Is the Prius really the top dog in the hybrid electric world anymore? We’re not so sure.

20 years of anything is a great run, and the Toyota Prius turns 20 this December. It has come a long way since its 4-door sedan days with the new 5-door hatchback models sporting new technology and safety features that engineers could only dream of back in 1997.

It’s hard to be the best at anything for 20 years, though – and competition is looming on the horizon for the Prius. Volvo recently announced that they might not produce any more Diesel engines moving forward (, instead focusing on production of electric and hybrid engines.

Thanks to higher-than-normal gas prices in 2013, 3% of the new car sales in the US were hybrid electrics. Today there are 4 million hybrid electric cars zooming around the US, and a great many of them are Priuses – almost 1.8 million of them in total (and 26% of those being sold in California) – but that’s not to say an underdog isn’t quickly approaching.

Toyota’s Camry Hybrid, a more “traditional” looking car, is the second-most popular hybrid electric in the US with 346,000 sold, Honda’s Civic Hybrid has 235,000, and Ford’s Fusion Hybrid is next up with 166,000.

So what accounts for “the best” and “the worst” when it comes to hybrid electric cars? A few things:

  • What car is it replacing? Hybrid electric owners are much less likely to re-purchase another hybrid electric in the future (only 35% of hybrid owners repurchase another hybrid car, according to a 2012 study – – typically this is because once the honeymoon wears off, it’s down to the car to be just as fun to drive as your last one. Without that “get-up-and-go” that happens as drivetrains and efficiency improves, older model hybrids are bound to be left in the dust. Newer model hybrids are zippy by comparison, some emphasizing acceleration and sporty driving modes over overall efficiency – enough to be indistinguishable from their combustion-only counterparts.
  • Technology moves fast, and hybrid cars tend to be some of the most technologically equipped. Recent developments in phone technology and integration options (like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto) along with charging options like Qi integrated wireless charging mean that the devices you use every day can play well with your car, as long as your car is equipped! Toyota has a tendency to roll their own technology solutions rather than integrate with industry standards like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, while still offering BlueTooth connectivity so the core functionality still works. Drivers who are connected to their phones off of the roads should be hesitant before diving into a car that can’t support a hands-free mentality for their chosen device. Also, better-equipped cars lead to more loyalty and a more comfortable ride.
  • Beyond fuel savings, environmental concerns can be a huge factor for hybrid owners. This hasn’t gone unnoticed by car manufacturers, such as Hyundai with their new Ioniq hybrid – built utilizing eco-friendly materials to strengthen and lighten interior trim such as sugar cane, volcanic stone, powdered wood, and recycled plastic.
  • Safety is paramount: between blind-spot detection, rear-view cameras, adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency breaking, and more… car safety features are advancing and adapting quickly, seemingly marching at break-neck speed toward self-driving modes (such as Tesla’s autopilot mode).

Ultimately a car is such a personal component that your own unique needs and wants will decide which is the “best” or “worst” for you.
If we had to nudge you toward our own idea of “best”, we’d recommend checking out the 2017 Toyota Prius and the 2017 Hyundai Ioniq for test drives. The Prius is the battle-tested veteran with lots of refinement. The Hyundai Ioniq is a newcomer, but the technology and convenience suite can’t be overlooked.

Best or Worst – What do you think?

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