Base price: $22,220
Fuel cost: $5292
Cost of ownership: $23,028
Even low-weight, small-engined subcompacts can't put up fuel economy numbers like the Toyota Prius hybrid's. Rated at 48 mpg in the city and 45 mpg on the highway, the Prius will save you more than $2000 in fuel costs over five years compared to these other cars. Because the Prius has a higher price of entry than its competitors here, you'll end up paying more to finance the vehicle, one reason it hasn't won the cost-of-ownership battle.
The Prius may not be quick on the straights or spirited through turns, but it is certainly a respectable driver for around-town jaunts and highway cruising. What it lacks in driving dynamics, it makes up for with the electronic energy display on the dash that turns feather-footed acceleration into a game. While the Prius may sticker $7000 higher than many of our subcompacts, that doesn't translate into more style or comfort. Toyota's money clearly went into the hybrid powertrain, leaving the dash a dull expanse of plastic. Several of the budget subcompacts here have way more style inside than the Prius. Still, many people will appreciate that the Prius offers more interior space for moving people and gear than the small cars while still returning the best fuel economy.