The two “most perfect” commuter cars
I want to get one thing out of the way. I know that the Acura ILX Hybrid and the Toyota Prius are two very, very different vehicles.
Before I elaborate into this piece, I want to get one thing out of the way. I know that the Acura ILX Hybrid and the Toyota Prius are two very, very different vehicles. Though they’re both Japanese hybrid vehicles with four doors and five seats, that’s where the similarities end. This comparison is a little bit different.
I sat down with the team and we as a group tried to come up with what cars we would actually purchase if our commute was a daily grind through the highways and downtown traffic of Toronto. Another condition to this was that the cars had to be hybrids, because as a group of enthusiasts, our tastes tend to veer into the diesel or subcompact sides of the automotive market. I decided to pick the 2013 Toyota Prius for the sole sake of being curious about it; and my colleague Robert picked the 2013 Acura ILX Hybrid due to nostalgia about his first car, a 90s Integra.
Let’s start with fuel mileage, since that’s the real reason anybody would click on this comparison piece. We drove from Richmond Hill to Guelph with both cars in the middle of the day, when there was zero traffic. Doing between 100 and 110 km/h with the air conditioners on, the Prius averaged 3.9L/100km and the ILX 4.4L/100km. Pretty awesome. We then did the same drive in reverse with the same conditions, only this time we decided to drive them with heavier feet; as we would any normal non-hybrid. The Prius rose to 4.3L/100km, and the Acura jumped to 5.0L/100km. Not bad at all! Incidentally, the latter two numbers were exactly what we averaged over a week of city and highway driving.
Next up; aesthetics. If I wanted my car to stand out in any situation, I’d buy a lime green, er… “Verde Ithaca” Lamborghini Murciélago. With a slow, efficiency-optimizing hybrid car, I’d rather it blend right in with all the other beige Corollas on the road. I had a Camry Hybrid for a few years and its level of discretion on the road was just fine. The Toyota Prius has a distincitive image in the North American automotive industry right now. Particularly prevalent in California, driving a Prius around is the automotive equivalent of walking around with a sign on your head that says “I’m a tree hugger”. Not really my style. The ILX Hybrid on the other hand, however, looks no different than an average, sporty little sedan. That’s a win in both our books.
Performance is essentially non-existent for both cars. The Prius has a “PWR” mode that gives it a little bit more oomph in the straights, and the ILX Hybrid has a “Sport” position in the gearshift. These modes on both cars are essentially oxymoronic; signing the purchase/lease papers on a hybrid car is essentially giving up any sort of sporting behaviour. Other than just to test out how these performance-oriented modes delivered, both the ILX and the Prius were driven for their respective test weeks in the most economical settings.
Next up; comfort. This was the biggest thing for us. The Prius may be a tad wonky to look at, but the driving position is wonderful for long commutes. You sit upright as you would in an SUV or minivan; excellent when sitting on the highway for hours on end. The ILX has a similar driving position to the Honda Civic Si, and for a driver’s car that’s exactly what I’d want. As six-footers, I find the cockpit of the 4-door Civic to be relatively cramped, and so the ILX suffers the same judgment. The Toyota redeems lost points here. Plus, the neat quasi-joystick shifter on the Prius is pretty neat.
Hybrid buyers search long and hard to get a good amount of bang for their buck. Why else would one buy a hybrid after all; if not to save a few dollars along with helping the environment? The ILX Hybrid costs $35,000. Granted, for that price it comes fully loaded, but for a compact hybrid, that’s a lot of money. I’d sacrifice some fuel economy and save $15,000 by opting for something like a loaded-up Hyundai Elantra or even a Civic. The Toyota is a more appealing value at $26,000. For even less money you can get a Prius C, which is even nicer in the city and lacks the “Prius stigma”. In fact, for $27,000, Toyota will sell you the Camry Hybrid, which gets 4.7L/100km and doesn’t look like a hybrid car either.
Overall, both these cars are fine choices for commuters. I’d even go as far as to say that our opinions have been slightly swayed towards this segment in the industry. The Prius is the clear choice if value, fuel efficiency, and long-term maintenance costs are a huge concern. If you just want to go about your daily business without looking like a tree-hugger and would prefer a much sportier ride, the ILX Hybrid is a very appealing choice. As a mid-twenties male who lives within the downtown core, I would take the Acura any day of the week. There is one inevitable truth though; hybrid cars are here to stay. With technology getting further and further as each day passes, these fuel sippers are only going to get better and better.
2013 Toyota Prius vs. 2013 Acura ILX Hybrid Gallery