Real-world tests for best hybrid cars

LOS ANGELES Steve Mazor is the manager of the Automobile Club's automotive research center. He asks: What if you needed to carry luggage to the airport, tow a load, or you simply want cup holders? In other words, how would that hybrid perform during everyday, mundane duties?

"People are interested in hybrids because of their high mileage, but they have to use those cars," said Steve Mazor.

So the Auto Club took four of the most popular hybrids on the road today and put them through 13 real-world tests to find their strengths and their weaknesses.

"We ran tests using the newly renamed Auto Club Speedway to measure acceleration, braking, and handling," said Mazor. "We also measure the load-carrying capacity of the vehicles, what the ride quality of when they're actually out on the road, and how quiet it is inside the vehicle."

Technicians chose the Toyota Prius, the Honda Civic, the Lexus RX 400h, and the Ford Escape. Here's what the Auto Club found:

The Ford Escape Hybrid got good gas mileage, has ample room for cargo but it does have engine and road noise.

The Honda Civic Hybrid has extremely low emissions and a good sound system with satellite radio, but it was the slowest vehicle tested and is noisy at high speeds.

The Lexus RX400h is powerful with a roomy, comfortable interior, but it requires premium fuel and has a high purchase price.

The Toyota Prius has the best fuel economy with good handling but lacks power and has poor rear visibility.

Ultimately there was no clear-cut winner, but for commuter cars, the Prius stood out the most, with the Honda Civic Hybrid close behind.

For SUV-type room, the Ford Escape Hybrid performed well and the Lexus was tops in its class.

Auto Club Puts Hybrids Through 'Real World' Tests

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