Five New 2012 Hybrid Cars To Consider Steering Clear Of

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2011 Lexus HS 250h

2011 Lexus HS 250h

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Say "hybrid car," and most people think Toyota Prius.

The Japanese maker has sold roughly 3 million Prius models worldwide since 1997, which is more than half of all the hybrids in the world.

The 2012 Toyota Prius remains the gold standard among hybrid-electric vehicles, with three of its four separate models delivering a combined EPA gas-mileage rating of 50 mpg.

But there are more than a dozen other hybrids sold in the U.S. as well, and the technology will expand across many more vehicles in coming years as fuel-efficiency standards rise.

With that in mind, it's worth highlighting some hybrid models you may wish to think twice about before you sign on the dotted line.

2012 BMW ActiveHybrid 7

One of BMW's first two hybrid efforts--the other is the now-discontinued ActiveHybrid X6--the hybrid 7-Series sedan suffered from an unwieldy name, marginal gas mileage, and lumpy driving behavior that belied its "ultimate driving machine" image.

BMW skewed its first hybrid system toward boosting power, rather than improving fuel efficiency. In fact, the company touted it as "the world's fastest hybrid vehicle" at the time, with a 0-to-60-mph time of just 4.7 seconds.

2011 BMW ActiveHybrid 7

2011 BMW ActiveHybrid 7

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The EPA rated the ActiveHybrid 7Li model at 20 mpg combined--no better than the (less powerful) conventional 740Li model the same year.

The hybrid's 15-kilowatt (22-hp) electric motor wasn't nearly powerful enough to move the full-size luxury sedan on its own. It could only contribute additional torque, restart the 455-hp 4.4-liter twin-turbo V-8 engine when the car moved away from a stop, and recharge the lithium-ion battery pack under braking.

We found that the car slowed noticeably when lifting off the throttle under 25 mph, "as if it had driven into mud that was dragging it down," when we tested the ActiveHybrid 7 two years ago."Worse," we wrote, "there's a perceptible second phase of recharging in which the car slows even quicker."

That's just not how a big, expensive BMW should behave.

BMW agrees. For 2013, the ActiveHybrid 7 is being updated with an entirely new powertrain that's shared with hybrid models of the 5-Series and 3-Series as well. It has a more powerful 40-kW (55-hp) electric motor and can move the car purely under electric power at low speeds, paired to a twin-turbo six-cylinder engine.

The update makes orphans of the 2011 and 2012 BMW ActiveHybrid 7. With fuel economy no better than a non-hybrid 7-Series, and notably worse driving behavior, we see no reason to put the 2012 model on your shopping list.

2012 Honda CR-Z

2012 Honda CR-Z

2012 Honda CR-Z

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Fans of the legendary Honda CRX two-seater sports coupe really wanted to love the 2011 Honda CR-Z hybrid coupe.

But relatively few do.

The CR-Z is a perplexity, a mixed message. It's neither a light, lithe, roller-skate sports coupe like the 1984-1992 CRX, nor an ultra-economical hybrid with breathtaking gas mileage like the original 2000-2006 Honda Insight (rated at 53 mpg with a five-speed six-speed manual).

Instead, the hybrid system and a 700-pound weight gain to comply with modern crash safety standards (compared to the CRX) make it neither particularly fast nor particularly sporty.

We found it fun to drive, but only somewhat--and more because of its small size than any real sports-car character.

Honda does get points for offering the only manual-transmission hybrid model currently on the market. You can order the CR-Z with a six-speed manual as well as Honda's continuously variable transmission (CVT).

Gas mileage, at 37 mpg combined, is better with the CVT. The manual is rated at 34 mpg, little better than many four-door compact sedans with far more room and carrying capacity.

As a two-seater, the hybrid CR-Z is already a specialized vehicle. It's also the sole two-seat hybrid sports coupe on the market.

It will find some buyers, but it's not a very practical car. And its gas mileage isn't that special either, which puts it firmly on the "disappointing" side of our ledger.

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Comments (4)
  1. John the original Insight Gen 1 had a "five" speed and was the opposite of other hybrids in being more economical out of town. Unlike the CRZ CVT hybrid the gen 1 manual was more economical than its CVT sister car. This was mostly due to the manual car having a lean burn facility where the CVT didn't. The lean burn car had an air fuel ratio of 25.8 to 1 (on normal cars its around 14 to 1) so a lot less fuel was injected but the trade off was higher Nox.
    I guess my point is there are many variables which get left out of articles that dictate the efficiency between the hybrids and it not always down to the type of hybrid. comment.

  2. I still dont think it's fair on the Lexus RX 450h. that's something that needs more testing and telling people to stay away from it simple because of getting 26 out of 29 not to mention that mpg is a personal matter and with all cars mpg may very .. Is a little over the top half the time people with this car won't b spending their time driving in a mountain with so many steep hills as the Catskills and on the highway or driving above 45 unless on the highway this is a car that gives u so much more than 29 combine mpg if u had other complains then ok that's good but the only complain is a personal complain how u know other drivers isn't getting a combine of 31.2 mpg point

  3. I think that the Honda Insight is much better hybrid than reported. Better crash test and MPG scores than the CR-Z. Better MPG than advertised, I get 45 MPG overall, and 49+ on highway in cruise. Does not have the room or heavy fill of the regular Toyota Prius, but it is more fun to drive and does not have that huge middle console that kills front leg room comfort. Is the Prius a better car? Yes. but it is also at least $4,000 more. Plus driving in electric only EV mode on the Toyota lasts about 10 seconds or up 25 mph, not really all that impressive or effective in the real world.

  4. I tried to make a chart with 3 categories: hybirds, plugin hybird & electric. Across the top of the page it read: Manufacturer; 2013 cost; miles on electric, (of course this would be only for plugin hybirds; totals miles. Found it very hard to get info---wasted the day.

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