Have Hybrid Cars Finally Moved Beyond Stereotypes?

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2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid, Los Angeles, August 2012

2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid, Los Angeles, August 2012

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There was a time when anyone who drove a hybrid car--especially a Toyota Prius--was viewed with distain by the majority of other road users. 

They were seen as aloof, over-privileged, and perhaps, thanks to a certain episode of South Park, smug about their car buying decision. 

But with more hybrids than ever before on the market, have hybrid cars broken through their own stereotypes?

And do people who drive them no-longer conform to the old image of hybrid drivers?

Yes, and here’s why.

The Prius has grown up

Although Toyota’s first generation Prius sedan and second generation Prius hatchback offered impressive gas mileage, many car buyers disliked their high-tech dashboards, underpowered engines, and extremely light power-steering. 

The 3rd generation Toyota Prius--launched in 2010--improved on the flaws of earlier models, and became the first Prius hybrid mainstream buyers were happy to drive. 

It offered more power, a more conventional interior, and the best gas milage of any Prius to date. 

2012 Toyota Prius V

2012 Toyota Prius V

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By the time the Prius family expanded earlier this year with the 2012 Prius V, 2012 Prius C and 2012 Prius Plug-in Hybrid, more people than ever before were happy to drive a hybrid.

Motorsport has made hybrid technology cool

When the Honda Insight and Toyota Prius first debuted, most motorsport teams weren’t interested in hybrid engine technology.

But thanks to systems like KERS, hybrid car technology has seeped into everything from Formula One to Drag Racing. 

Earlier this year, a hybrid car even won the famous Le Mans 24-Hour endurance race

As with other automotive technologies, motorsport’s involvement in hybrid technology not only helps improve it, but it helps to raise its profile.

Variety makes picking a hybrid easier

At one point, if you wanted a hybrid car you had to choose between the compact Toyota Prius, and the equally uninspiring Honda Insight. 

Now, with everything from compact cars like the Prius C through to luxury cars and even SUVs like the Porsche Cayenne Hybrid, car buyers have a lot more choice than they once did. 

It also means they can choose a hybrid car which suits their needs, rather than just their gas mileage requirements. 

With more hybrid car variety, hybrid cars have become a much more valid vehicle choice for those looking for a new car than they once were. 

Hybrid cars don’t look strange any more

Finally, and most importantly, not all hybrid cars look like hybrid cars any more. 

2013 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid

2013 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid

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And by that, we mean weird, futuristic vehicles designed to cut through the air with the lowest drag possible. 

Take the 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid for example, or the 2013 Lexus CT200h. 

Neither look like the stereotypical Prius of days gone by, and both have conventional interiors too, making them far more appealing to someone making the jump from a traditional gasoline car to a hybrid. 

And in the case of the 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid, its performance, load carrying capabilities, and even gas mileage are enough to give more traditionally-styled hybrids a tough time on the dealer lot. 

Do you think hybrids are finally cool? Do you think other road users view hybrid owners with distain, or envy? 

Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.


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Comments (7)
  1. With the overall percentage of hybrids on the road still very low, I think you'd find the majority are still misinformed and uninformed. Stereotypes prevail.

  2. Nikki, I doubt many people view hybrid owners with envy, but I do think they view them as MPG conscious. We all know that we have to help reduce petroleum use, and do it with SCALE. 100 MPG EV cars that have no sales volume (other than Government) still look silly. Hybrids themselves are here to stay, they are an MPG enhancer just like start-stop technology and turbos. They are mainstream and a way of signaling that you are trying to show leadeership.

  3. I bet you that you weren't saying this 10 years ago.

    Hybrids were viewed with same critical eyes 10 years ago as EVs today...

  4. Saw a red C-Max Energi on the road last night and a white C-Max Hybrid this morning...

    It looks like those C-Max are definitly quicker than the Prius...

  5. Hybrids and EV's are viewed with the same negative view today that CARS were viewed in the early 1900's. (why don't you just get a better horse?)

  6. It doesn't bother me what the car looks like, but the C-Max has decent storage and fits my 6ft height better in the driver's seat. We considered the Prius V, but the cost, after tax credit, is more than the C-Max Energi. We ordered the Energi instead. My blog on the Energi choice is cmaxchat.com

  7. It won't change until the "icon" of Hybrids change from Prius to something more fun and sporty...

    C-Max might have a chance of accomplishing that.

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