Top Green Cars
Gas-Sipping Style is All the Rage – Here’s the VroomGirls list of the top Green cars
By Tori Tellem
I don’t mind filling the tank when I’m doing long-distance driving. I get to stretch my legs, and if I survive the House of Horrors that is the gas station ladies’ room, I get to eat salty, greasy, sickeningly sweet and really, really stale gas station food.
But who among us doesn’t hate filling the tank when all we’ve done is drop kids off, hit Target to see if the Missoni’s been restocked, hit Costco because I don’t care what you say, their cooked chickens are HEAVEN and pick the kids up. Yes, I know, stop-and-go driving is hell on mileage (and my nerves) but still, it bugs me. And that’s why I was delighted with my most recent assignment: compile a list of the top five eco-friendly family hybrids and plug-in electric vehicles, each getting more than 30 miles per gallon around town (or in some cases that’s mpg-e, meaning “equivalent” since an all-electric vehicle runs on electricity, not gallons of fuel).
But wait, there’s more! There are financial incentives for driving an all-electric vehicle, including a current federal tax credit of $7,500 for the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt, and there may be other rebates in your state, so while we included basic pricing here, know that’s just the starting point. Operators standing by! Pajama Jeans and My Booty Belt not included!
Hyundai Sonata Hybrid
Hyundai used to be the automotive equivalent of taking your cousin to the prom: an acceptable alternative to staying home but still, it’s hard to slow dance with a guy who looks like your Uncle Alvin. But these days, the automaker has been building sexy, inexpensive cars – come on, I can’t be the only one who liked the adorable Irish cop in “Bridesmaids” more than I liked Matthew McConnaughy in well, anything.
And did you know Hyundai has a hybrid in its lineup? Maybe that’s the downside of being able to skip TV commercials with your DVR. But check out the Sonata hybrid, worth 35 mpg in the city and 40 mpg on the highway.
Fuel efficient and sexy? Shocking. And while “inexpensive” can be relative these days, the Sonata hybrid has a base sticker of $25,795, making the sedan one of the lower-priced options on this list.
The Hybrid Sonata’s exterior was tweaked a little, not only to set it apart from the straight-up Sonata but to make it more aerodynamic, which raises the mpg. I know a lot of Hybrids get the “weird-looking” rap and okay, some of them – especially the first generation Hybrids – did look like an unsliced loaf of bread on tiny wheels. But the new Sonota kicks that old reputation to the curb: it’s actually a fetching hybrid. And yes, I said fetching.
I also like that the five-seater has loads of interior room and tons of upscale standard features, including a leather-wrapped steering wheel, dual automatic climate controls, a trip computer, and outside mirrors that are heated and have a timer.
Telematics (a made-up word that emcompasses GPS, as well as telecommunications) is growing in popularity in today’s vehicles, and Hyundai’s Blue Link is standard equipment as well, with traffic and weather information, as well as roadside assistance and maintenance alerts.
For parents – or, I guess, creepy stalkers — there’s peace of mind in knowing it allows you to keep an eye on your younger drivers through speed alert (if your Sonata has exceeded a designated speed) and curfew (you put a time cap on your car and it will tell you if it’s in use after that time). If it could only clean its room, I’d adopt it.
Sure, the all-electric Nissan Leaf’s style might be kind of familiar (Toyota Prius), but where it stands unique is with its crazy-good fuel-economy figures: 106 mpg-e city and 92 mpg-e highway. You read that right. A hundred miles on a single charge. You could actually go to a Target in a neighboring state and still be okay!
Nissan also added an Eco mode setting that’s under your control. Regenerative braking increases battery range (braking or letting off the accelerator to coast converts what could be wasted energy into battery energy, or a charge), and Eco mode increases the regenerative action by reducing the air conditioning, improving range by up to 10 percent. I actually had to take a break from writing this and apply a cold compress to my forehead. Wow.
But performance isn’t all the plug-in Leaf has going for it. We I like the five-passenger hatchback’s interior; it feels both modern and futuristic but not Jetson-y, and Nissan made it simple for you to monitor the battery. The easy-to-read dash display includes a power meter, the scoop on how much energy remains, and the distance until empty. Oh and get this, the transmission shifter—it resembles a computer mouse.
Bang for the buck is the base-model SV ($32,780), with standards like navigation, steering-wheel controls for Bluetooth, audio, and cruise control, and iPod functionality. While cupholders are always a welcome accessory, I loved that there are bottle holders, too.
You may also have heard of the safety controversy surrounding electric vehicles being too quiet for pedestrians to hear. We appreciate that the Leaf is ahead of the curve, incorporating what’s called “Approaching Vehicle Sound for Pedestrians,” which alerts those on foot that your Leaf is coming via beeps through a speaker at the front of the car. Scaring those idiots who cross the street engrossed in their cell phones has never been more fun.