06 Civic vs. 06 Prius
I debated both cars and finally bought a Prius in part for practicallity, and in part b/c I couldn't wait any longer for the 06 Civic to hit the showroom (my last car was totalled when I was rear-ended). Here is what I found out.
The Prius definately feels and is roomier inside with the hatchback a plus if pure praticality is a deciding factor -- more cargo room, more leg room in the back seats. More on seats later.
Frankly, and the techies may disagree here, I see little difference between the hybrid driving experience of these two cars. You couldn't say that before the release of the 06 Civic, b/c Honda clearly lagged here, but now they will probably drive about the same. They each shut down their gas engines at a stop, they both can operate in all electric mode (althougth the Honda can't do this from a stop, but the Prius only does this under very gentle acceleration), and the real world milage is probably w/in 1 - 2 mpg. I would say that my experience with the non-hybrid 06 Civic is that the handling may be a bit better.
Ergonomics and design approach is where these cars diverge.
First, touch screen virtual controls vs. conventional controls for the climate control and stereo. The Civic gives you a seperate radio and climate control module. If you want preset 6 on the radio, press button 6. If you want to crank up the fan, turn the fan knob. BTW, the Honda also includes steering wheel controls for the radio.
On the Prius, you have to do this through the touch screen or in some cases the steering wheel. Want preset 6, hit the up arrow on the steering wheel until you get there, or hit the audio button on the side of the touch screen and then the virtual preset 6 button on the touch screen. Even in a nav Civic, Honda actual included radio preset buttons on the side of the touchscreen -- bravo.
Want to change the fan speed in a Prius, hit the climate button on the side of the touch screen and then choose the fan speed you want from the virtual buttons on the screen (Temp is on the steering wheel, fan speed is not). This means you can't see radio and climate at the same time -- at least not all of each on the touchscreen. Keep it simple stupid, not on the Prius.
But having said all of that, you get used to the touchscreen and it doesn't seem like that much of a hassle in real life. The screen can wash out sometimes in bright sun at the right angle though. That can't happen in the Honda. Advantage Honda.
Radio itself. Standard radio in the Honda sounds better than standard radio in the Prius, and I beleive would be an easier upgrade -- the Honda has more than enough power to drive better aftermarket speakers. If your Prius package includes the JBL premium radio, Prius probably has the edge. BTW, both 06 Prius and Honda have Aux input for MP3 player, but not an 05 Prius.
Seats. This is where it gets personal. The Honda seats look sportier, have more side bolster, and include height adjustment. I am 5ft. 5 in. and I thought height adjustment would be a big plus. It is NOT. First, the Honda sits lower to begin with. If you measure where your shoulder hits the top of the door, you will find that the Prius hits lower on your body giving a better view out. Once raised, the Honda seats are in about the same as the Prius, but .... Raising the seat puts you vertically further from the pedals. This would be ok if the bottom seat cushion weren't so long. To avoid cutting off circulation to your thighs with the long downward reach to the pedals, you need to put the seat way forward. This cramps your arms too close to the steering wheel (even with telescope all the way in). Of course you can lean the seat way back, but I can't drive that way, or see out!
The Prius seats go forward or back. Period. But as one tester described them, they are "set 'em and forget 'em" comfortable. Absolutely true. And of course the rear seats in the Prius fold to the floor, Honda's are fixed. Back seats in the Prius felt more comfortable to me as well. Finally, visibility forward in the Prius beats Honda b/c the Honda display still pokes up above where the front glass meets the hood. Advantage Prius (for short driver's anyway).
Finally, do you really need a tachometer in a CVT Hybrid? And does it need to take up that much real estate.
Price. A comparably price Civic costs less than a Prius, although some features (HID headlamps on Prius or active head restaints on Honda arent' available on the other). Prius will net you about $1,000 more in 06 tax credits however.
My Prius grows on me every day, but my guess is you can't go wrong with either car.