AUBURN – Taking my first hybrid test drive this week, I was surprised over and over again by the car the Lee Auto Mall had loaned me. It looked exactly like a regular car. It drove pretty much like a regular car.

But I suddenly had a sense of smug satisfaction when I drove past a hulking Humvee.

The hybrid, a Civic four-door, started so silently that I had to strain to hear the motor. It seemed to do everything effortlessly: pull out of the lot, speed down Route 4, stop at red lights.

It probably wouldn’t win a race up Mount Washington, but it drove steadily up Goff Hill.

I did notice that the hybrid was a little jerky when I stopped.

The regular Civic proved much smoother. But the regular Civic didn’t have the hybrid’s cool digital gas/electric gauge. It showed instantly how many miles per gallon I was using and whether I was running on the car’s battery or relying on the gas tank.

The little green and blue gas/electric bars were mesmerizing.

My hybrid never got much above 35 miles per gallon, according to that digital gauge. That’s lower than I expected. Some buyers might wonder whether it’s worth the car’s $22,000 sticker price.

But I bet the gas mileage was still better than that Humvee.


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