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Civic vs. Prius


Here's a table comparing my car options: Honda Civic hybrid vs. Toyota Prius. Blue indicates the side I prefer in each comparison. (The color may not show up in LJ, and may not show up in some browsers even on my journal page, 'cause I'm using slightly nonstandard HTML; sorry.) In some comparisons, I have no particular preference. Unfortunately, it's not as easy as just counting up which side has more preferred choices, 'cause some of these items are much less important than others. Still, I figured it would be a useful exercise.

good visibility from driver's seatrelatively poor visibility from driver's seat
38ish mpg in my tests44ish mpg in my tests
rear seats don't fold downrear seats fold down
seat slightly crampedseat fine
headrest fineheadrest slightly annoying
looks like a normal carlooks sleek and stylish and futuristic
elegant dashboard displayless-aesthetically-pleasing dashboard display
speedometer numbered only in 20mph intervalsspeedometer shows precise speed
odometer increment is 1/10 mileodometer increment is 1 mile
low-tech controls/dashboardfancy high-tech controls/dashboard
lower pricehigher price
fits easily in compact car spacesfeels a little cramped in compact car spaces
probably available nowprobably 2-8 weeks' wait
nice blue nice black or maybe pale blue
automatic (CVT) or manualCVT only
smooth starts and stops occasional engine roughness at stops

I'm sure I'm missing some things, but that'll do for a start.


Hey Jed --

I was told by someone In The Know the other day that it'd be a good idea to wait a year (if possible) before buying a hybrid. Prices will come down, tech will be better. Etc.

They said Toyota's the better option at this point and would probably provide better service down the road. This person used to be in the auto industry and is pretty plugged in... for what that's worth.

Neat, thanks for the write up. I'm considering a hybrid for my next car, but it will be 2-4 years, so I'm not in any hurry. But I like knowing what's out there.

Cargo / luggage space?

Does the Prius odometer do 1/10 mile for trips if not for total?

I'd recommend against pale blue for cars in general. Some people seem to find that color car invisible (or hateful) and aim for the car.

re comfortable seating-
When I bought my current car I didn't realize that the driver's seat does not go back far enough for my comfort, nor does the steering wheel adjust. It's not enough to make me ditch the car, but I notice it every time I drive, and it ensures that I will never, ever love this car. It's especially irritating on longer drives.

However, rental cars often get very hard usage, and are usually bottom of the barrel for options. Is it possible to get different seats/headrests?


Now that you have done this much research, the quickest and best way to avoid the almost inevitable paralysis by analysis is a coin flip. As the saying goes, you'll know which way you want the coin to land while it's in the air.

The Prius has two trip odometers which both display tenths of a mile. I use the first one and haven't touched the second one, so I effectively have tenths of a mile for the full odometer as well as a single trip odometer.

A few other factors you might keep in mind. Also keep in mind that when facing the same decision 5 months ago I came down emphatically in one direction, so I'm not unbiased.

The Civic uses some special parts which could be annoying for maintanence purposes. In particular there's one part that has to be replaced every time you change the oil. It's not expensive, but it will add $5-$10 each time and pretty much requires you to go to a Honda dealer. In addition they use special low resistence tires.

Consumer Reports gave both cars fairly strong ratings on reliability, but the Prius was slightly higher.

Also from CR, they rated the Civic as somewhat weaker on highway acceleration. The Prius isn't going to win any drag races, but it does fine accelerating on the highway.

Gwenda: Thanks for the info! I was planning on waiting a while before getting a hybrid; sadly, the loss of my old car made things rather more urgent. It's possible to get by without a car in the Bay Area (especially if you live as close to work as I do), but not easy, and tends to involve either a lot of sitting around waiting for slow and irregular buses and trains, or a lot of imposing on friends to drive you places. Or a level of long-distance bicycling that I'm not up for.

Anyway, the first Toyota dealer I talked with indicated that the next major revision to the Prius won't be for another three to five years. He may've been wrong or lying, trying to pick up a sale, but they did just go through a pretty major revision for the 2004 model. I did consider waiting a few months for the 2006 model, but I suspect there'll be a long waiting list for that, and I don't think I would want one of the first ones off the line for a given model anyway.

Various folks: I should've made clearer that this table may not give an accurate view of the two cars for everyone; there are aspects of it (like seat comfort in particular) that are very specific to me, and my choice of which side is better on several of those rows is probably somewhat idiosyncratic.

David: Cargo space is much larger on the Prius; I didn't mention it 'cause cargo space per se is rarely an issue for me. But the fact that the seats fold down on the Prius should make it possible for me to fit my bike inside, which definitely would've been impossible in the Civic due to lack of fold-down seats. (And a relatively small trunk.)

Odometers: Thanks, all, for the trip-odometer explanation! I was indeed using the trip odometer on the Civic and the full odometer on the Prius; so yeah, that line of the table is completely wrong. Now that I know, I'll probably use the trip odometer for everything. And I'll start using it in rental cars, too; knowing about that would've saved me a fair bit of annoyance over the years. Ah, well; glad to know about it now.

Mya: Not sure whether it's possible to change headrests; may look into that. Also thinking that some kind of seat cover may improve comfort. Sorry to hear about your car's uncomfortable seating; no good. :(

Coin flipping: See coin-flipping entry.

Jeff: Thanks for the info!

The Prius 2006 is a slick car but the seats are HORRIBLE. The foam in the seats is SO HARD that it basically has no give. If you weight more than 250 Lbs, it may work for you. If you are like me (160 Lbs) get ready for some uncomfortable ride. The seat is so hard that driving the car for just 15 minutes will give me a back ache!

I agree that the seating is not just horrible but tortuous to drive! 25,000 down the hole.

Fwiw, I find my 2005 Prius's seats pretty comfortable these days. I don't think there was a major change to the seats for the 2006 model (though I could be wrong), so I'm guessing it's just different tastes in seats.

But if you think it's the 2006 model in particular, I suspect there are lots of people (and dealers) who would be quite happy to trade you a 2005 Prius for your 2006 one.

My 2002 Prius odometer only shows whole miles. This is inconvenient when trying to follow GPS instructions such as "proceed 1.4 miles."

Does anyone know how to adjust the odometer to show tenths of miles?

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