handles well and comes with compelling standard options for the price. It's our top choice for drivers seeking an affordable car to get them from point A to point B as efficiently as possible.

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Toyota Camry Hybrid Review

From $25990 Best

This family sedan is so well designed drivers may have a hard time telling it's a hybrid, rather than a conventional Camry. It's tops on our list for comfort and performance and near the top in fuel economy, at 43 mpg in the city and 41 mpg on the highway.

This family sedan is so well designed drivers may have a hard time telling it's a hybrid, rather than a conventional Camry. It's tops on our list for comfort and performance and near the top in fuel economy, at 43 mpg in the city and 41 mpg on the highway.

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Kia Optima Hybrid Review

From $25697 Good

25850n of value, comfort, and fuel efficiency. It includes a long list of desirable standard options but simply can't claim the fuel economy of our top picks. It registers 35 mpg in the city and 40 mpg on the highway.

The Kia Optima Hybrid is nearly the same price as the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid and offers almost exactly the same fuel efficiency. Both are good choices, but the Kia appears to edge out the Sonata on several fronts. An Optima Hybrid review in The Wall Street Journal declares this car the best sub-$35,000 sedan for commuters. The reviewer also calls the Optima Hybrid the best-looking car in its class and notes the copious legroom. The car's drawbacks, according his review, are its slow acceleration and stiffness when switching between gas and electric power.

An expert at The Car Connection raves about the stylish design in an Optima Hybrid review and considers the car an excellent value. The cabin is quiet, he says, and the car delivers a firm, comfortable ride. The Car Connection reviewer does complain about some juddering when the car flips between gas and electric power, as do the experts at Edmunds. The auto information site notes the Optima's respectable 0-to-60-mph time of 8.4 seconds.

This four-cylinder, front-wheel-drive hybrid has a comfortable amount of room for up to five passengers, at 102.17 cubic feet, but less cargo room than the Toyota Camry and Hyundai Sonata hybrids. With a combined 206 horsepower between the gas engine and electric motor, the Optima is more powerful than many hybrid sedans. Its 35 mpg city/40 mpg highway fuel efficiency lags behind several other hybrids but is still respectable. The Optima Hybrid has plenty of standard features to crow about, including dual climate control, cruise control, remote keyless entry, power locks and windows, and heated power mirrors.

J.D. Power & Associates rates the Kia Optima Hybrid among the best in overall performance and design. The Optima nicely balances performance and fuel efficiency and earns kudos from many corners for its comfort and value.

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Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Review

From $25850 Good

This midsize sedan competes with the Toyota Camry and Kia Optima hybrids, with similar performance and the same fuel economy as the Kia: 35 mpg city/40 mpg highway.

Hyundai seems to have striven for style and spaciousness when designing the Sonata Hybrid, and for the most part, experts seem impressed with this car. Experts from Edmunds like the look of it and point to the roomy back seats in a Sonata Hybrid review. The auto information site praises the car's smooth and nimble performance but notes a tendency to lurch a little when accelerating at low speeds (not uncommon among hybrid cars).

This car couldn't keep up with the Toyota Camry Hybrid in a comparison test by Motor Trend, taking 2.3 seconds longer to get to 60 mph, according to a Sonata Hybrid review. The Motor Trend expert reports that the gasoline engine labors when the car accelerates or attempts to pass on the highway, bogged down by a less powerful electric motor than other comparable hybrids. A review at Hybrid Cars praises the car for its spacious rear seating and many standard features, such as remote keyless entry, dual climate control, iPod jack, and audio controls built into the car's steering wheel. This reviewer echoes the complaint that you can feel a jolt at low speeds when the car switches between electric and gas power. Still, he admires the Sonata's responsive steering and says it's quieter on the road than most hybrids.

Like our other picks, the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid is a four-cylinder, front-wheel-drive car. There's plenty of room for five passengers, with 103.8 cubic feet of passenger space. The fuel efficiency is on par with that of other hybrid sedans, at 35 mpg city/40 mpg highway.

The Sonata's tendency to shudder when switching between electric and gas power at low speeds is a drawback hardly unusual among hybrids. The Sonata Hybrid matches up well with other sedans in terms of roominess and overall performance, but it can't match the fuel efficiency of the Toyota Camry Hybrid.

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Honda Insight Reiview

From $18500 Think Twice

The Honda Insight is a direct competitor to the Toyota Prius C, with a similar price point. The difference is the fuel economy: 41 mpg city/44 mpg highway, compared with 53/46 mpg for the Prius C. The Insight also has less interior room -- reviewers call the back seat constraining -- and delivers a somewhat rough, noisy ride.

