Sunday, March 01, 2009

Be vewy, vewy qwuiet! We're hunting hybrids!

I drive a 1996 Saturn I inherited from my late grandmother. The thing has no features (I'm the only left in America rolling down their own windows) and burns from cigarette holes in the upholstery (miss you, Grandma!). But it runs great and affords no car payment. G, however, hates the car and has been trying for 3 years to get me to buy a new car. I've resisted (did I mention I have no car payment)...until now. Now that Benjamin is on the way, I'm starting to care about the 13-year-old airbags (do they still even work?!) and the lack of LATCH system. As much as I love my Saturn (well, how free it is, anyway), it's time. New baby=new car!

So MIL & I headed out to the auto mall yesterday to check out some hybrids. G's really interested in getting a hybrid and I'm really interested in sat nav. Fortunately, these goals align nicely (if not cheaply). The first three cars to meet the criteria were the Toyota Camry Hybrid, the Honda Civic Hybrid, and the Nissan Altima Hybrid. I'll start by saying the Camry Hybrid is right out. It drove nicely, but there were precious few features for the price. Here's how I compare the other two:

Civic Hybrid Pros

  • Small car (that's a plus in my book).
  • More responsive handling.
  • USB outlet (for the connecting and charging the all-important iphone).
  • Best gas mileage of any hybrid.
  • Slightly better batter warranty (5 extra years, but no extra mileage).
  • Honda quality reputation.

Civic Hybrid Cons
  • Slightly cramped trying to crawl around the back seat.
  • Ride was slightly bumpy.

Altima Hybrid Pros
  • Cool key features (locks won't engage if the key is inside the car or trunk; If the battery is dead, you can plug the key into the car and still start it).
  • Front crash protection (engine sits on bars that drop underneath the vehicle compartment in the event of a severe front-end collision).
  • Much roomier interior.
  • Rear-view backing camera (so cool, even *I* can back up the car, which I am notoriously bad at).
  • Bose stereo sound.
  • Rear air vents (will be important to Benjamin).
  • Electic seat adjusters, with really good lumbar support.
  • A smoother ride than the Civic Hybrid.

Altima Hybrid Cons
  • $7K more expensive than the Civic Hybrid.
  • Oddly small trunk space.
  • It is a bigger car, and so generally more difficult to maneuver.
So there you go. I guess now I have to drag G out to test drive at least these two. Anybody have any other suggestions for cars we should be trying?


At 3:00 PM , Blogger WineRiot said...

Well, I can say that I drove a Honda for years (as you know) and never had any problems with it. Real reliable cars, reliable maintenance technicians.

However, I've also never looked for a car with a baby in mind, and I rarely even went into the backseat of my car. Looking at the features you listed, it seems like the Altima would be the better choice. And on a basic level, the not-as-smooth ride would ultimately just annoy me.

Also our friendly neighborhood umpire had an Altima once. Survived a crash in it too, remember? You could ask him how the performance/upkeep was on it.


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