Should I buy a Toyota Prius or Honda Civic Hybrid?

I am debating between the 2008 Toyota Prius and the 2008 Honda Civic Hybrid. Any recommendations or advice?

Ruth, Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Both of these are good hybrids and fair representatives in the eternal Honda versus Toyota rivalry. The Prius and Civic Hybrid are similar in some regards (price and overall size) but possess characteristics that will appeal to different commutes and uses.


If you simply want to get into the most fuel-efficient hybrid available, then the Prius is your car. Toyota’s dedicated Prius hybrid has the potential to get gas mileage numbers in stop-and-go driving that the Civic simply can’t match, given the right conditions. The Prius is a quirky car, though, with a unique and — some may say — “futuristic” interior and exterior design.

On the other hand, based on a run-of-the-mill Civic, the Honda hybrid has the subtlety advantage, with only minor styling differences compared to a normal Civic. Plus, it has the same cabin and dashboard controls for easy acclimation.

As some of the review team points out below, the Prius has an advantage in terms of cargo versatility because it was designed to incorporate the hybrid technology from the get-go. The Civic loses some points for its lack of a folding rear seat, which was eliminated because room was needed for the hybrid’s battery pack.

You may have heard of federal tax credits and rebates offered to hybrid owners, and the tax credit now only applies to one of these cars. The credits are based on sales numbers, and Toyota reached its limit last year. On the Civic Hybrid, however, there is still a $1,050 credit if you purchase one in 2008. In January 2009, there will be no more tax credits offered on the Civic Hybrid because Honda will have reached its quota.

Joe Wiesenfelder, senior editor

I think two main things distinguish one from the other: The Prius is more versatile and accommodating for cargo. It was conceived from scratch as a hybrid, so components like the battery pack are optimally located, providing a usable cargo hatch plus fold-down rear seats. Conversely, the Civic Hybrid sacrifices folding seats, leaving you with a trunk only. I do think the Civic is a better car overall, though — more refined and solid.

Mike Hanley, editor

If you're looking for maximum interior space and efficiency, the Prius is the way to go in my opinion. The larger cabin of the Prius benefits backseat passengers, and its cargo area is bigger, too. I also found the Prius' overall driving experience more agreeable than the Civic's. The Toyota has comfortable front seats and a capable hybrid powertrain, and it also offers better brake-pedal feel than the Civic.

The Prius does have some minor visibility-related issues. The hatchback's A-pillars are rather far forward, and they can get in the way when checking for traffic at an intersection. The split-glass design of the liftgate can also block your view of cars behind you.

Learn more

Answered by Joe Bruzek on April 25, 2008 in Green/Hybrid Cars , What Car Should I Buy? | Permalink

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