Greenest Cars 2008
The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) recently released their annual list of "greenest" and "meanest" vehicles for sale in the United States. The "greenest" vehicles can be found in this gallery. The ACEEE's rankings are based on each model's fuel economy and its exhaust emissions. As with any best/worst list, it's important to know who compiled the list and why ...
Follow The Money. This ACEEE list generates interest in their web site and database at greenercars.org. Your paid subscription (a small portion of their operating budget) buys a look at their "Green Score" ranking of vehicles that is based on EPA mileage estimates and emission ratings (available for free at fueleconomy.gov). Is it worth it? We're not so sure ... but lists are popular, just ask David Letterman, he's made a career out of them.
Everybody wants to drive an environmentally responsible vehicle. Nobody wants to kill the Earth through global warming "caused" by their vehicle. Regardless of Al Gore's emissions on the topic, the truth is that US vehicles aren't killing the planet. Every passenger car and light truck for sale in the US is 95-99 percent cleaner running than vehicles produced in the 1960s -- this is comparatively emissions-free.
Honda Civic GX NGV
So you want to be super-green? Drive the natural gas powered Honda Civic GX NVG. It ranked #1 on the GreenerCars.org list. But prepare to sacrifice, as the GX NVG can't be refueled just anywhere. You'll need to find special filling stations that offer compressed natural gas. Many areas don't have any such facilities.
Honda Civic GX NGV
With an estimated range of only 220 miles per high-pressure tank, cross-country road trips are out of the question at the present time. You could fill up at your house, but the home-filling unit costs approximately $4,000. A refill can take up to 16 hours. Performance is also less sporty than a gasoline-powered Civic because the natural gas engine produces 23 fewer horsepower.
We've driven the efficient Prius gas/electric hybrid and like it a lot. It is a reasonably-priced, practical, efficient, peppy, five-seat automobile with a 500-mile cruising range. If you want to make an environmental statement, this choice's funky styling screams, "I'm green!" while delivering estimated MPG of 48 city/45 hwy.
Honda Civic Hybrid
Honda vehicles are known for being easy on fuel, and ACEEE's #3 choice includes another Honda Civic, the gasoline/electric Hybrid model. It seats five and delivers excellent Honda drivability with mileage estimates of 40 city/45 highway. The downside compared to the Prius is that nobody will notice you're driving an uber-green car because it looks like every other Civic sedan.
While new to the US, the smart car is has been on sale in Europe and Canada for years. It's popularity stems from innovative and stylish design. Seating is strictly for two, but even tall occupants will be comfortable. The tiny 1-liter 3-cylinder produces only 71 horsepower with mileage we though would be better than 33 city/41 highway.
Toyota's Yaris is an excellent pick for the economically and environmentally minded. Its 3- and 5-door body styles offer buyers choice and practicality. Mileage of 29 city/36 shadow the smart fortwo while offering more power(106 hp) and seats (5). Prices for various Yaris models (about $12,000) are in the same range as the smart, but much less than the hybrid Honda and Toyota models.
Nissan Altima Hybrid
The sporty Nissan Altima Hybrid uses electric hybrid technology borrowed from Toyota matched to Nissan's own 158-horsepower 2.5-liter 4-cylinder gas engine to deliver a strong-running, fuel-sipping, roomy 5-seat sedan. Expect great city mileage, as this type of hybrid can run on electricity only at low (city) speeds. City mpg is estimated at 35 mpg, with highway at 33 mpg. Prices start in the $25,000 range.
A little bigger than the Toyota Yaris, and a little smaller than the Toyota Camry (#10 on the list) the all-new 2009 Corolla uses no costly technology to achieve 28 city mpg and 37 highway mpg from its 1.8-liter 4-cylinder gasoline engine. The new body looks sharp and starting at under $16,000, it's easy on the wallet.
The stylish Mini Cooper (and the larger Clubman model) prove that performance, style, and environmentally-friendly are not mutually exclusive qualities. Pick the base 1.6-liter engine and the manual gearbox and you'll sip fuel at the rate of 28 mpg city, 35 mpg highway. Prepare to raise the Union Jack and sing, "Hail To The Queen."
Just redesigned for 2008, the new Ford Focus is a made-in-America winner among small cars. It's zippy 2.0-liter 4-cylinder is a strong engine and makes an especially good companion to a 5-speed manual transmission. The combo delivers 24 city mpg, 35 highway mpg. Read the full road test here. Body styles include a 2-door coupe and a 4-door sedan with pricing that start under $15,000.
Toyota Camry Hybrid
The Toyota Camry is the US's most popular vehicle because it does so much so well. We've tested numerous models and find them impressive automotive appliances that get the job done. This is the choice for those who want mid-size room with economy-car efficiency. Pricing begins at about $25,000.
It's hard to go wrong buying a Honda Civic if you want to be green-minded. In addition to the impressive Civic NGV and the more expensive Civic Hybrid, there's always the plain Jane Civic. It is a model of traditional efficiency and with its smooth-running 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine and a 5-speed manual that delivers 26 city mpg and 34 highway mpg.
The funky Honda Fit rounds out the ACEEE's list of "Greenest Vehicles of 2008." It's not a bad choice either, given its 28/34 mpg performance from the little 1.5-liter 4-cylinder engine. At under $14,000, this is simply another small, inexpensive, and efficient car that maximizes traditional internal combustion engine technology.
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