This is a very affordable hybrid, but experts express mixed feelings in Honda Insight reviews. They complain that the Insight lacks power, especially at highway speeds, although authorities such as Edmunds praise the Insight's handling and responsive steering. The site's experts note that the Insight doesn't offer the smoothest ride -- you'll feel it when you drive over bumps or broken pavement. The car is comfortable, according to a review at Hybrid Cars, where an expert calls the interior spacious. It offers 85 cubic feet of room for five passengers. In a review at The Car Connection, an expert complains that the headroom in the back seat is lacking, a gripe echoed at Edmunds. Such drawbacks are reflected in a below-average rating from J.D. Power and Associates for overall performance and design. The Insight did not score well among owners on comfort, style, or its features and instrument panel.

The Honda Insight is a four-cylinder, front-wheel-drive hybrid that claims 41 mpg in the city and 44 mpg on the highway. The gasoline engine and electric motor combine to total 111 horsepower. Standard features include remote keyless entry, automatic climate control, and power windows, locks, and mirrors.

The Insight is certainly cheap by hybrid standards and offers very good fuel efficiency -- just not as good as the Toyota Prius C. This is also a sluggish car that doesn't offer the smoothest ride. The front seats are roomy and comfortable, but taller passengers will certainly feel cramped in the back. If your priorities are fuel efficiency and price, the Insight is worth a good look, but it has some shortcomings.

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Honda CR-Z

From $19695 Think Twice

This is Honda's attempt at a sporty hybrid, with only two seats instead of five. The smaller size and lighter weight don't translate to better fuel economy: This model rates lowest on our list (by a hair), at 35 mpg city/39 mpg highway. It also earns only a four-star safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, compared with five for the others.

With the CR-Z Sport Hybrid, Honda attempts to bring some sporty style and performance to the decidedly non-sporty hybrid genre. According to Honda CR-Z reviews, however, this model falls short both as a sports car and as a hybrid. A review from Motor Trend gives the car 2 out of 5 stars, saying it offers only "modest" performance and just isn't that fast overall. However, the reviewer does say that choosing the manual transmission option gives the car a little extra pep. In a review at Hybrid Cars, an expert compliments the car's sporty design and ample headroom but says it's pretty slow from a dead stop. At Kelley Blue Book, a review points out that the CR-Z's fuel efficiency is mediocre for a hybrid, and even some non-hybrid cars can match it.

The Honda CR-Z is a two-passenger car with a four-cylinder engine that combines with the electric motor for a total of 135 horsepower. This front-wheel drive car claims 35 mpg in the city and 39 mpg highway. For a two-seater, it offers a comfortable 49.1 cubic feet of passenger room.

Experts seem to appreciate that Honda has tried to make the hybrid segment a little more fun, but it's clear they feel the effort has fallen short. Buyers interested in a sports car will not be satisfied with the Insight's speed and handling, and those who place a premium on fuel efficiency won't be impressed with the gas mileage. In trying to please both sports-car-inclined buyers and hybrid fans, Honda ends up pleasing neither.

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Buying Guide

Many folks who might consider buying a hip, environmentally friendly hybrid car are put off by the price, and understandably so: Even cheap hybrid cars cost thousands more than their standard counterparts. However, thanks to hybrids' superior fuel economy and other factors such as depreciation, drivers can recoup the added cost in as little as a year, according to an analysis by Consumer Reports. Carmakers are also churning out more models with lower price tags.

Cheap Hybrid Cars Buying Guide

When we originally researched this category, in 2009, one of our top picks was the Ford Fusion Hybrid, which now starts at $28,775. This time around, we found a long list of hybrid cars for less than $26,000; the very cheapest come in under $20,000. That allowed us to lower our price ceiling by $2,000. The 2012 models we chose comfortably seat five and offer all the amenities of a conventional gas guzzler.

Both of the best cheap hybrid cars on our list come from Toyota, maker of the well-known and well-regarded Prius. The cheapest model in the line, the Toyota Prius C (starting at $18,950), is also the cheapest and by far the most fuel-efficient model among our top picks. For consumers seeking more room and power, the Toyota Camry Hybrid (starting at $25,990) is our favorite midsize sedan. We're also very impressed with the Kia Optima Hybrid sedan (starting at $25,700), which narrowly missed a top spot; its fuel economy simply doesn't measure up. The Hyundai Sonata Hybrid sedan (starting at $25,850) rounds out our top four. A couple of small cars from Honda don't fare as well in reviews. We found no compelling reason to choose the Honda Insight (starting at $18,500) over the similarly sized and priced yet far more efficient Prius C. The Honda CR-Z (starting at $19,695) is a so-called sport hybrid with room for only two passengers. Some drivers might find the tight interior a worthy tradeoff for better fuel economy, but this is the least efficient model on our list.

