Hi everyone, my name is Tony and I purchased a Green Line in December and posted this on EVWorld's hybrid database (which unfortunately messed up and posted nothing, but anyways, I just wanted to share my initial review of the vehicle with people on this forum.
I just graduated from school with a degree in Mechanical Engineering and had been driving a 97 F-150 that got between 12 and 16 mpg. Finally, I was able to sell the truck and start looking for something that made a little more sense for me as a daily driver. I wanted a nice small SUV because I take a lot of road trips and I drag race my Camaro and am always hauling around random car parts and things of that nature. When I heard about the Ford Escape Hybrid, I was extremely excited because it seemed to be everything I'd wanted. Some time passed and I also caught wind of Saturn developing a less complex system to increase fuel mileage while still retaining good power as well. I went out and test drove quite a few mini SUVs including the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV-4, Escape Hybrid, Saturn Vue Hybrid and Nissan Pathfinder. The RAV seemed like a nice SUV but the engine seemed a little lacking for my tastes and the interior was a little too much like riding in a video game (a little too cheesy and aimed at teenagers for my liking). The Pathfinder would be great for someone who needs to tow cars or boats all the time, but it sucks a ton of gas, so that was out of the running as well. I drove the Escape Hybrid and was extremely impressed with how well the HSD worked, it definitely has the "oooohh" factor for driving solely on electricity, however, I found the Escape itself to be a big disappointment. The cargo room was extremely limited and rear leg room was terrible (I'm 6'1" and couldn't sit comfortably in the rear seats). The interior was also fairly bland and disappointing. I have to give it to Honda, the new CR-V has an amazing interior and impressive powertrain. I was amazed, however, that the Vue seemed to beat out all the other SUV's in almost every category. The interior design is sleek and functional, seats are supportive and comfortable, the powertrain is great and it has the BAS Hybrid system. Aside from the fact that I really enjoyed the Vue, I really admire GM for getting this system on the market. After reading CNW's "Dust to Dust" (http://cnwmr.com/nss-folder/automotiveenergy/ the study that claimed a Hummer is more environmentally friendly than a Prius) and being a sucker for engineering simplicity myself, the more I looked into it the more the BAS System grew on me. While I don't take that study to be gospel (many have pointed out the study's shortcomings, so I won't really dive into it) it definitely brings up the valid point that if you're out to save the environment, there's more to the problem than fuel economy. The complexity of the HSD in Ford's Escape and the fact that I found it to come up short as a comfortable and nice vehicle ruled it out, despite the gas mileage claims. To be honest, if I was doing more highway driving I probably would have gone with the CR-V, however, I figured that with the 50/50 mix of highway and city driving that I do, the Vue Hybrid would be perfect; and I couldn't be more pleased with the choice.
On to the vehicle itself. If you can't tell already, I'm extremely pleased with the vehicle. The interior is functional and sleek, with my only complaint being the slightly cheap door panels. The rear and front seats are very comfortable and the front heated seats have been lifesavers recently. The gauges are large and simple, my only complaint being the lack of MPG calculation (I've had to do it manually at the filling stations, not a big deal for us engineers). It does have a charge/assist gauge which really helps you to understand what the drivetrain is doing and how to drive to maximize fuel economy. If this isn't enough for you, GM put a little "ECO" light on the left hand side that lets you know when you're exceeding the EPA gas mileage specs. I'm extremely pleased to say that more often than not, this light is lit up. It's pretty much always on at cruise as long as you're under 75 mph and not going through the mountains. Above 75 mph it's a bit of an art, but under that it's almost a no-brainer now. There is almost no interior road/wind noise (I'd assume due to the low rolling resistance tires and improved aerodynamics of the Greenline). The hybrid system itself seems very well integrated and drives a lot like a car with a tight torque converter. Most of all, it's extremely effective and pretty cool to be honest. I'm getting Escape-like mileage (a little above 30 for combined driving). This dropped to around 26.5 going through tough mountain passes (just took a road trip up to Colorado to ski) but the fuel mileage has yet to disappoint. I had 3 passengers with luggage and skis and a snowboard in the back without folding the seats and the passengers riding in the back seats said they were plenty comfortable, their only complaint being that the heat took a while to filter back to them (no rear vents? haven't checked yet, could be due to me being stingy with the heater because of the wonderful heated seats). Everybody who rides in it has found it cool when the engine auto-stops at lights. Engine restart is extremely quick and quiet and now that I don't specifically listen for it, I don't even notice it anymore. The Comfortably Safe package includes a great stereo, XM Radio, and airbags, I definitely recommend it. The only downsides to this vehicle that I can find are:
-Slightly cheesy door panels
-Large panel gap near the hood for panel expansion
-Mediocre side window defrosters
Other than these I believe that GM has a winner here. With a few simple aero tricks and a simple BAS Hybrid system, they built an SUV that gets practically the same mileage as Ford's complex HSD Hybrid SUV for THOUSANDS less, (I walked off the lot paying 25 and change, a little over 27 after tax, title and license with a very nicely optioned vehicle, this is the base price for the Escape). All of my drag racer friends give me crap for buying a hybrid mini SUV but I'm extremely proud of it (not to the point of the South Park episode) and would recommend it to anyone who is looking for a quality small SUV that gets great gas mileage. Any questions about my experience, feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Update: I've had the Vue for quite a while and I still smile everytime I get in it. I've been modifying my driving style to try and maximize mileage and it definitely pays off. I average around 30 mpg with the best I've gotten being 32.4 mpg on a long trip and the worst has been around 26 in Colorado (COLD!) up and down mountains. Slow accelleration and utilizing engine braking as much as possible is the key to mileage in these. GM actually called me and tried to convince me that "even though the Vue accellerates from 0-60 mph in 4 seconds, we don't have to use it all the time" to which I promptly corrected the representative that even if you dropped the Vue off of a cliff it wouldn't go 0-60 in 4 seconds (not to say that the Vue doesn't have some power, but it definitely isn't a Vette). The rep also said that you should use cruise control as much as possible, I, however, have found this actually to hurt my mileage more than help it. The cruise control on this vehicle would be beautiful if the world was flat, however, as soon as it encounters a hill, it craps itself by decellerating slowly, then downshifting and accellerating over your set point which kills mileage. It's MUCH better to lose 1-4 mph going up a hill then get it back on flat land or downhill. I'd like to punch the engineer who was in charge of the Vue's cruise control. Other than this, I absolutely love the car. The stereo is great, mileage is great, I love the interior, tons more leg room than the Escape we looked at.
2007 Saturn View Greenline 30 mpg ftw!!
1992 Camaro, Small block, Nitrous, 5 Speed, not exactly a green machine but definitely a fun toy for friday nights!