I have 16,000 miles on my 06 Prius, and love it. I almost bought a Honda Civic Hybrid, but after a 2 months of research, decided to get the Prius. I will explain some differences and why I chose the Prius. The technical part will come later.
1.Style/looks-Honda wins, looks like a mini-BMW. Interior also wins.
2.Interior quality, materials/fabric. Honda Civic wins again. The Prius fabric wrinkles easily and may not be as durable. Time will tell.
3.Overall quality, dependability. Toyota wins, but not by much. I work in a Total loss unit, and Toyota customers have the fewest repair receipts, with Honda second.
4. Personal, the Prius is more useful to us, due to the hatch back and it is able to carry long items internally and, as a bonus has a hidden trunk under the rear floor.
5. Comfort, handling. The Civic wins, but the Prius handles fairly good even though it has a much simpler suspension system. The seating comfort is much better in the Civic. The Prius has a mini van type, knees up drivers position, which doesnt feel too good for tall drivers. I have grown used to it. The steering wheel is too far away and should have a telescopic function. My elderly mother likes the tall seats, the wide back door, and lots of rear leg room, easy to get in and out of.
6. Gas Mileage and Power. The Prius gets better mileage, I averaged around 44.5 until I added the mud flaps -1 mpg, then dropped tire pressure to 35psi (I don't like a hard ride),
-1 mpg more=42.5 mpg. The side moldings I added did not drop my mileage. My snow tires dropped this to 40.5 with winter driving. I have reached as high as 48.2 on a flat freeway trip with cruise control set at 70mph.
Power, felt about the same until the computer in the Prius released full power .I didn't find this out until after 3,000 miles. The Prius will now blow the doors off the Honda. Keep in mind the electric motor has 295 ft lbs of torque, as much as many small V-6's.
Technical reasons; Disclaimer; the below relies on my and others peoples research.
The Honda has a smaller conventional gas engine car with an electric motor/generator combination between the engine and transmission. The Motor reverse's polarity to become a generator. The transmission uses a steel cogged belt between tapered pulleys to change ratios, like a snowmobile. Both cars recharge the battery pack on deceleration. Honda stops the fuel injection to 2 cylinders when at cruising speed, for better mileage, and the engine and air conditioner turn off at stops if they are spaced far enough apart . The Prius engine stops all the time, but the electric A/C still works. The electric motors, on both cars, spin the engines up to approximately 1,000 rpm before starting to make sure there is sufficient oil pressure.
The Prius is an electric car with gas engine assist. It uses an Atkinson cycle engine for high efficiency. It does not use a conventional transmission at all. It does not have a torque converter or any shifting gears or a steel belt, etc. It uses a lifetime planetary gear set differential. The electric motor develops its highest torque from 0-1500 rpm, and goes up to 7500 rpm with no issues. It is also water cooled. Since their is no shifting the motor reverses polarity to back up the car, and no engine assist on reverse except for charging. The Prius has a separate electric motor and generator. The engine and generator are connected to the electric motor via a planetary gear set. This allows the engine to run when the car is stopped or in reverse and spin only the generator (I believe the generator reverses polarity to start the gas engine). Their is a box above the motor that is also connected to the computer that varies engine load by varying generator load. This is all worked out to permit seamless acceleration and deceleration.
When the car is above 45mph, under heavy acceleration, the engine can spin up quite high because it does not have a direct link to the wheels; it is helping the electric motor and spinning up the generator. This is a drive by wire system. The gas pedal is connected to the computer, not the engine. You can not over rev the engine, it seems to top out around 5000 rpm (max. rpm limit),under the heaviest load after the battery goes down to the red zone, if you are still pushing it. Note: I commute from 1 to 5 thousand feet each day, and it will run up the mountain from 60-65mph all the way. I generally go up around 50mph to keep engine RPM below 3000rpm mostly. These are my guess's by sound, as their is no tachometer. Those that go up at 65mph average about 38mpg also. We all meet at our village post office. Note: the miles per gallon meter on the Prius is accurate, but the Honda owners tell me theirs reads about 3mpg higher than actual, and the best mountain commute for them is 38 mpg, the 05 model with manual shift which is no longer available. The others are less, around 34mpg. Two of them have replaced battery packs under warrantee, and none of the Prius owners have replaced the batteries, even the 02 model. This is a very hard area for a Hybrid, and is due to going up the mountain. The Prius has a separate generator that charges while going up the mountain, so the battery pack is more durable for this commute. I have heard that the 06 Civic will not let the battery go below 1/2 charge to prevent this failure now. Note; the Honda owners also advise you really have to discipline yourselves to get mileage above 42mpg down the hill. I actually push my car more than the 97 Subaru Sport Outback it replaced, as I have not had a car this powerful in a long time. I don't floor it too often, but like to feel the power when I need it, and do it once in awhile just to feel the power. Note: this power is up to about 45mph, it drops off a bit after that, about the same as my Subaru. Note: not many Honda hybrid owners are left up here, most have sold them, and bought the Prius, or other cars due to the above. Down the hill they should be fine.
