my wife and I have a small 2 person (just us) cleaning business in Vancouver. We are replacing our gas guzzling VW Van for a more fuel efficient car. We have narrowed our options down to either a Golf TDI, a Prius or possibly an Escape Hybrid (the Civic is too small for lugging around cleaning supplies/vacume).

Like good consumers we are researching what will be our biggest purchase in a long time. From reading this website and 2 other hybrid websites, as well as Consumer Reports and Canadian Driver, I get the following picture of hybrids.

1. Most owners seem very happy with their choice. They seem to ride well, are loaded with standard features and the average reported fuel economy for most drivers is pretty close to EPA and sometimes better.

2. On the downside, in Vancouver you pay a lot more for hybrids (almost twice the "hybrid premium" charged in the U.S. - go figure). Some owners say they are getting a lot less than EPA numbers (Consumer Reports article also said this). Responses have suggested reasons for the low numbers and some of the reasons concern me a bit.

The main reasons for low FE seem to be cold weather, short trips, using defrost/defogger or air conditioning, accelleration and hard braking and other driving habits. So the driving habits arn't a big deal, I can change these. But almost all of our clients are within a 6 km (3.5 mile) radius and some people have said you need at least 5 miles to warm up the electric battery for it to work in a hybrid. Will we get any benefit from a hybrid driving such short distances? We also live in a city that averages between 2-10c temperatures (35-50f) in the winter. Is this too cold to warm up the battery (especially for short trips from client to client)? It also rains a lot, so unless we want to get soaked and keep our windows down, we are going to use the defogger.

Given all this I am trying to compare "apples to apples" but I am having a hard time finding out whether diesals have the same problems getting good mpgs in similar conditions. Does anyone out there know?

Thanks for your comments and sorry if you see this posted on other hybrid sites. I'm trying to get as much feedback as possible before we plunk down almost 40k (gulp!).