Toyota's hybrid hatchback, the Prius, has inspired a whole raft of gas-electric vehicles—including the Nissan Altima hybrid sedan, which actually uses Toyota's hybrid system with a Nissan-sourced gas engine.
The Altima's snappier looks and handling cancel out its less impressive fuel economy (by Prius standards).
More noteworthy is the Fusion Hybrid, which gets 41 mpg in city driving and benefits from an overall revamp that brings a nicer cabin and more trim styling.
Left-brain thinkers will opt for the VW Jetta TDI diesel, which costs more than gas-engined Jettas but delivers fuel economy in the 40-mpg range and a reputation for durability—as well as great handling and a suave interior.
From a distance, the most obvious rival to the Prius is the 2010 Honda Insight; at first glance the two look identical in side profile.
But when you size the two up more closely, you'll find the Prius is considerably larger inside, with more usable backseat space for adults.
The Prius also has the advantage in fuel economy; the Insight is rated at just 40 mpg city, 43 highway, compared to 51/48 mpg for the Prius, but most Insight buyers will likely see better.
With a starting price a smidge under $20,000, the Insight is a better choice for those who want to keep it simple and be frugal, while the new Prius and all its high-tech options are a better bet for gee-whiz hybrid fans wanting something to show off.
Finally, there's another new rival coming this year, from Toyota's own Lexus division.
The HS 250h is a small luxury sedan based on the new Prius but incorporating a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and a variation of the Prius' hybrid system.
Expect fuel economy well into the 40s.
|2010 Toyota PriusBrowse Used Listings||2010 Ford Fusion HybridBrowse Used Listings||2010 Honda InsightBrowse Used Listings||2010 Lexus HS 250hBrowse Used Listings||2010 Nissan AltimaBrowse Used Listings|
|51 MPG City / 48 MPG Hwy||41 MPG City / 36 MPG Hwy||40 MPG City / 43 MPG Hwy||35 MPG City / 34 MPG Hwy||18 MPG City / 33 MPG Hwy|
|Gas/Electric I4||Gas/Electric I4||Gas/Electric I4||Gas/Electric I4||Gas I4|
|5-Door HB I (SE)||4-Door Sedan Hybrid FWD||5-Door CVT LX PZEV||4-Door Sedan Hybrid||4-Door Sedan I4 CVT 2.5|
|Front Wheel Drive||Front Wheel Drive||Front Wheel Drive||Front Wheel Drive||Front Wheel Drive|
|5 Door Liftback||4 Door Sedan||5 Door Sedan||4 Door Sedan||4 Door Sedan|
|CVT||Continuously variable ratio||CVT||ECVT||Continuously Variable|