Honda also makes a hybrid version of its popular Civic (starting at $24,200), which seems to bore expert reviewers with lackluster performance, although they can't argue with fuel efficiency of 44 miles per gallon. Other hybrid manufacturers include Ford and Chevrolet, which has come out with the hyper-efficient Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid (starting at $31,645). Even Cadillac offers a hybrid version of its luxury SUV, the Escalade (starting at $73,850). In the case of hybrids, more money doesn't necessarily buy you better fuel efficiency or lower emissions. The Escalade Hybrid, for example, claims just 23 mpg on the highway and 20 mpg in the city. The bigger price tag translates to a bigger engine with more horsepower and, generally, a more comfortable ride, as well as more expensive interior materials.

Cheap hybrid cars aren't known for being speed demons on the road, and to some extent that's by design. High-horsepower engines simply do not get good gas mileage. Hybrid cars tend to have smaller, low-horsepower engines that use fuel efficiently. They may be a little on the sluggish side, but most have enough zip to get around just fine, both in the city and on the highway. Cheap hybrid cars typically offer adequate room in the front but may be a little cramped for rear-seat passengers.

What many cheap hybrid cars lack are fancy features such as backup cameras and all-wheel drive. Many offer more standard options at the base trim level than their conventional counterparts, including remote keyless entry, power windows and locks, and respectable audio systems with Bluetooth and iPod support. Cheap hybrid cars are subjected to the same safety testing as regular cars and come with many of the same safety features, including air bags, antilock brakes, crumple panels, and steel reinforced frames. The 2012 version of each model we researched has been named a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The U.S. government's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also handed down five-star safety ratings for our top picks, with the exception of the Prius C, which hasn't been rated yet; the regular Prius was awarded five stars.

Be sure to test drive any cheap hybrid before you buy, and ask the dealer for service records and information about extended warranties -- especially guarantees that cover the battery, which is expensive to replace.

Features Comparison Buying Guide continues below table

(from $)
City/Highway Fuel Economy 43/41 mpg
Combined Horsepower 200
Passenger Volume 102.7 cubic feet
Standard Features Power windows, locks, and mirrors; steering wheel audio and cruise control; dual-zone climate control; iPod and Bluetooth support
(from $)
City/Highway Fuel Economy 53/46 mpg
Combined Horsepower 99
Passenger Volume 87.4 cubic feet
Standard Features Power windows, locks, and mirrors with turn signals; steering wheel audio control; auto climate control; iPod and Bluetooth support
(from $)
City/Highway Fuel Economy 35/40 mpg
Combined Horsepower 206
Passenger Volume 102.17 cubic feet
Standard Features Power windows, locks, and driver seat; heated power mirrors with turn signals, steering wheel audio and cruise control; dual-zone climate control; iPod and Bluetooth support
(from $)
City/Highway Fuel Economy 35/40 mpg
Combined Horsepower 206
Passenger Volume 103.8 cubic feet
Standard Features Power windows, locks, and driver seat; heated power mirrors with turn signals; steering wheel audio and cruise control; dual climate control; iPod and Bluetooth support

Hybrid Reviews

Consumers posting hybrid reviews and comments online generally seem loyal to their cars. When it comes to performance, gas mileage is king, with drivers proudly relating their highest mpg. Experts, however, can't help but point out most hybrids' lack of acceleration and power relative to conventional cars. Consumers, too, prefer a car that can get up and go when they press the accelerator, handles well, and runs smoothly. Some experts note that the switch between gas and electric power can be a bit of a jolt, and some cars are quieter on the road than others.

For example, in a hybrid review at Hybrid Cars, an expert praises the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid (starting at $25,850) for its quiet ride and responsive steering, but the reviewer notes that the car lurches when switching from electric power to gas at low speeds. The experts at Edmunds also noticed the Sonata's hard transition from electric to gas power but found that the car drives smoothly overall, feels nimble on the road, and accelerates more quickly than most hybrids. Hybrid reviews by Edmunds and Hybrid Cars rave about the ride and performance of the Toyota Camry Hybrid (starting at $25,990). Edmunds declares the Camry's acceleration easily the best among hybrid sedans, taking a mere 7.4 seconds to go from 0 to 60 mph. The Hybrid Cars expert ventures that drivers won't be able to tell if they're driving a hybrid or normal car. He found the Camry highly responsive and says it shifts smoothly between gas and electric power. The Kia Optima Hybrid (starting at $25,700) takes a little criticism for its relatively slow acceleration in a hybrid review by The Wall Street Journal, but the reviewer still declares the Optima his top choice for commuters looking to spend less than $35,000, citing the car's value and overall design. An expert from The Car Connection notes that the Optima does shudder a bit when switching between gas and electric power.