Other comments; I really like the smart key system (I have a package 3),you keep the key in your pocket. The 06 has a backup camera, which I love. The car does have poor rear visibility, you need to add spot mirrors. I really like the electric air conditioner, it runs with the engine off, and a real biggy, it doesnt bog down your acceleration. I also like the electric power steering. Note: there is only one belt on the engine, it drives the water pump. I like driving around in stop and go traffic, and in our little village on electric power only; until you hit a hill or go over 32mph when on a flat surface. It is much quieter than my Subaru. It does have traction control and anti lock brakes, but the traction control needs a switch as it is too aggressive on ICE. I like the heated mirrors, but you must scrape off the ½ of ice on the rear window so the defroster wont break the glass. I don't have to climb in the tailgate anymore when the car is coated in ice because it has a separate window channel, and the windows don't freeze to the rubber gaskets like my Subaru's. I like the aux. stereo input and power socket in the center console (I have the Middle stereo system).I like the mp3 player. I like all the storage, double glove box, and extra airbags. I like the steering wheel controls, stereo, A/C, heating, cruise, etc. A plus and minus here; I have run out of gas twice, and once drove up a steep hill about a block long on electric only, before the car leveled out and the engine was able to get enough gas to restart. Watch that blinking gas light and get gas, as you can drive this car on electric only and run down the 500 volt battery pack, then it needs to be towed to Toyota to recharge. I also ran out of gas on the freeway at about 75mph, a Big Red triangle shows on the dash and warning lights start flashing, and you loose power until the car reaches around 35 mph then you have the electric motor power only. Push the energy monitor button and make sure you do not run down the battery all the way, leave at least the 1 or 2 red bars, so the engine will restart. I made it a quarter mile to an off ramp and the gas station on the next corner with 2 red bars left, and it restarted ok. The jumper connection is in the fuse box under the hood, in front of the driver and is only for the small 12 volt battery in the back that runs the smart key, computer etc. There is no backup 12 volt starter like the Honda has. Note: one of the guys I met was only getting 32-38mpg with reasonable driving. Read the manual !,after telling him to push all the way down on the brake to turn off the electric motor when stopped and to use the top 1 1/2 inch of the brake pedal for slowing (recharge range, doesnt use the brakes), he is averaging 45mpg now. Toyota has done a great job with the electric motor creep function to simulate a conventional automatic but you must push far enough down on the pedal to turn off the motor when you stop. The 06 also has a tire pressure monitor, but is only good for slow leaks. Some say that the extra cost of the car negates the extra mileage. This is partially true, but Toyota has added so many extra luxury items, I feel like I am driving a mini Lexus and not a compact car. This car is also larger inside than it looks. I usually fill up with gas around 400 miles and put 8.5 to 10 gallons in it. After this comparison process I also considered the conventional Honda Civic with the 5 speed automatic. The final decision why I didnt choose the Honda was made for me by Honda, they did not offer the fold down split rear seat on the LX model, or DX, only the EX, and EX price was too close to the Prius. If I bought the Hybrid Civic I was going to add the roof rack. Also the Prius has the best resale value. Thanks Honda for dropping the split rear seat in the standard Civic, as I wouldnt have bought the Prius otherwise. Note: I have a friend at work that I shared my results with and he bought the 06 Civic LX and likes it very much. I couldnt because my girl couldnt sit in the back if I fold the full length rear seat. He claims to have reached up to 38mpg on a freeway trip, and around 32mpg around town. He will not tell me how many miles he goes on a tank of gas so I suspect these are his best figures. My Subaru best mileage on freeway trip was 26mpg, with 18-20 mpg up and down the hill commute average. I miss the all wheel drive, but only had to use my Spider Spikes 3 times last year with good snow tires. Overall I would buy the Prius again, it is great car. Four suggestions to Toyota, include traction control off button: its sad when I get going on ICE then the traction control cuts engine power and hits the brakes to stop me when I already got it going. 2nd; different seat fabric. 3rd; allow the choice of using the backup camera while going forward. 4th; it needs a telescoping steering wheel for taller drivers. I am 5'11" with long legs. Great job Toyota.
The Traction Control defective behavior is while going up a slight hill, the drivetrain shuts down and won't let you go forward.(Note: in the snowy mountains here we are used to using poor mans positraction, stepping on the brake slightly while accelerating to force both wheels to go, however due to drivetrain design it doesnt work on this car). This defective behavior is lessoned with good snow tires, and when I put on my Spider Spikes, it is not an issue. I forgot to mention, their is no vacuum booster on the brakes, it has a large electric Anti-Lock unit behind the Power Modulator/Inverter, so coasting down the hill is not an issue. I am getting 40.4 mpg average this winter, and the 2 issues that lead to this drop are the Engine Heater (engine runs allot more, to keep coolant hot, and interior temp. up),and the increased drag of the snow tires. Some have asked how much the gas tank holds; when it ran out on the freeway, it took 10.9 gallons to fill. It took 10.2 when it ran out on the steep hill, then restarted when I leveled out on the top. The low fuel tiny square (same color), under the E blinks when low, after a flash of a warning to add fuel shows on the center display. It will only take around 8 gallons at this point. When I ran out on the freeway it was at 461 miles for the tank. I was used to refilling about every 4 1/2 days with my Subaru, and every 2 weeks with the Prius, but I now get gas around 350 miles instead of over 400, so I don't forget and run out. Also on the observation by my friend at work who bought the 06 Honda, I just settled a claim on a 06 Civic LX and they said their experience is about 5mpg less than my friends. I suspect now his observation is not accurate. I have grown used to the looks of my Prius, the Interior is a futuristic style, but cool. (Note: in 06 they textured the Dash and door trim panels to stop the plain look, but dropped the more attractive side panel sewing on the seats, same fabric though).