From novel curiosities to an integrated part of the automotive mainstream, hybrid cars have come a long way. That means there are more choices than ever, and that buyers don’t have to give up things like comfort, practicality, or even performance just to have the best fuel economy. There’s no need to buy a good hybrid that isn’t also a good car.
Why should you buy this: The Prius continues to define the hybrid category in most every way.
Who’s it for: Anyone who hates visiting the gas station
How much will it cost: $24,685+
Why we picked the Toyota Prius:
The name “Prius” is synonymous with “hybrid,” and for good reason. Toyota’s bestselling hybrid continues to prioritize fuel economy above all else, and though efficiency is its main goal, the Prius doesn’t ask buyers to make any major compromises.
The Prius is the most fuel-efficient hybrid around, getting an EPA-rated 56 mpg combined in Eco trim. That’s thanks to Toyota’s tried-and-true Hybrid Synergy Drive system, and a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that achieves 40-percent thermal efficiency, which is much higher than in most engines. The Prius also achieves a very low drag coefficient of 0.24, meaning it has fairly low aerodynamic drag, which helps improve efficiency. Toyota’s designers managed to do that while maintaining a roomy cabin and useful hatchback shape.
The current-generation Prius is also appreciably sportier than previous models, thanks to changes like a lower center of gravity and a more sophisticated double-wishbone independent rear suspension system. Like other Toyota models, the Prius also gets the Toyota Safety Sense suite of driver-assistance features—including adaptive cruise control and a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection—as standard equipment.
The Prius is still a fuel-economy champ, but the current version’s emphasis on sporty handling and technology make it a better all-around car than ever before.