Which Hybrid Is Best for Your Buck?

Cars.com has put together a list that identifies which hybrids, based on size, offer the best value for the money.

"Even with money saved on gas, and federal tax incentives to defray purchase costs, hybrids are still more expensive than conventional cars," said Cars.com Editor-in-Chief Patrick Olsen.

In a Class by Itself: 2009 Toyota Prius
MSRP: $22,000 (2009)
Gas mileage (city/highway — combined): 48/45 — 46
Efficiency-cost rating: 2.09
Prius is ahead of the 2010 Honda Insight hybrid (2.07), which is a smaller car. A few gas-only models — including the two-seat Smart ForTwo (3.0), the Nissan Versa 1.6 sedan (2.9) and the Toyota Yaris (2.62) — are affordable and efficient enough to outrank the Prius, but they can't compare in terms of size.

Compact Cars: 2010 Honda Insight
MSRP: $19,800
Gas mileage (city/highway — combined): 40/43 — 41
Efficiency-cost rating: 2.07
2010 Insight's rating beats that of the Chevrolet Cobalt LS (1.92), which has the best efficiency-cost ranking among cars in the traditional gas-only compact class. Though it's not as nice inside, the Nissan Versa hatchback and its low, low price of $13,100 compete in the subcompact class. The Versa is, however, technically large enough inside to be called a compact, and the base model has a jaw-dropping 2.14 rating.

Midsize Car: 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid
MSRP: $27,270 - $1,700 federal tax credit = $25,570
Gas mileage (city/highway — combined): 41/36 — 39
Efficiency-cost rating: 1.53
2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid comes in well ahead of the 2009 Toyota Camry Hybrid, which has an efficiency-cost rating of 1.30. The generous federal tax credit applies if the car is bought by Sept. 30. The credit decreases to $850, until it expires March 31, 2010. The Fusion is the only car model on the market whose hybrid ranks higher in efficiency cost than its gas-only version (roughly 1.35). The Fusion Hybrid's sibling, the Mercury Milan Hybrid, has a higher sticker price that ranks it well below the Fusion Hybrid, at 1.35.

Compact SUV: 2009 Ford Escape Hybrid FWD
MSRP: $29,645 - $1,500 federal tax credit = $28,145
Gas mileage (city/highway — combined): 34/31 — 32
Efficiency-cost rating: 1.14
The Ford Escape gets the compact-SUV slot because it's priced lower than its sibling, the Mercury Mariner Hybrid (1.12). The Mazda Tribute Hybrid actually ranks higher (1.16) due to a lower starting price, but it's sold only in California. All three models are good choices. They are the most efficient SUVs on the market, though the recently improved non-hybrid Escape and Tribute outrank them in efficiency cost (1.22 for the Tribute), as does the miserly Jeep Patriot (1.43).

Midsize SUV: 2009 Toyota Highlander Hybrid AWD
MSRP: $34,700
Gas mileage (city/highway — combined): 27/25 — 26
Efficiency-cost rating: 0.75
Being the only midsize non-luxury hybrid SUV helps the Highlander Hybrid land this position. Its size and price show in its sub-zero efficiency-cost rating.

Pickup Truck: 2009 Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid RWD
MSRP: $38,020 - $2,200 federal tax credit = $35,820
Gas mileage (city/highway — combined): 21/22 — 21
Efficiency-cost rating: 0.59
As a full-size pickup truck, the Silverado Hybrid has lower mileage and a lower efficiency-cost rating than the smaller hybrids, but that doesn't change the end result: a significant improvement in efficiency over non-hybrid trucks, especially in city driving, where the difference is almost 50 percent.

Luxury Car: 2009 Lexus GS 450h
MSRP: $56,400
Gas mileage (city/highway — combined): 22/25 — 23
Efficiency-cost rating: 0.41
It's very likely that the 2010 Lexus HS 250h, a small and affordable hybrid model due to go on sale late this summer, will run away with the luxury car distinction, but for now that honor goes to the hybrid version of Lexus' 2009 GS sedan, which is a midsize car. The GS 450h beats the gas-only GS 460 V-8 (0.38), but it can't touch the V-6-powered GS 350's 0.49 rating.

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