1. 2006 Lexus RX 400h
The good: Fast acceleration; unencumbered LCD and separate audio display; versatile rear-seat entertainment system.
The bad: Grainy LCD map display; no factory option for surround sound or satellite radio; notched feeling in electric power steering.
The bottom line: As the first luxury SUV hybrid, the Lexus RX 400h makes a good first impression with its power, its fuel efficiency, and its technology.
The good: The 2006 Honda Civic Hybrid includes the best voice-recognition system we've seen in a car. It has futuristic styling both inside and out, and the audio system accepts PC cards and has an auxiliary input jack.
The bad: Acceleration is decidedly underwhelming in the 2006 Honda Civic Hybrid. The car doesn't let you forget that it has a hybrid power train, and there is no Bluetooth cell phone integration.
The bottom line: The cabin of the 2006 Honda Civic Hybrid catapults the driver into a cool future where voice commands operate navigation and audio, but the rackety engine and the less-than-smooth power train serve as a reminder that hybrid development is still in its early stages.
The good: Powerful hybrid system; extremely low emissions; comfortable driving experience.
The bad: High initial cost; limited in-dash electronics.
The bottom line: The Highlander Hybrid delivers efficient power and drives better than the average SUV, but it skimps on dashboard gadgets.
The good: Best-of-breed gas mileage; clear, simple instruments and controls; solid support options.
The bad: Horrendous stereo speakers; compromised rear visibility; lacks digital entertainment and GPS navigation options; noisy.
The bottom line: The Honda Insight gets best-of-breed gas mileage, but its lack of digital comforts and cabin room constrains its uses.
The good: Smooth power transfer; Bluetooth and GPS navigation options; excellent gas mileage; black-box crash recorder.
The bad: Driver blind spots; weak entertainment electronics; rattles; digital instruments too far from driver.
The bottom line: Thanks to a seamless and sophisticated power system, the 2005 Toyota Prius delivers excellent gas mileage and comfort, making it the best hybrid on the road today.