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Toyota Prius vs Honda Civic Hybrid

Toyota Prius and Honda Civic go head-to-head

Toyota Prius and Honda Civic Hybrid go head-to-head in this comparative review.

value

Toyota Prius

from $33,990

The base model gets reversing camera with a multi-function 6-inch screen, eight-speaker audio, electric mirrors that fold in for parking and daytime running lights. It's a better deal than the i-Tech version, which adds $12,000. It is $10,100 more than the petrol Corolla Conquest so takes 12.8 years to make good the purchase price.

Honda Civic Hybrid

from $35,990

The Honda is up $1500 up on its outgoing, small-engined and less opulent predecessor but Toyota has reduced its by $1000. The Honda is more conventional, more comfortable but misses gear such as the Prius's rear-vision camera. It will take 11.5 years before the hybrid's fuel economy makes up for the $8000 premium over the petrol Civic.

design

Toyota Prius

Modest styling changes welcome the 2012 Prius, including a bigger grille, LED daytime running lights and new-look wheels. New front and rear bumpers make the car 20mm longer. Revisions are more extensive in the cabin, with more supportive front seats, new centre console cupholder design and relocated iPod/USB jacks.

Honda Civic Hybrid

It is more spacious than the predecessor. The boot has decent space thanks to the compact lithium-ion battery pack. But the rear seats don't fold down so there's no load-through capability. Externally it's good-looking, if conventional. The two-level instrument panel is easy to read - unlike that of the CR-Z stablemate.

technology

Toyota Prius

Reversing the car is all-electric, cruising is generally petrol and accelerating hard gets the two powerplants working together. There's a stiffer body than before and softer suspension settings and so greater comfort. The hybrid retains the regenerative braking and stop-start system and has a monitor that shows fuel averages and savings.

Honda Civic Hybrid

Engine size is up to 1.5 litres but consumption is down to 4.4L/100km. There's a more powerful electric motor and the battery is lithium-ion, replacing the larger and heavier nickelmetal hydride job. Combined power and torque is 82kW/ 172Nm. It has regenerative braking to recharge the battery, stop-start technology and adds a driver feedback function.

safety

Toyota Prius

As in the Civic, the Prius has a five-star crash rating and has a similar suite of electronic chassis and brake systems to keep you on the road. There are also seven airbags but the spare is a space-saver. The reversing camera is a quite welcome addition, especially in the base model.

Honda Civic Hybrid

This ninth-generation Civic has a five-star crash rating, electronic stability and traction control, brake assist and six airbags. But it has a space-saver spare and, even odder, it is the only 2012 Civic to have rear drum brakes (the others have discs).

driving

Toyota Prius

The steering is vague but familiarity allows the car to be hurried through corners with some degree of accuracy. The brakes are weird - also as in the Civic, the pedal feels spongy but the power is very good. Acceleration is leisurely. The upright seating position makes it a bit bus-like to drive.

Honda Civic Hybrid

There's a remoteness to driving due to the CVT and the silkiness of the electric-assist. The low rolling-resistance tyres are noisy. The seats create a living-room feel when cruising. It's a nice, quiet drive and the petrol/electric combo can get pleasantly lively, though performance slips according to the number of occupants.

Verdict

Toyota Prius

Honda Civic Hybrid

The Civic if you don't want any technical challenges, the Prius if you want to flaunt your green-ness. Smart people buy the Corolla.