Thursday, March 6, 2008

Green My Ride

With the price of gasoline pushing $4/gallon, folks who want to stop bleeding dollars at the gas pump should check out Sierra Magazine's article on green rides. I did a lot more research for this article than could fit on the two-page spread, so here are some other good choices to consider:
  • 4-wheel drive SUVs: the Mazda Tribute Hybrid gets 29 city and 27 highway, just like the Ford and Mercury Mariner Hybrids (identical to each other but for the brand name). These vehicles have enough interior space for the kids and the dog and the skis, and the sure-footedness of 4-wheel drive. Amazingly, Ford is making only about 20,000 of these a year, most of which seem to have been snapped up by NYC cabbies, so expect to wait six months if you want one.
  • Wagons. The best mid-size is the VW Passat Wagon, which gets 20 city and 28 highway with an automatic transmission. The KIA Rondo (19/26) and Saab 9-5 Sport Combi (18/26) do slightly worse in the city but almost as well on the highway. Among the smaller wagons, the Honda Fit (28 city, 34 highway) comes out on top, but the Pontiac Vibe (23/33) and Toytoa Matrix (26/33) trail close behind.
  • Large & Mid-Size Sedans. The large Honda Accord (22/31) and Hyundai Sonata (21/31) do a lot better than most. In mid-size cars, (size designations are based on interior passenger and cargo volume, not overall length or width), the hybrid Prius (48/45) is the hands-down winner, but the Nissan Altima Hybrid (35/33) and Nissan Versa (27/33) are also good choices. The Altima Hybrid, in fact, is luxurious and roomy inside, and would make a great choice for carpools. But don't expect much space when you open the trunk. The battery takes up much of the cargo space.
  • Low-price compacts and subcompacts. The non-hybrid Honda Civic (25/36) is runner-up to the Toyota Yaris (29/36) in the subcompact class, although it is considerably more expensive at about $15,000 compared to $11,300 for the Yaris. The Scion xD is another good choice (27/33) and priced about the same as the Honda. Among the compacts, the Honda Civic Hybrid (40/45) is followed by the Toyota Corolla (28/37) and Kia Rio (27/32).
An important note about the safetyy of smaller cars: The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gives many of the smaller cars good crash test ratings. But a spokesman reminded me that their tests simulate collisions with vehicles of the same size. So bigger is safer, particularly if you mainly use your car for high-speed driving.

To check out fuel economy ratings yourself, see the Environmental Protection Agency's listings.

1 comment:

davidpsibek said...

I am troubled by the “swapping out” attitude as it applies to eco fixes. I don’t get the replacing of 22 million gallons of oil for 22 million gallons of ethanol. We use way too much stuff and the mentality behind that is what has to change before we can make any real progress with ominous environmental and energy issues. We can lose the SUVs if we understand that we have to. The same technology in a hybrid SUV will get you at least 8 to 12 more MPGs in a sedan and there is plenty of room for the kids in a Prius. Gee, we have to sacrifice? And sacrifice what, the illusion of comfort, the illusion of safety? The idea behind driving a bigger vehicle for safety sadly reminds me of the catastrophic Cold War strategies – they are driving Escalades so we will drive Hummers. Given the urgency of these matters, MPGs of 19/26, 20/28 and even 29/27 should be obsolete given the availability of 48/45, 40/45, etc. And by the way, what about (oh, m-god) taking a good look at, gulp, public transit?