The Toyota Prius C (starting at $18,950), with its superior fuel efficiency and super-low price, doesn't especially impress on the performance front. Experts from Car and Driver and Edmunds agree that the car accelerates pretty slowly, according to hybrid reviews, although Edmunds notes that the Prius C handles very well. The Honda Insight (starting at $18,500) also delivers good, responsive handling, hybrid reviews say, although an expert at Hybrid Cars complains that the Insight labors when trying to pass other cars on the highway. A reviewer from Car and Driver points to the engine, which simply isn't very powerful. The Honda CR-Z (starting at $19,695) is supposed to be a "sporty" hybrid, but an expert at Hybrid Cars concludes that it succeeds neither as a hybrid nor as a sports car. Although the car is fun to drive, according to the reviewer, it's pretty slow off the line. A hybrid review from Motor Trend describes the car's performance as modest, noting that a manual transmission does make the CR-Z a little peppier than a typical hybrid.

Hybrid Car Design.

Customers' taste in cars can be as varied as their taste in clothes, but the looks of some affordable hybrid cars appeal to a wider audience than others. The Kia Optima Hybrid earns high marks in hybrid reviews for its stylish design -- the best in its class, The Wall Street Journal proclaims. An expert from The Car Connection contrasts the appealingly sporty Optima with the boxier appearance of other hybrid sedans. The design of the much smaller, sportier Honda CR-Z is perhaps its greatest asset, winning praise in hybrid reviews from both Hybrid Cars and Motor Trend.

A reviewer at Car and Driver notes that the 2012 Honda Insight features some new styling such as a grille with a blue stripe to identify it as a hybrid. The Honda Civic Hybrid (starting at $24,200) doesn't win any style points from MotorWeek in a hybrid review, however. An expert declares the car's appearance dated and its interior too heavy on the plastic.

The Toyota Prius C resembles Toyota's Yaris hatchback more than it does other Prius models. It's a small car that should easily creep into parking spots too tight for hybrid sedans. The Toyota Camry Hybrid looks, for the most part, like a typical family sedan. Edmunds points out the 2012 model's new, more aggressive grille design and more angular lines toward the back. An expert from Hybrid Cars notes in a hybrid review that Toyota has ditched the Camry's plastic, cheap-looking interior in favor of better materials that improve the cabin's look. A hybrid review from Edmunds likewise compliments the look of the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid sedan, both inside and out.

Hybrid Technology, Plug-In Hybrid

A typical gas-electric hybrid combines a conventional gasoline engine with an electric motor and rechargeable batteries to achieve an optimal combination of fuel efficiency and power. An onboard computer switches between the two power sources. Hybrid technology varies from brand to brand, so the circumstances under which a car uses gas or electric power can vary from one model to another. For instance, a hybrid may use electric power to move from a dead stop but switch to gas at around 15 or 20 mph.

Hybrid technology has some drawbacks, as we saw in our analysis of reviews on the previous page. Some hybrid cars have a tendency to stutter and lurch a little as they switch from one power source to the other. They also tend to be sluggish when they take off from a dead stop.

Plug-in hybrid cars such as the Chevrolet Volt (starting at $31,645) have larger battery packs than regular gas-electric hybrids and use electric power as their primary source of energy, with gasoline as the backup. Once the electric charge is depleted, the gas engine takes over and simultaneously recharges the battery; alternatively, you can plug in the battery to an electrical outlet. Plug-in hybrids are significantly more fuel-efficient than regular hybrids. The Chevy Volt is the most popular plug-in hybrid at the moment, but the Toyota Prius line now includes a plug-in hybrid as well (starting at $32,000). The rival Nissan Leaf (starting at $27,700) has no gas engine, relying exclusively on electric power.

Hybrid Fuel Economy.

While hybrid cars -- even budget models -- generally cost more than comparable gasoline-only cars, drivers ultimately recoup some or all of that extra expense in savings on fuel. Fueleconomy.gov offers an online tool for calculating the annual fuel cost of a hybrid car vs. a traditional vehicle. How much you save on gas depends not only on the hybrid's fuel economy and the price of gas but also on your own driving habits. Lead-footed drivers don't see the savings realized by so-called "hypermilers" who take pride in maxing out their fuel efficiency, monitoring the miles per gallon on the car's display. (Visit Popular Mechanics for some tips from a hypermiler.)

