Once upon a time, green cars weren’t exactly hot. Only hardcore treehuggers knew much about them, let alone owned one, while most of the world continued to carry on the grand love affair with SUVs.
It’s 2010, and the times have definitely changed. Now, fuel-efficient cars of all stripes, from compact clean diesel cars to luxury hybrids, are just as sexy and powerful as those increasingly archaic gas guzzlers. These 10 green cars stand out as examples of just how great green really is.
Ford Fusion Hybrid
Base Price: $27,950
The 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid wasn’t voted green car of the year – it was voted car of the year, period. It faced some stiff competition, including its own non-hybrid version and three fuel-efficient vehicles – the Honda Insight, the Toyota Prius and the Volkswagen Golf TDI. North American Car of the Year juror Csaba Csere said, “Though not the first hybrid on the market, or even the second or third, the Fusion Hybrid is simply the best one ever built. In addition to delivering terrific mileage, it looks and drives like a regular car – and a very good one indeed.”
Audi A3 TDI
Base Price: $29,950
Clean diesel got its due this year with the Audi A3 TDI, named Green Car Journal’s 2010 Green Car of the Year. With a sporty, aggressive look and all of the extras expected from the Audi brand, this upscale compact car certainly escapes the stereotype that green vehicles aren’t as fun as their less environmentally friendly counterparts. Classified by the EPA as a small station wagon but described by Audi as a “Sportback”, this high efficiency vehicle is both significantly less expensive and significantly greener than another notably fuel-efficient luxury car – the Mercedes-Benz S400.
Base Price: N/A
It won’t be available until December, but the Nissan Leaf is already generating buzz of epic proportions. Winner of Green Car Journal’s 2010 Vision Award, this all-electric vehicle will hook up to a special charging system that runs off a home’s 220-volt power, refilling a drained battery in about eight hours. It can travel up to 100 miles between charges with a reported 107 horsepower and top speed of about 90mph.
The exact price of the Leaf hasn’t been set just yet, but Green Car Journal believes it will be “approachable” and will include the home charger and the battery, likely as a monthly lease fee.
Volkswagen Golf TDI
Base Price: $21,990
It’s roomy. It’s fuel efficient. Oh yeah, and it’s crazy fast. Just ask Jalopnik’s Wes Siler, who got to test drive the Volkswagen Golf TDI on the Autobahn last fall before anyone else had their hands on one. Powered by clean diesel, this powerful little car is almost as green as a hybrid and the four-door model can comfortably seat six adults. The Golf TDI has the same engine as the popular VW Jetta but at 250 pounds lighter, its performance is even better.
Base Price: $11,990
It won’t be blowing anyone away on the Autobahn anytime soon, but where the Smart ForTwo really shines is in its intended environment: the city. This tiny car, with room for two adults and minimal cargo, is the ideal urban vehicle, fitting into the smallest of parking spaces and getting awesome fuel mileage that rivals that of hybrid cars.
Lexus HS 250h
Base Price: $34,650 M
Sure, it’s on the pricey side – but hey, luxury consumers want fuel-efficient, earth-friendly cars too, and Lexus delivers with the HS 250h. This hybrid sedan was described by HybridCars.com as “a luxury Prius with a trunk”, but it’s far more than that. As Lexus’ first dedicated hybrid, the HS 250h improves upon previous “mild hybrids”, which didn’t exactly get impressive fuel mileage. It’s got features galore including a front-view monitor with a 190-degree angle of view and a navigation system with real-time traffic and weather. As for the Prius comparison – it costs considerably more, but it’s also 40 percent more powerful.
Mercury Milan Hybrid
Base Price: $31,915
Some people might say the Mercury Milan Hybrid is just a Ford Fusion by another name. That’s true – almost. Under the surface, it’s the same exact car, down to the lauded features like “Smart Gauge with EcoGuide”. It just looks a bit different, with a more rounded nose and the signature Mercury grille.
Base Price: $19,800
Green Car Reports says the Honda Insight “may be the best bang for your hybrid buck.” The Insight’s fuel mileage may not be quite as impressive as that of the Toyota Prius, but it costs several thousand dollars less. It may take some hybrid drivers time to get used to the Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) system, which starts the car with the internal combustion engine first and glides into using the silent electric motor after idling, stopping or going under 10mph.
Base Price: $14,900
It may not be a hybrid or run off of electricity, but the highly acclaimed Honda Fit is still a great, green little car and an excellent value. The 2010 Fit is actually no different from the 2009 model, but that’s because they got everything right the first time. The manual transmission gets slightly better fuel mileage than the automatic version at a combined 31mpg. The best thing about this hatchback is its surprising roominess, with a “magic seat” that folds down to accommodate so much cargo, you’d think it was an SUV (without all the gas guzzling.)
Base Price: $22,800
Is it totally predictable to include the Toyota Prius on a “hot green cars” list? It may be ubiquitous, but the Toyota Prius is popular for a reason. Despite the Japanese automaker’s recent pedal woes, which have led to a massive recall, the Prius remains among the greenest cars on the market.
The 2010 model has even better fuel efficiency than ever, and adds not just a solar moon roof – which powers a solar ventilation system – but the world’s first remote air conditioning system that can function on battery power alone. Drivers also have more control over the experience with three driving modes: EV-Drive for driving at low speeds on battery power alone, Power Mode for increased throttle sensitivity and Eco Mode for maximum fuel efficiency.
Be sure to check out our review of the Greenest Cars of 2009, too.