Monday, February 12, 2001
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Posted on: Monday, February 12, 2001

It may take time to get used to driving hybrid

Dealers confident in hybrid cars

By Scott Ishikawa
Advertiser Staff Writer

We took the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight for test drives and found the cars had the feel and power of more common gas-powered cars.

Toyota Prius

Drivers may need time to adjust to how the Prius handles. At low speeds, in electrical mode, it feels like you’re cruising in neutral. When the gas kicks in at 25 to 30 mph, the transition is smoother than shifting gears in a gas-powered car.

Acceleration is quick enough to help drivers weave into moving traffic, and the car holds its own at freeway speeds.

The Prius is six inches shorter than a Toyota Corolla but has more interior room.

Best feature: A computer screen in the center of the dashboard tells you how much gas you’re saving and which engine — gas or electrical or both — dominates.

Worst feature: Despite its attributes, the computer screen distracts the driver’s attention from the road.

Honda Insight

As for the Insight, Honda sales representative Richard Anderson said he believes the car’s design is responsible for its great gas mileage. The Insight weighs less than 1,900 pounds, thanks in part to its small gas engine and 2.4-inch-wide electrical engine.

"It may not be the most powerful car, but it’s a zippy car," Anderson said.

The Insight’s futuristic look is a product of its flashy colors and an aerodynamic design that enhances fuel efficiency by decreasing drag.

The Insight’s two-passenger capacity and availability only in manual transmission may limit its appeal.

Best feature: The gas engine quits and lets the electric engine take over when the Insight idles.

Worst feature: Because Honda sacrificed insulation to reduce the car’s weight, road noises and sensations are amplified at higher speeds.

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