A typical hybrid car can manage about 35 to 40 mpg in the city and about 40 mpg on the highway, according to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ratings. Manufacturers put their own vehicles through standardized tests and report the numbers to the EPA. The car with by far the best fuel efficiency among our picks is the Toyota Prius C, with 53 mpg city/46 mpg highway. The Toyota Camry Hybrid also boasts impressive fuel economy -- 43 mpg city/41 mpg highway -- as does the Honda Insight, with 41/44. The Kia Optima and Hyundai Sonata claim 35 mpg in the city and 40 on the highway, while the Honda CR-Z trails slightly behind, at 35/39.

Plugging those numbers into the Fueleconomy.gov calculator helps put them in context. The Prius C can save consumers $175 to more than $350 a year on fuel compared with the other hybrids on our list (based on the combined mpg and assuming a fuel cost of $3.49 and 15,000 miles annually, the calculator's default numbers). Still, even the Prius C can't match the amazing fuel efficiency of plug-in hybrids such as the Chevy Volt, which gets the equivalent of 95 mpg city/93 mpg highway.

Note that the EPA ratings seem to be somewhat generous compared with what drivers experience under "real-world" conditions. For example, the Honda Civic Hybrid claims 44 mpg all around, but a MotorWeek reviewer found that the Civic's true numbers were closer to 40 mpg. A reviewer from Edmunds reports that the Kia Optima Hybrid reached 33 mpg in the city and 35 mpg on the highway in its testing vs. an advertised 35 mpg city/40 mpg highway. Then again, USA Today reports that two hypermilers coaxed an average of 64.5 mpg out of a Kia Optima Hybrid when driving through all 48 states in the contiguous U.S. -- a Guinness World Record.

Hybrid-Electric Vehicle Comfort, Features

A car is no fun to drive or ride in if you feel cramped and uncomfortable. Fortunately most hybrid-electric vehicles tend to have comfortable seats and, in most cases, offer passengers a smooth ride in a fairly quiet cabin. Mid-size sedans such as the Toyota Camry, Kia Optima, and Hyundai Sonata in particular offer a respectable amount of leg and headroom for drivers and passengers alike.

The roomiest hybrid-electric vehicle among our picks is the five-passenger Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, which offers a stretch-friendly 103.8 cubic feet of passenger room. Experts at Edmunds praise the Sonata for its comfortable front seats and also rave about how roomy the car's back seats are. An expert reviewing the Sonata for Hybrid Cars calls it a quiet vehicle and notes the ample headroom in the back. The Kia Optima Hybrid also has plenty of room for five passengers, with 102.17 cubic feet of space. A reviewer from The Wall Street Journal says the car's front legroom is excellent. According to an expert from The Car Connection, the Optima boasts a spacious back seat as well, in addition to a quiet cabin and a comfortable, smooth ride. The five-passenger Toyota Camry Hybrid, with 102.7 cubic feet of interior room, also delivers a comfortable ride, according to a reviewer at Hybrid Cars, with seats you can sit in all day.

The Toyota Prius C is a smaller, less spacious hybrid-electric vehicle than the three sedans on our list, with only 87.4 cubic feet of room for five passengers. A reviewer from Car and Driver likes the supportive front seats in the Prius C, but Edmunds pans the hard plastic interior and a glove box that cuts in on the front passenger's legroom. The Honda Insight has an even smaller interior, at only 85 cubic feet for five passengers. A Car Connection reviewer reports that the front seats are comfortable and give passengers plenty of headroom, but space in the back seat is lacking. An expert from Hybrid Cars says the Insight feels more spacious than it actually is, however.

The Honda CR-Z is a two-seater with only 49.1 cubic feet inside. A reviewer from Hybrid Cars says the CR-Z has plenty of headroom for a pair of occupants and very comfortable seats.

If you plan to use a hybrid-electric vehicle as your primary family car, don't be shy about installing a child's car seat or loading the trunk with your essentials to see how they all fit when visiting the showroom.

Extra Features.

The lists of available features on cheap hybrid-electric vehicles are as long as you typically find on conventional cars. Depending on the brand and model, some of the features are standard and some cost extra. Examples of standard features include in-dash CD players; audio controls on the steering wheel; automatic climate control; remote keyless entry; power locks, windows, and mirrors; and Bluetooth and iPod support. One feature unique to hybrids is a digital display that keeps drivers informed of their fuel economy. These computer systems give visual (and often color-coded) cues drivers can use to fine-tune their driving habits for optimum fuel efficiency.

