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2011 Greenest Vehicles List: A Baker’s Dozen of Diverse Cars


2010 Honda Civic GX natural-gas vehicle, Los Angeles, November 2010

2010 Honda Civic GX natural-gas vehicle, Los Angeles, November 2010

Think you know the greenest cars motoring down the road for 2011? You may be right in some of your picks, but a few others may surprise you. In its 14th annual environmental ratings, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) list of 2011 Greenest Vehicles is a mixed bag of entries. Two new ones include an electric and a plug-in hybrid, but the Baker’s dozen showcases cars with wide diversity in technology and fuels.

How are vehicles rated? According to the ACEEE press release, “Vehicles are analyzed on the basis of a ‘Green Score,’ a singular measure that incorporates unhealthy tailpipe emissions, fuel consumption, and emission of gases that cause global warming.” As a result of the updated Green Book methodology, hybrids lose a couple of points (capturing only three spots on the 2011 Greenest Vehicles list), and diesels fall just short of making the grade.

Honda Civic GX

In its eighth year as numero uno on the Greenest Vehicles list, the 2011 Honda Civic GX (which is only sold in California, New York, Oklahoma, and Utah) retains its leading position despite changes to Green Book rating methods that included other technologies. Note the 2010 model is pictured above.

2011 Nissan Leaf

2011 Nissan Leaf

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Nissan Leaf

The all-electric 2011 Nissan Leaf comes in at number two spot, shaking things up a bit as the first pure electric on the list. See why The Car Connection editors give the 2011 Nissan Leaf an overall 8.2 (out of 10) rating in this review.

2011 Smart Fortwo

2011 Smart Fortwo

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Smart Fortwo

Right behind Nissan Leaf, the 2011 Smart Fortwo gasoline-powered subcompact two-seater boasts an EPA-estimated 33 mpg city/41 mpg highway with manual transmission. It’s likely the Smart Fortwo electric drive model would clinch a higher spot on the list, but the low number available for the 2011 model year precludes that. There’s always next year.

2011 Toyota Prius

2011 Toyota Prius

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Toyota Prius

With all the Prii on the road (yes, that’s the official plural for multiple Prius cars, if not the grammatically correct plural form), you had to know the Toyota Prius would be on the list of 2011 Greenest Vehicles. It is, but in number four position, slipping from the number two spot last year. Still, at 51 mpg city/48 mpg highway, the Prius leads the list of highest fuel economy ratings of all hybrids and gasoline-powered cars.

2010 Honda Civic Hybrid

2010 Honda Civic Hybrid

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Honda Civic Hybrid

With fuel economy of 40 mpg city/43 mpg highway, the 2011 Honda Civic Hybrid (2010 pictured here) may not have the performance or cargo space of other hybrids (including the Honda Insight), but it is green – and thus may appeal to consumers who want a hybrid Honda. Bengt Halvorson has more on the 2011 Honda Civic Hybrid here.

2011 Honda Insight

2011 Honda Insight

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Honda Insight

Catch a familiar refrain here? Honda has three models on the 2011 Greenest Vehicles list. Resurrected by Honda in 2009 as a four-door hybrid sedan (it was previously a two-door), the 2011 Honda Insight, while it gets a bit less fuel economy than the Prius, is affordable, fun to drive, and carries the Honda brand prestige and reputation.

2011 Ford Fiesta

2011 Ford Fiesta

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Ford Fiesta SFE

Number seven on the 2011 Greenest Vehicles list, the all-new 2011 Ford Fiesta SE with SFE (Super Fuel Efficiency) package achieves an EPA-estimated 29 mpg city/40 mpg highway with its 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine and six-speed dual-clutch gearbox plus some aerodynamic and other body modifications.


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Comments (3)
  1. I'd like to see a list of most fuel efficient family sized cars for those of us who need more room for around town or family road trips. I've noticed a trend in the above list of cars in that the hybrids are now getting better highway mileage than city - has something changed in the way they work vs the older frequent braking charging the batteries method?
     
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  2. @Road Mice - Thanks for your comment about family cars for in-town and road trips. Good suggestion. Regarding your question, yes, some automakers have changed the way they are controlling their hybrid systems. Check out Green Car Reports (one of the High Gear Media websites) for more information on green cars. And, check out Family Car Guide for more articles on various kinds of family vehicles.
     
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  3. @Road Mice - Here's a more detail explanation from John Voelcker, editor of Green Car Reports. "Traditionally, hybrids have worked best in stop-and-go urban traffic, where the engine can switch off frequently and the battery and electric motor can move the vehicle using only electricity for short distances (up to a mile) at low speeds (30 mph or less). This is best suited to dense, crowded, high-traffic metropolises like Tokyo, London, and New York.
    In the U.S., however, that kind of duty cycle is less common for many buyers than is a higher-speed, longer-range suburban cycle that includes speeds up to 50 or 60 mph punctuated with less frequent stops.
    So more recent hybrids, especially those expected to sell primarily in the States, may be tuned to provide their benefits at highway speeds as well. One is the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, now arriving at dealerships. Hyundai data shows that U.S. drivers spend roughly 55 percent of their driving time at freeway speeds, so the Sonata Hybrid provides electric assist at speeds up to 70 mph--and its highway mileage rating is higher than its city rating, the reverse of the ratings for most hybrids."
     
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