Hey Mr. Green,
All I ever hear about is the Toyota Prius. I have a Honda Civic Hybrid and have never gotten less than 50 miles per gallon. One time, when all the stars were aligned, I got 58 mpg. The Civic is better for highway driving (which I do a lot of) than the Prius too. So if you did a comparison of the Hummer and the Civic Hybrid, the numbers would be even better.
--Susan in Whitney, Texas
According to the EPA's latest ratings, the Honda Civic Hybrid gets 45 miles per gallon on the highway and 40 in town, for a "combined" 42 mpg. The Prius is rated at 48 mpg for the city, 45 for the highway, and 46 combined. So the Honda is certainly competitive. (Since you are able to beat the EPA ratings, it's clear that you know how to drive your Honda. The 10-billion-gallon problem is that millions of people don't have a clue about driving sensibly.
Why, then, does the Prius get all the attention? The main reason, I think, is identity. As Shakespeare's Juliet asked, "What's in a name?" Apparently a lot. Toyota distinguished the Prius by giving it a new name and an exclusive identity as a hybrid. Honda took its old Civic name and tacked "hybrid" on, as an afterthought, so the car failed to dramatically distinguish itself. Honda honchos have admitted this mistake. Ford did the same dumb thing with its Ford Escape Hybrid, an efficient choice if you have to have an SUV. This model beats the conventional Escape 34 mpg to 20 for city driving and 30 mpg to 26 for highway. But have you heard about it?
Now you would think that these guys could have put a bit more effort into their hybrid identities, since they're the same ones who dreamed up all those macho outdoorsy names to market their SUVs--an into-the-wild litany that includes Yukon, Mariner, Avalanche, Tahoe, Trailblazer, Aspen, Durango, Magnum, Element, Pilot, Mountaineer, Outlander, Forester, Explorer, Armada, Rogue, Pathfinder, Highlander, Sequoia, and my all-time favorite, Dodge's Nitro. It's amazing that the Civic and Accord are surviving in the world of brutal vehicles, when you recall the demise of those friendly little cars called Colt, Rabbit, Gremlin, Escort, and Fiesta, not to mention the girlie Chevette and kinder, gentler big cars like the Buick Skylark and Dodge Diplomat.
Is it possible that there's something so feminine about hybrids--the term itself hints at androgyny--that the big boys aren't comfortable with them? Does the very word Prius suggest an unmanly mingling of prissy and wuss? Does the fact that part of the hybrid's power emanates mysteriously and silently from inside, from applying the brakes, make macho men nervous? Are they so intimidated by the loss of the testosterone surge triggered by assertive combustion that they actually fear a mass castration by Priuses? Something to ponder. It's got me seriously thinking about helping them process their feelings by staging Mr. Green's Name-That-Sissy-Car Contest.
In the meantime, I'd love to hear from readers who can explain the baddest, meanest name of all, Dodge's Avenger. It's a sedan, for God's sake, so where does the name come from? Is it an attempt to associate a car with the war on terror? Or is it about an enraged sedan lashing out at SUVs for knocking down its once mighty market share to such a humble level?