As you'd expect, standard options can vary quite a bit from one hybrid to the next, and the lists run pretty long, so we won't go over every standard feature on every model we picked. Instead we'll highlight a few nice extras on the top hybrid-electric vehicles: The Toyota Camry, Kia Optima, and Hyundai Sonata boast dual-zone climate control and cruise control. Heated mirrors come standard on the Kia and Hyundai hybrid sedans.

Like conventional cars, most hybrid models are available in several trim levels or offer optional upgrade packages. For example, the Toyota Prius C is available in four configurations and the Kia Optima presents options for 17-inch wheels, auto-leveling headlights, a navigation system, a sunroof, and leather seat trim. Naturally, each step up sucks more money out of your bank account.

Additional Products We Considered

Honda Civic Hybrid Review

From $24200

The Honda Civic has been a sort of everyman vehicle for years. It's extremely popular, reliable, and unpretentious -- a sturdy but unremarkable fly on the wall of car culture. The hybrid version, for good or ill, continues that tradition, according Civic Hybrid reviews, at a price more than $8,000 higher than the regular model. Its 44 mpg fuel economy helps it stand out -- especially in the city, where the standard Civic registers 28 mpg.

The car isn't particularly flashy, and as an expert from Car and Driver points out in a Civic Hybrid review, it doesn't have a lot of muscle under the hood. The reviewer clocked the Civic's time from 0 to 60 at a pokey 10 seconds. A review at MotorWeek calls the car's styling outdated, but it's quiet on the road and impresses the reviewer with its gas mileage. Still, the MotorWeek expert doesn't think much of the handling and complains that the Civic Hybrid suffers from a lot of body roll, where the car leans toward the outside of a turn. A reviewer from Automobile magazine is impressed with the Civic's comfortable, roomy interior, which totals 94.6 cubic feet for five passengers.

The Civic Hybrid is a four-cylinder, front-wheel-drive car that claims gas mileage of 44 mpg city and highway, making it one of the more efficient hybrids on the market. Automatic climate control is standard on the Civic, as is Bluetooth support, power windows and door locks, cruise control, a USB port, and a six-speaker audio system with CD player.

The Civic Hybrid is pretty typical of the Civic line. It's not terribly exciting in any particular way, but it has nice features and lives up to its promise as a solid, fuel-efficient car.

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Chevrolet Volt Review

From $31645

The Volt is a bit of a different animal. It's a relatively new plug-in hybrid that relies almost entirely on electric power, switching to gas power only when the battery runs low, and occasionally for a little extra power boost.

Chevrolet Volt reviews have been generally positive. An expert from Autoguide says the Volt is smooth and quiet when running on the electric motor. However, the gas engine is pretty noisy when it kicks in. A review from Automobile magazine also complains about the Volt's loud gas engine, but another editor on the site reasons that this won't be a serious problem for most Volt drivers, who will use the car primarily as a short-range commuter vehicle and won't need to draw on gas power very often. As a review at Edmunds points out, drivers who commute 15 miles or less each way may never have to stop at a gas station if they plug in the Volt in every night. Double that, though, and they'll still have to hit the pump regularly, due to the car's relatively short electric range. The experts at Edmunds are impressed with the Volt's snappy acceleration and responsiveness.

Thanks to the plug-in hybrid technology, the estimated fuel efficiency of the Chevrolet Volt is an eye-popping 95 mpg city/93 mpg highway. Keep in mind that those numbers are heavily influenced by how far the owner typically drives in a single trip.

The Chevrolet Volt performs better than most in J.D. Power and Associates' Initial Quality Study and rates among the best for overall performance and design. With a starting price of $31,645, the Volt costs quite a bit more than our top picks. But buyers can claim a federal tax credit of $7,500, and those who stick to short commutes can definitely save a significant amount on gas.

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2010 Nissan Altima Hybrid Review

From $26800

A direct competitor to the Toyota Camry Hybrid, the 35mpg (maximum) Nissan Altima Hybrid is a solid performer, say Nissan Altima Hybrid reviews at Hybridcars.com and Cars.com. In particular, reviewers say they appreciate the traction control and plethora of airbags.

