Last week, we ran our latest Mileage Challenge featuring four ultra-fuel-efficient cars, and before that we rounded up six fuel-sippers to see which one was the best daily driver. But none of these reports put a brutal, real-life morning and evening commute to the test.
That’s exactly what I did in the new 2010 Honda Insight and 2010 Toyota Prius, the two most affordable hybrids on the road. We hear a lot of car shoppers say they buy hybrids to help save on their gas costs and cut down on emissions during their commute. But how did the two do in terms of fuel efficiency, comfort and entertainment for my often 90-minute morning commute and 45-minute afternoon commute? Let’s find out.
One thing our Mileage Challenge couldn’t take into account was morning cold starts and bumper-to-bumper traffic. Luckily, I could. One fresh morning I hopped into the Prius and headed to work via the infamous Kennedy Expressway. Here are the stats:
- 23.2 miles in a little over an hour
- Average speed: 20 mph
- Average mileage: 60.6 mpg
The Prius was a pleasant commute car with a nice sounding stereo that lacked an USB iPod interface, relatively comfortable seats and a sedate ride. Besides hitting that EV button, driving the Prius seemed like piloting any other car. At least in bumper-to-bumper traffic.
The afternoon commute went like this:
- 23.9 miles in about 45 minutes
- Average speed: 19 mph
- Average mileage: 55.0 mpg
The huge difference between the two commutes wasn’t the dip in mileage; it was how the Prius changed in demeanor. At high speeds, road and wind noise is much more audible. This remains my biggest knock on the Prius overall.
How did the Honda handle the same route?
Its first morning went like this:
- 23.6 miles in about 70 minutes
- No average speed display
- Average mileage: 43.1 mpg
However, the seats were nowhere near as comfortable as the Prius’ were. Our Insight was an EX model with a few minor upgrades that raised its price close to the Prius’ starting price, $21,300 and $22,000 respectively.
The ride home again was more wide open:
- 23.5 miles in about 40 minutes
- Average mileage: 45.3 mpg
What does this exercise mean to you, the potential hybrid buyer? If you have a commute with light traffic, the Insight will return better mileage than its EPA ratings of 40/43 mpg city/highway. Whether you deal with heavy or light traffic in your commute, the Prius has good mileage while providing a better atmosphere for the driver.