This may sound like a contradiction in terms, but cars are slowly joining the Save the Planet bandwagon. Calling them “Eco-friendly” also helps us rationalize our somewhat apologetic dependence on our wheels. TheDailyGreen.com recently published the top ten guilt-assuaging, fuel-saving vehicles on the market right now, using Esurance® as their source and we’ve added their price points to help you shop around. They are ranked in order of least polluting and efficiency.
1. Third-Generation Toyota Prius (Starting MSRP $21,000) – The recalls, affecting half a million cars, have dented the Prius’ appeal but the company is still number three in brand loyalty. The Prius is tops in its segment, according to Kelley Blue Book’s most recent survey. The Prius continues to ace the reliability survey at Consumer Reports and it still gets 50 mpg.
2. Honda Insight (Starting MSRP $19,800) – This new model bears some resemblance to the Prius but it’s not quite as fuel efficient; you’ll see around 40 mpg. The Insight offers a $4,000 savings over the same company’s excellent but frequently overlooked Civic Hybrid (see below).
3. Honda Civic Hybrid (Approximate MSRP $23,800) – Nobody’s recalling this 42-mpg Civic, which is a top five-star safety pick at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. A main reason the Civic Hybrid doesn’t sell better is that it looks just like the standard Civic, which means it lacks the instant green credibility of the Prius.
4. Ford Fusion Hybrid (Starting MSRP $19,270). At 41 mpg, the Fusion is competitive on mileage with the Civic Hybrid, in a somewhat bigger package. Dubbed “the best gas-electric hybrid yet” by USA Today, the Fusion is the top domestic green choice.
5. Volkswagen Jetta TDI (MSRP $22,660). Americans are still reluctant to try diesels but they offer the best available non-hybrid fuel economy. The Jetta is state-of-the-art, with 50-state emissions compliance and performance that gives little away to the gasoline variant of the car. Expect 34 mpg.
6. Audi A3 (MSRP $29,950). Here’s another TDI variant, earning “Green Car of the Year” plaudits this year from the Green Car Journal. Its 34 mpg is a third better than the standard A3, and it matches the Jetta TDI.
7. Toyota Camry Hybrid (Starting MSRP $26,150). The big brother of the Prius (but not necessarily all that much roomier), the Camry has largely escaped Toyota’s recall crisis (just 22 of them made the trip back to dealerships). You can expect 34 mpg combined, like the A3 and Jetta.
8. Lexus HS 250H (Starting MSRP $34,650). Think of a luxury variant of the Camry and Prius. The $35,000 Lexus is also somewhat performance-oriented, with an 8.4-second zero to 60 time. The Atkinson Cycle engine is a fuel-efficient curiosity. The 35-mpg is on a par with the Smart FourTwo.
9. Smart FourTwo (Starting MSRP $11,990). The 36 mpg and recyclable body panels are impressive, but the performance and ride are not. It’s a chore on the highway but the Smart FourTwo is hugely popular in Europe and is admirably compact. There is no more park-able car on the planet.
10. Ford Escape Hybrid (Starting MSRP $29,860). America’s first credible hybrid, the $30,000 Escape is now becoming ubiquitous as a popular green taxicab. Its’ 32 mpg makes it the most fuel-efficient SUV on the market. If you need an SUV, this is a really good choice.
When I shopped for a new car two years ago, I was hard-pressed to find a “fuel-efficient” car that could put my own 21-mpg SUV to shame as well as fit my family (no dog), do dump runs, and boast safety ratings at the top of its class. I found a few that were better than my current SUV but not by much. So I waited and waited, and based on the news from auto analysts, I will wait a little longer. Brace yourself for the new crop of cars coming out in about six months. They are allegedly seismically superior in carbon footprint bragging rights than those listed above but like anything else, you’ll pay for the added quality.
If you’re in the market for a new or used hybrid, make your first stop eBay because buying a car on eBay can save you thousands. Work your way through the online and print ads, then make your last stop the dealership if you still can’t find what you’re looking for.