There are a lot of different hybrid cars out there, but it should come as no surprise that compact hybrids offer by far the most impressive fuel mileage on the market. The combination of a small, lightweight platform with a gasoline / electric drivetrain allows access to lofty fuel efficiency numbers without trading off too much performance in the pursuit of miles per gallon. There are a number of different compact hybrid options currently available, with prices ranging from entry-level all the way up to luxury, which means that there is sure to be a battery-assisted compact automobile out there that will match your particular tastes.
Let's take a look at eight compact hybrid cars that are worthy of a test drive.
1. 2011 Honda CR-Z
The 2011 Honda CR-Z is an unusual entry into the compact hybrid world. The Honda CR-Z is a two-seat compact coupe that is designed to offer sportier handling than most other hybrid cars, and its styling is a throwback to the popular Honda CRX that debuted in the 1980s. The CR-Z's nimble cornering capability makes it a fun ride even at low speeds, and with a 25 cubic foot cargo area waiting under the hatch it bolsters its two-seat capacity with full-size sedan-like storage space.
The 2011 Honda CR-Z features a 1.5-liter, four-cylinder engine that is matched with a single electric motor. This version of Honda's Integrated Motor Assist system puts out 122 horsepower. Transmission choices for the coupe include a six-speed manual as well as a continuously-variable automatic unit that offers "virtual" gear ratios that can be accessed via steering wheel-mounted shift paddles. Fuel economy for the Honda CR-Z checks in at 35-mpg city and 39-mpg highway.
2. 2011 Lexus CT 200h
The 2011 Lexus CT 200h attempts to balance an engaging driving experience with premium-level luxury features and options. The Lexus CT 200h offers equipment such as leather seats, a voice-controlled navigation system and adaptive cruise control. It also incorporates a suspension design that is intended to provide excellent road feedback and help keep the compact hatchback glued to the road.
The 2011 Lexus CT 200h comes with a 1.8-liter, four-cylinder engine that works with a tandem of electric motors in order to produce 134 horsepower. A continuously-variable automatic transmission is the only gearbox available with the Lexus, and fuel economy for the comfortable compact shows as an impressive 43-mpg in stop and go driving and 40-mpg during highway cruising.
3. 2011 Toyota Prius
The 2011 Toyota Prius needs almost no introduction, as the vehicle has been at the forefront of the compact hatchback scene for many years. The Toyota Prius might be small, but it's a very practical automobile thanks to its reasonable interior volume and its 21.6 cubic feet of total cargo capacity. The Prius can also be had with a surprising number of high end features when ordering the upper trim levels, adding a touch of class to its efficient reputation.
The 2011 Toyota Prius makes use of Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive system, which in the Prius squeezes 134 horsepower out of two electric motors and a 1.8-liter, four-cylinder gasoline engine. Managed by a unique continuously-variable automatic transmission, the Prius' drivetrain offers the best hybrid fuel economy in the business: 51-mpg around town and 48-mpg on the highway.
4. 2011 Chevrolet Volt
Some might not consider the 2011 Chevrolet Volt to be a true hybrid, as it is advertised as a pure electric car that only makes use of its gasoline engine as a range-extender once battery power has been completely drained. Yes, it's true that the Chevrolet Volt is designed to be plugged in to the wall in order to charge its lithium ion battery pack, but once its 40 mile range is exhausted the compact Volt's traditional internal combustion engine springs to life to provide another 300 miles of driving range. The Volt's complex drivetrain offers up 149 horsepower, and while it doesn't come with a traditional transmission it does offer regenerative braking in order to help replenish its battery's charge while out on the road.
5. 2011 Lexus HS 200h
The 2011 Lexus HS 200h offers a luxury compromise for compact sedan shoppers. The Lexus HS 200h provides a well-tuned chassis that insulates driver and passengers from rough pavement and road noise, and a host of premium features such as heated and ventilated leather seats, a navigation system, a head-up display and a long list of high tech safety features coddle occupants to the degree expected out of a Lexus automobile.
The 2011 Lexus HS 200h makes use of a 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine that can also count on two battery-powered electric motors in order to help it produce 187 horsepower. With so much output on tap, the HS 200h displays better than average acceleration for the compact hybrid segment. A continuously-variable automatic transmission is standard with the car, and fuel economy shows as 35-mpg city and 34-mpg highway.
6. 2011 Honda Insight
The 2011 Honda Insight is another finely-honed fuel efficiency weapon. The Honda Insight offers seating for five and 31.5 cubic feet of total cargo space with the second row of accommodations folded forward, which gives it a slight practical edge when compared against some of its compact hybrid rivals. The Honda Insight lacks a full EV mode, but it does come with an affordable price that puts it on the radar of many deal-seeking compact car fans.
The 2011 Honda Insight's drivetrain consists of a 1.3-liter, four-cylinder gasoline engine and a single electric motor that team up to provide 98 horsepower. The Integrated Motor Assist system installed in the car features a continuously-variable automatic transmission, and fuel economy for the small hatch is rated at 40-mpg city and 43-mpg highway.
7. 2012 Toyota Prius V
The 2012 Toyota Prius v is a puffed-up version of the standard Toyota Prius that promises more interior room without pushing the vehicle out of the compact category. The Toyota Prius V wagon can be thought of as the family-oriented member of the Prius family, and its spacious back seat and 67.3 cubic feet of total cargo space make it a legitimate threat to steal away compact crossover buyers.
The 2012 Toyota Prius V features the same gasoline / electric Hybrid Synergy Drive system found in the traditional version of the Prius, which means it offers up 134 horsepower matched with a continuously-variable automatic transmission. Despite being larger than its sibling, the Prius V still returns excellent fuel economy numbers of 44-mpg in city driving and 40-mpg during highway cruising.
8. 2011 Honda Civic Hybrid
The 2011 Honda Civic Hybrid maximizes fuel economy without subtracting much from the formula that has made the gasoline-powered Civic such a popular compact car. The Honda Civic Hybrid maintains the standard Civic's comfortable interior dimensions, and while it might lose a bit of trunk space to accommodate its battery pack it gains options such as heated leather seats as well as a navigation system.
The 2011 Honda Civic Hybrid is motivated by a 1.3-liter, four-cylinder engine that works alongside an electric motor to churn out 110 horsepower. Managed by a continuously-variable automatic transmission, the Civic Hybrid's drivetrain allows it to post fuel economy of 40-mpg city and 45-mpg highway.
You may also be interested in...
2012 Ford Fusion Hybrid: Video Road Test and Review
5 Most Fuel-Efficient 2012 Hybrid Cars
A Report from Japan: Driving Honda’s All New Line-up of Engines, Transmissions and Technologies
2012 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid: Video Road Test and Review
2012 Buick Lacrosse eAssist Hybrid: Video Road Test and Review
2012 Honda Insight: Video Road Test and Review