Had a chance to drive the Prius and the Scion, the Scion is a pretty cool car. In depth in 2005, here's my recommendations for cars.
The main criteria are a) reliable, b) fuel efficient (30 mpg or more), c) seats 5, d) can carry a bike easily, e) can get me and the kids up to a ski slope, f) not too expensive and g) isn't too big to get around the cities for the daily commute.
After studying Consumer Reports et al, here are my recommendations. These are all Japanese cars because of the realiability. Obviously, these are personal POVs, but folks keep asking and amazing thing is everyone of these is a Toyota product, not by intension, but interesting:
# Scion xB. You have to get over the ugly looks and the fact that it is slow and noisy (these are fixable, see the next post). But it is just $14K and it has as much room as an Explorer and incredible reliability. This is a big box and super practical. # Toyota Highlander Hybrid. I have not had a chance to drive it, but it is a seven passenger SUV that is close to the Lexus RX400H but is much cheaper. Don't know its gas mileage yet, but if we didn't have an Acura MDX (love that car), this is the one I'd vote for for Connie. Obviously less cuteness factor than an MDX though, but it is supposed to get 30mpg which is pretty amazing since our MDX gets about 17mpg in practice. # Toyota Prius. I really wanted to like this car, but it is just so small. Very high tech, but small. Gets a real 44+ mpg, but since it is a hatchback, the headroom is just so short. When the Camry hybrid comes out, I'd recommend that instead of this one. # Toyota Sienna. This is the dream minivan, but mainly I like it because it has all-wheel drive so it is great on snow. Competes with the Honda Odyssey for most practical car. It loses on size and getting only 20mpg. # Lexus RX400H. This is a luxury SUV that is a hybrid also. Main ding is that it costs over$44K, but it is ultra reliable.