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

February 27, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

 

2011 Chevrolet Cruze Eco

2011 Chevrolet Cruze Eco

Chevrolet Cruze Eco

The greenest of the all-new 2011 Chevrolet Cruze lineup is Cruze Eco with its 28 mpg city/42 mpg highway estimated fuel economy. The Cruze Eco achieves its fuel efficiency increases over other Cruze compact models (which get 24/36 city/highway mpg) with its 1.4-liter turbocharged in-line four-cylinder engine paired with a six-speed manual transmission, due the addition of a few components to reduce aerodynamic drag and low-rolling resistance tires. For more information on the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze, see this review in The Car Connection.

2011 Hyundai Elantra

2011 Hyundai Elantra

Hyundai Elantra

Updated for 2011 with exterior design that echoes the larger Sonata, part of Hyundai’s “fluidic sculpture design,” the 2011 Elantra compact is fun to drive, affordable, economical – and gets 29 mpg city/40 mpg highway. Want more details on the 2011 Hyundai Elantra? Check out Bengt Halvorson’s article here.

2011 MINI Cooper SD

2011 MINI Cooper SD

MINI Cooper

MINI Cooper may not be for everyone, but the tiny car looks good, handles well, and gets 29 mpg city/37 mpg highway with 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine and six-speed automatic tranny in the base model. What about the MINI E electric vehicle? Right now, it’s only a year-long test with 450 consumers already selected, living in the New York City metropolitan area and California’s metropolitan Los Angeles-Orange County area. For more info on the 2011 MINI Cooper, see this review in The Car Connection.

2010 Toyota Yaris 5dr LB Auto (Natl) Angular Front Exterior View

2010 Toyota Yaris 5dr LB Auto (Natl) Angular Front Exterior View

Toyota Yaris

With its 1.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine and manual gearbox, the 2011 Toyota Yaris (2010 pictured here) achieves an EPA-estimated 29 mpg city/36 mpg highway fuel economy. Roomy front seats, affordable price and good safety features make the Yaris great for city driving, but it’s not the best performer around and the interior is pretty Spartan.

2011 Mazda2 exterior and detail

2011 Mazda2 exterior and detail

Mazda2

The ‘zoom-zoom’ 2011 Mazda2 is a cute, great handling, economical compact hatchback that lives up to its image as a fun urban runabout. With 29 mpg city/35 mpg highway, it’s also fuel-stingy with 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine and manual transmission. Though it seats five, the Mazda2 is probably best for a young (or young-at-heart) couple, singles, and those with small kids only.

2011 Chevrolet Volt Z-Spec

2011 Chevrolet Volt Z-Spec

Chevrolet Volt

The all-new 2011 Chevrolet Volt extended-range EV comes in at number 13 on the Greenest Vehicles list – and was just edged out by the Mazda2 “by a hair,” according to the ACEEE. The Volt combines an electric drive unit with a 1.4-liter four-cylinder gasoline-powered engine that acts as a generator. The Volt will run 35 miles on all-electric power before the gasoline generator kicks in.

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[ACEEE, greenercars.org]

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