2017 Toyota Prius
The Prius has long been the face of the hybrid segment and along the way developed a cult following of eco-conscious consumers. It remains an extremely efficient five-seat mid-size hatchback — regular models get 52 mpg in combined driving, according to the EPA, while the Eco version gets 56 mpg combined — and with its redesign for the 2016 model year, the Prius addressed its biggest driving-comfort shortcomings, widening the appeal of an already popular model.
Its gas-electric drivetrain features a 1.8-liter four-cylinder gas engine and electric motor that make a combined 121 horsepower and drive the front wheels through a continuously variable automatic transmission. The cargo area measures 24.6 cubic feet and a standard 60/40-split folding backseat increases the car’s versatility. There’s no shortage of safety features, either, with standard forward collision warning with pedestrian detection and automatic emergency braking, among others.
Driving a hybrid has sometimes meant driving compromises, but the Malibu Hybrid isn't one of those. The hybrid drivetrain is very well done, delivering smooth power, and brake-pedal feel is good, too; that's sometimes rare with hybrids and electric cars. With a comfortable ride and quiet interior, the Malibu Hybrid is a great place to let the miles pass between stops for gas. Those stops will be infrequent, too, since the mid-size sedan gets an EPA-estimated 49/43/46 mpg city/highway/combined. A roomy cabin with a backseat that's big enough to comfortably carry adults is another plus.
Whether you get the standard manual transmission or the optional continuously variable automatic, the Fit is an efficient hatchback: It's rated at 32 mpg combined with the manual and up to 36 mpg combined with the CVT. Nimble handling makes it ideally suited to navigating city traffic, as does its available LaneWatch camera system, which gives you a wide-angle view of the right side of the car when making right turns. There's also its innovative second-row Magic Seat, which can be configured different ways to suit varying cargo-carrying needs, whether you need to haul a bike or a flat-screen TV.