The Altima Hybrid has a leg up on the competition with its 2.5-liter engine (versus the Camry's 2.4-liter) and its 20-gallon fuel tank, which is almost three gallons more than the Camry and clearly increases your driving range between fill ups. Nissan Altima Hybrid reviews note, however, that the biggest difference between the Altima Hybrid and the Camry Hybrid is the driving noise. The Nissan is noticeably louder but also a bit more powerful.

If you're really set on an Altima Hybrid, you may have to travel to buy one. This model is only available in eight states: California, Oregon, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

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2010 Toyota Camry Hybrid Review

From $25500

Safe, comfortable, roomy, and dependable are words used to describe the Toyota Camry Hybrid by drivers and experts in Toyota Camry Hybrid reviews on Cars.com and Hybridcars.com.

With a 2.4-liter engine and 147 horsepower, the Camry Hybrid has enough power for most drivers, but trails slightly behind its direct competitor, the Nissan Altima Hybrid. For fuel economy, it tops out around 34 mpg, significantly less than some other hybrids, including the Honda Civic Hybrid and Toyota Prius. Like its cousin, the Prius, the Camry Hybrid comes packed with safety features, such as traction control, stability control, numerous airbags, and a steering boost. Plus, it offers an extremely quiet ride like its non-hybrid Camry sibling.

Overall, the Toyota Camry Hybrid is a good choice for those who love the traditional Camry ride and feel but want better gas mileage and are willing to pay for it.

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2010 Toyota Prius Review

From $22400

This industry leader gets an estimated 50 mpg (combined city/highway) with a 1.8L, 4-cylinder engine, and offers standard features like heated outside mirrors and a satellite radio antenna. Reviewers say it's reliable, safe, surprisingly roomy, affordable, and it holds its value longer than other hybrid cars.

This industry leader earns high praise from reviewers for its reliability, safety, and surprising amount of cargo space, not to mention its eco-friendliness. Toyota Prius reviews by customers on Cars.com say 100% of owners would recommend the Prius to a friend, and expert reviews note the Prius consistently ranks among the top 10 in owner satisfaction surveys.

The Toyota Prius gets an estimated 50 mpg (combined city/highway) with a 1.8L, 4-cylinder engine, and offers seven airbags, traction control, heated outside mirrors, and a satellite radio antenna as standard features. For an additional cost, you can upgrade to a moonroof with solar panels (which control the heating/cooling system) as well as additional safety features, such as lane-drift warnings and a pre-collision system that tightens seat belts and brakes if a crash is imminent. The hatchback style and fold-down seats yield 16 cubic feet of cargo space, which Toyota Prius reviews on Cars.com say is plenty for most of your needs.

If you don't mind the unique statement-making hybrid appearance of the Prius, it serves as an ideal commuter car or even a family vehicle; three adults fit in the back seat. This is the most fuel efficient car on the market today and the best hybrid buy for less than $25,000.

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2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid Review

From $27300

A mid-sized sedan with a 2.5L, 4-cylinder engine and more horsepower than the competition, the Fusion Hybrid gets 39 mpg in combined city/highway driving and runs on unleaded or a combination of ethanol and gasoline. Reviewers approvingly note the cloth seat fabric made of recycled materials, updated styling, and gauge that tracks your eco-driving skills.

Relatively new to the hybrid scene, the Ford Fusion Hybrid (and its sister car, the Mercury Milan Hybrid) is making waves with auto journalists and customers alike. In Ford Fusion Hybrid reviews, this model draws praise from a variety of sources, including HybridCars.com, USA Today, and Cars.com. In customer surveys by expert reviewers, the Ford Fusion Hybrid ranks among the top 10 for owner satisfaction.

The Ford Fusion Hybrid is a mid-sized sedan with a 2.5L, 4-cylinder engine that gets 39 mpg in combined city/highway driving. This model runs on unleaded or a combination of ethanol and gasoline. (Although running E85 ethanol gas reduces the fuel efficiency a bit, it burns cleaner than regular gas.) It is also more fuel-efficient than the Toyota Camry Hybrid and the Nissan Altima Hybrid, which are direct competitors in size and price. Loads of standard safety features, including a blind-spot information system and hands-free 911 assist and structural features such as steel reinforcements that help protect passengers in side impacts, earn the Ford Fusion Hybrid praise from safety experts, including the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

If you prefer the look of a traditional sedan and can afford a slightly higher sticker price, the Ford Fusion Hybrid is a sound choice.

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2010 Honda Civic Hybrid Review

From $22600

Although the Civic Hybrid's interior space is a little tighter than the Prius and its 1.3L, 4-cylinder engine feels a bit sluggish, drivers and expert reviewers take to this model's sporty, "un-hybrid" appearance and modest price. The Civic Hybrid delivers an average 42 mpg in combined city/highway driving.

