2006 Honda Civic Hybrid

Since the all-new Civic Hybrid looks virtually identical to the standard Civic sedan, it doesn't broadcast its driver's green credentials as loudly as the Toyota Prius does. That's OK, though, because the Civic feels more coherent than the Prius, with superior body control and a better ride, even if it lacks the Toyota's versatile hatchback.

The Prius usually starts off solely under electric power, but when you turn the Civic's key, both the engine and the electric motor come to life, and only rarely--such as in steady-state, low-speed situations--does the engine cede the entire propulsion burden to the motor.

After 200 miles of mixed, cold-weather driving, our trip computer read 38 mpg, falling short of the EPA ratings of 49 city, 51 highway. That's still impressive, though, especially for a car that's better to drive than the Prius.

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