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Top 5 cheap hybrid carsJust because it has a hybrid badge doesn't mean you have to break the bank to buy one. CNET's Brian Cooley offers his Top 5 cheap hybrid cars that you can afford.
Now, you know, carmakers never like their cars to be described as cheap. They prefer phrases like inexpensive and built to stay that way or some other wishful thinking the ad agency dreamed up, but dammit, the cars on my list right now are cheap. These are my top five hybrid cars that all start at way under 30 grand. Now, I'm ranking these cars by price, delivery with the destination charge, and also, I'm gonna tell you their EPA, mileage and estimated annual fuel cost just to make sure the cheapest to buy is also the cheapest to drive. Let's go. Number five, the 2013 Honda Civic Hybrid -- $25,150 out-the-door; MPG is 44 city, 44 highway, you know what that means, 44 average; annual fuel cost estimated at 1,250 bucks. The only car on our list that is not a dedicated hybrid model, by the way. Now, Honda recently did a major midstream redo of the Civic's plastic interior to wide acclaim. They're catching up on cabin tech with a few apps like Pandora and also offering lane departure warning and forward collision warning, things you don't normally find in inexpensive-- sorry, cheap cars. Number four, the 2013 Toyota Prius -- $24,995 delivered; 51 city, 48 highway, 50 average; annual fuel cost estimated at 1,100 parsimonious bucks. This is still the "king of the hill" when it comes to hybrids, folks. The classic Prius outsells all the other hybrids, often combined, based a lot on that magic 50 number. It's one of the few cars that owners routinely proclaim as getting better than rated MPG if they drive it gently which, you know, Prius drivers tend to do. The base Prius is not exactly stripped of modern tech, but you won't get Toyota's gemmily excellent Entune's suite of apps or GPS navigation. However, a USB port, streaming Bluetooth, and this Touch Tracer technology on the wheel and dash keeps it feeling pretty techie. Number three, the 2013 Honda CR-Z 6-speed -- $20,765 out-the-door; 31 city, 38 highway, 34 average; annual fuel cost 1,600 bucks. That is the only car on our list you have to shift yourself if you want the lowest MSRP. All the rest of our cars have a CVT automatic. Now, you can option the CR-Z with a CVT and it bumps the price up to $21,415. That still keeps it at number three. The CR-Z is also the only car on our list that says it's a sports car. Now, its $1,600 annual fuel cost happens to make it the glutton of our list today, but it's still 250 bucks a year less fuel than, let's say, a Honda Fit which is not exactly a gas guzzler. Number two, the 2013 Toyota Prius C, the little Prius -- $19,875 out-the-door; 53 city, 46 highway, again 50 average; annual fuel cost 1,100 bucks. This is the baby Prius and it comes pretty bare bones at this price. You've gotta step up a trim level or two to get stuff like six speakers, full-down rear seat, roll-up windows, kidding, but forget about navigation or Entune at this price. It does cover you, though, with the USB port, streaming bluetooth, and automatic temperature control. I like this car a lot. The number one cheap hybrid, period, is the 2013 Honda Insight -- $19,390 delivered; gets you 41 city, 44 highway, 42 average; annual fuel cost is kind of mid-pack on our list at 1,300 bucks. Now, Honda's got a weak seller here which just goes to show the value of value over price. The Insight uses Honda's IMA powertrain. That means it's a mild hybrid, and therefore, doesn't run on pure electric ever. It's pretty lean inside as well, not even a USB port or Bluetooth at the base price. Probably makes sense for a Honda to step up the content and worry less about low price going forward, but for now, at least, it wins one award -- cheapest. By the way, standard hybrid cars no longer [unk] a tax credit from the IRS. That ended with vehicles purchased on or after January 1, 2011, so you've missed it by quite a bit right now. Only more advanced cars still get that credit. If you wanna see more top fives like this about all the latest in high-tech cars and modern driving, head over to cnetoncars.com. I'm Brian Cooley. Thanks for watching.