Though a little smaller and less powerful than the Prius, the Civic Hybrid wins kudos from drivers on Hybridcars.com and experts at Car And Driver for its sporty, "un-hybrid" appearance and modest price. Honda Civic Hybrid reviews by consumers at Edmunds.com give the Civic Hybrid a 9.3 out of 10 for overall performance, which is on par with the award-winning non-hybrid Honda Civic.

The 1.3-liter, 4-cylinder Civic Hybrid delivers an average 42 mpg in combined city/highway driving, although some owners report getting even higher fuel efficiency over time. Like other hybrids, the Honda Civic Hybrid has an advanced computer system that helps you track your fuel efficiency and rewards you with colored lights when you're driving efficiently. The biggest beef among drivers is the pitiful cargo space (just over 10 cubic feet), rear seats that don't fold down, and the tight fit for passengers.

Bottom line: If styling is a priority, you love the Honda brand, and you can sacrifice some power and storage to gain fuel efficiency, this hybrid car may be for you.

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2010 Honda Insight Review

From $19800

This model wins high marks for affordability, style, features, and fuel economy (41 mpg combined city/highway), but its 1.3L, 4-cylinder engine is too weak for some drivers despite impressive acceleration.

This model wins high marks for affordability, style, features, and fuel economy (41 mpg combined city/highway), but its 1.3L, 4-cylinder engine is too weak for some drivers despite impressive acceleration, according to Honda Insight reviews on Hybridcars.com. Experts at USA Today write that the Insight isn't as substantial or comfortable as the Civic Hybrid, but it does incorporate true hybrid technology and the sticker price is far more budget-friendly.

Like the Toyota Prius, the Honda Insight has a hatchback style with ample cargo space (15.9 cubic feet). Honda Insight reviews by owners on Edmunds.com report the front seat is more comfortable than the back seat, which may be a squeeze for two adults. The Insight also uses the same computer feedback system as the Honda Civic Hybrid to alert drivers about their fuel efficiency.

A comparative review of the Honda Insight by Motortrend.com says the Insight holds its own against the pricier Prius, although the ride is a bit rough. So if price is your biggest deciding factor and you don't expect to drive a full carpool to and from work, the Honda Insight is a smart budget buy.

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2009 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid Review

From $22800

As of December 2009, the Malibu Hybrid is widely available, but GM says it won't continue production in 2010. So, customers may be stuck with a car that is discontinued and difficult to service.

This mid-sized sedan was still available in late 2009, but GM says it won't continue production of the Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid in 2010. So drivers may be stuck with a car that is difficult to service and hard to resell. That said, Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid reviews at Hybridcars.com say the 2009 Malibu Hybrid is nimble, responsive, and comfortable. Hybrid cars reviews on Cars.com praise its ride quality but criticize the jerky transmission and unimpressive fuel economy.

The Malibu Hybrid is a "mild hybrid"; i.e., it relies on stop-start technology that shuts the engine down when the car is idling to avoid wasteful burning of fuel. As for fuel efficiency, the Malibu Hybrid is rated at 26/34 mpg, only four miles per gallon more than the non-hybrid Malibu. And that's the biggest reason to pass on this one, experts say; it's hard to justify spending more on the hybrid version for such little gain in fuel economy.

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2010 Saturn Aura Green Line Review

From $22100

At max 32mpg, fuel economy is much less than other hybrids and emissions aren't as clean. The Aura Green, also called "Aura Hybrid", gets low marks for performance compared to the non-hybrid Saturn Aura. Note that GM will be phasing out the Saturn brand at the end of 2010.

With a maximum of 32mpg, the fuel economy of this stop-start hybrid sedan (a.k.a. Saturn Aura Hybrid) is far less impressive than other hybrids, and the emissions aren't as clean. Among professional auto journalists at sites like Hybridcars.com, Car And Driver, and Road and Track, Saturn Aura Green Line reviews criticize the model for poor performance compared to the non-hybrid Saturn Aura. Reviews also knock the vehicle for the flimsy plastic feel of the interior.

The Aura Hybrid does have a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and 169 horsepower, so it's not too sluggish. Its double-paned glass in the front doors helps muffle the driving noise and the styling is distinctively "non-hybrid," a feature that may appeal to a wider audience than some other affordable hybrid sedans.

But what may be the biggest knock against the Saturn Aura hybrid is the fact that GM is phasing out the Saturn division in 2010, which raises questions about long-term serviceability and price on resale.

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