More hybrid options to fit your budget

LOS ANGELES Almost 10 years ago, a funny-looking new coupe was introduced to Americans. It was the original /*Honda Insight*/, a /*hybrid*/ electric vehicle that got amazing fuel economy. However, it had a few limitations.

Honda has created an all-new Insight. It is a much bigger car with four doors and is much more useful than its older version. It also brings new affordability to the hybrid segment.

"People in lower-income segments couldn't really even consider a hybrid as something that they could purchase," said Honda spokesman Chris Martin. "So what the Insight is looking to do is pioneer itself into a whole new demographic of buyers."

Advances in technology allowed /*Honda*/ to keep the price fairly low, around $20,000. And the Insight gets a combined EPA fuel economy rating of 41 miles per gallon.

Nearly everyone who sees the Insight seems to say it resembles a /*Toyota Prius*/. Honda says the shape is dictated by aerodynamic efficiency and that it actually mimics the original Insight.

One of the reasons hybrid vehicles have become so accepted by mainstream drivers is because they're like driving any other mainstream vehicle. The only difference is you're just using a lot less gasoline.

Not everyone buys a hybrid for gas mileage. Some just want a greener version of a vehicle that fits their lifestyle. /*Lexus*/ has introduced a new RX crossover SUV. The upcoming hybrid version improves upon the previous model.

"It offers much better acceleration, smoother acceleration and a more natural driving experience. And at the same time, it gets better fuel economy," said Paul Williamsen, Lexus spokesman.

The /*Lexus RX*/ hybrid gets 30 miles per gallon combined. The RX is not inexpensive. It is more than $50,000 with all the options. But many luxury buyers still want to use less fuel overall.

If you need even more size and luxury, /*Cadillac*/ is offering an /*Escalade Hybrid*/. The fuel economy improves to 20 miles per gallon, which is much better than the regular Escalade at 14 to 15.

Hybrids have gone from strange oddities to mainstream vehicles and the selection should continue to get better and better as more buyers ask for them.



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