Rented a Civic Hybrid this evening, from Fox Rentals at San Jose airport. (Thanks, Lola, for letting me know about them! And thanks, Kam, for taking me to pick it up!) I was a little dubious about Fox, given that (a) I'd never heard of them, and (b) there are several reports on web forums of bad behavior on their part. But they didn't hassle me about using my own insurance, and they didn't bait-and-switch on me, and it sounds like they're not going to hassle me about tiny scratches and such on the car that were there when I got it (but I took a bunch of photos just in case). So most of the problems I read about don't seem to be an issue in this case.
Unfortunately, the decision of what hybrid to get continues to not be easy. This rental Civic Hybrid doesn't have the incredibly annoying loud high-pitched whine that the test-drive one did; also, the friends' Civic Hybrid that I got a brief ride in this evening doesn't have that whine. So apparently it was just the test-drive car. The dealer seemed to think it was normal, but he was fairly clueless about that car.
Also, the seat isn't as uncomfortable as the test-drive one was, and in fact the headrest is more comfortable than the one in the Prius I rented.
Visibility is great; much better than in the 2005 Prius. And so far I'm getting mileage roughly as good as in the Prius—low 40s. The dashboard displays are nicely integrated with a normal dashboard, rather than requiring a high-tech special screen and LCD graphics.
Unfortunately, somehow the car feels a little cramped. Everything feels a little too small, a little too close together. (Tomorrow I'll try to adjust the driver's seat better; that may help.) And something about the interior looks a little cheap to me, a little shoddy—the stereo system in particular just somehow looks/feels cheap to me. Not a matter of sound; just appearance. Which is silly; I'm sure I can replace the stereo if need be. A Civic Hybrid plus a really good stereo system would still be way less expensive than a Prius.
From the outside, the car looks like a normal car; nothing special, nothing high-tech. That's good in that it's less likely to attract unwanted attention (say, from thieves—though I remember hearing that the Civic non-Hybrid used to be the most commonly stolen car), but bad in that it doesn't look as cool.
Also, I wasn't sure that I cared about the seats not folding down, but a message on a mailing list reminded me obliquely that I do like to be able to do things like carry unfolded moving boxes in a car. Not to mention occasionally carrying my bicycle.
Waffle waffle. I prefer making decisions that are clear-cut, where one of the choices is obviously superior to the other(s) in all ways. I hate making decisions—especially big and expensive ones—where I know that either way I decide, I'm going to be unhappy with some aspect of the decision.
Ah, well. On the plus side: either way I decide, I'm going to be happy with some aspect of the decision.
Anyway, must go sleep.