Ford vs. GM: Hybrid Crossover SUVs

Dec. 16, 2006: The Virginian-Pilot—Hybrid Hope or Hype?

Summary: "When it comes to fuel economy, the engineering challenge seems simple. The more weight you add to an automobile, the more energy must be consumed to move it. Thus, in fuel economy terms, weight is the enemy.

Thus, on the surface, a gas-electric hybrid car doesn’t make sense. Loading an extra motor and a large battery pack in the interest of increasing fuel economy seems counter-intuitive.

This debate sees its full effect in two new, small crossover hybrid SUVs: the Saturn Vue Green Line, and the Mercury Mariner Hybrid. While both claim to be hybrids, their approach is different."

The Saturn—a so-called mild hybrid—adds a belt-alternator starter, electric motor assist, and regenerative braking for a battery pack that generates 14.5 kW, but it cannot run on electric power alone. While the VUE doesn’t offer many options, it’s also priced considerably lower. Ignoring the EPA ratings, the writer’s test drive returned 25 mpg.

For comparison, Consumer Reports found Toyota Prius to get 44 mpg and the Honda Civic Hybrid, 37 mpg (many drivers get much better fuel economy than this). A non-hybrid crossover SUV, the Toyota RAV-4, got 23 in Consumer Reports tests.

The Mercury, with a full hybrid system that can run on electric power alone at low speeds, came out at 29 mpg for the same test drive. Its base model is nearly $7,000 more than the Saturn, though, and a wealth of available options is liable to jack the actual selling price even higher.

As with any choice a consumer faces, there are many factors to consider. What do current owners of each vehicle have to say?

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  • Tim

    Why is it that every single writer seems to dismiss the tax credit while comparing Hyrbid vehicle pricing? The writer of this story summarily dismisses the impact a $2000 credit while pressing the $6000+ difference in pricing. I don’t get it.

  • andrino apolloni

    How is it that the rest of the world is heading for 60mpg cars in a hurry, yet GM has invested heavily in hydrogen and TRUCKS. Could it be that they like picking losers.
    Get real guys, the real high tech is in electric cars. They are trickling out all over the place. Hydrogen is not the solution on this planet. The infrastructure is horrendous. Compare it to electricity infrastructure which is already
    here. If most of us only do 50miles or less per day, electric vehicles are viable NOW!
    We always get the same story, “the public isn’t ready for electric cars”. What a lot of shite !! Count how many small cars are on the road today 30million? I would guess that 3/4 would rather an electric car on economy alone-if it was available. Just ask people who drive small cars.

  • dona

    We got only $300. when we thought we would be eligible for $3100. This is due to the alternative minimum tax credits –ask your accountant!!

  • nurse63vette

    Well, for those of us with 3 kids, these compact cars don’t seat them. Also, this is America – a really BIG country. It takes more than 2 hours to cross it. Therefore, if you don’t want to live in a big city, you have to drive far. Should people who commute have to only have a choice of a tiny electric car that won’t get them from point A to point B. Or should we all just move to the overcrowded cities. There has to be a balance. Tipping all the way to one side and not trying to find a middle ground won’t work either. We need to have fuel efficient cars in all sizes. Electric won’t work for larger cars. People are trying many avenues and I applaud thir efforts. Solutions to big problems don’t happen overnight. It takes hard work and time. Instant gratification is clouding so many minds.