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.
Drivers may need time to adjust to how the Prius handles. At low speeds, in electrical mode, it feels like youre 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 youre saving and which engine gas or electrical or both dominates.
Worst feature: Despite its attributes, the computer screen distracts the drivers attention from the road.
As for the Insight, Honda sales representative Richard Anderson said he believes the cars 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 its a zippy car," Anderson said.
The Insights futuristic look is a product of its flashy colors and an aerodynamic design that enhances fuel efficiency by decreasing drag.
The Insights 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 cars weight, road noises and sensations are amplified at higher speeds.
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