Top Green Cars

Chevy Volt

The Chevy Volt is still a hot topic of conversation, despite going on sale at the end of last year, which means you’ll likely be an unofficial spokesperson among friends and strangers. But as curious as people are about it, you’ll will probably go unnoticed most of the time because the Volt looks like your run-of-the-mill sedan. And that’s exactly how Clark Kent fooled Lois all those years because beneath that very presentable but not spectacular exterior lurks a solid mostly electric car.

The Volt also utilizes a small gasoline-powered generator for when the battery reaches its full range thereby netting you hundreds more driving miles after the estimated 35 electric miles have been used up. Score one for Chevy.

The downside is that it’s the priciest of this eco bunch, with an MSRP of just under $40,000, and it has seating for only four. I don’t quite know why but the handy hatchback design took some of the sticker shock out of it for me.

Going electric can seem intimidating on paper, but the Volt keeps the plug-in process simple. You can recharge in about four hours in a 240-volt outlet, or do it at home in a conventional 120-volt electrical outlet in 10 to 12 hours. There’s also a smartphone app for monitoring the charging remotely. An app for THAT? Unreal.

With Volt’s hefty price tag, we’re extra grateful for all its standard features, like five years of OnStar Directions and Connections and a 60GB hard drive (30 GB is devoted to audio data storage), with the audio system having both navigation (which includes maps in 2D and 3D) and voice recognition. There’s even a heated driver seat and remote vehicle start and who among us doesn’t like toasty buns and convenience comforts? The Volt didn’t skimp on 12-volt power outlets or USB ports; there are three outlets and six ports.

One other noteworthy aspect: The Volt also received impressive scores in the government’s crash-test ratings. I really like that.

Volkswagen Passat TDI

If you still think of a vehicle with a diesel engine as a smoky polluter, you’re missing out on today’s uber-clean and efficient technology—and some insane fuel economy. The Volkswagen Passat TDI Clean Diesel is a great example. Not only is this sedan a literal breath of fresh air, but it even combines high fuel economy with a bit of luxury.

For a starting price of $25,995, you get an engine that accomplishes 31 mpg in the city and 43 mpg on the highway, and it has a range of 583 miles, according to the EPA estimates. That’s on one tank, and the range outshines some hybrids. While there are three trim packages available, we think the SE base model ain’t too shabby: heated front seats, a premium touchscreen radio, an eight-way power driver seat, and a multifunction, leather-wrapped steering wheel to name a few standards without feeling like a show-off. If you’re willing to spend more, the top-of-the-line SEL Premium is $32,195, and you’ll end up with a bit more driving spunk, thanks to a different automatic transmission, and you’ll see more of that luxury we mentioned: a sunroof, navigation, woodgrain interior accents, keyless entry/remote start, and a high-end audio system, which could be the best companion of all during 583 nonstop miles.

I also dig the Passat’s Intelligent Crash Response safety system. If a crash causes the airbags to deploy, the doors will unlock and the hazard lights will automatically turn on. The system will also stop fuel flow to the engine’s fuel pump.

Ford Escape Hybrid AWD

The other day, a Ford Escape hybrid was in the lane next to me. What caught my attention was the color: green. If you’re in a nit-picky mood, I guess you could say the green message was overkill — it was a hybrid, that the driver was saving significant green at the pump, and, you know, the Kermit paint, but then when you’re driving a compact SUV that gets 34 mpg city, you probably can’t help but want to shout it from a mountaintop. That’s because the Escape hybrid, which starts at $30,570, manages to throw the whole “SUVs are destroying the planet” theory out with the bathwater, since it’s making fuel-economy numbers on par with—and in some cases better than—its fuel-efficient car brethren, with the bonus of being an SUV.

While I haven’t embraced I’ve certainly understood the SUV perks of command seating, extra roominess, all that cargo space, and the idea of driving something bigger than a car, and now thanks to the Ford Escape Hybrid AWD you have your cake, eat it too… and not gain any weight! I just added that last part but it wouldn’t surprise me if it were true: the Escape is that cutting-edge.

One of the coolest things the Escape has as standard equipment is the SYNC system, allowing for hands-free, voice commanding of both entertainment (say, music) and communications (like traffic and directions). This means that if you’re driving your spouse or your kids, someone will still listen to you. To ensure you are indeed a mobile command center, it also will grab info related to your personal needs, be it movie times, weather or horoscopes although I have yet to be out on the road and thought, I wonder what Capricorns think of me, but still it’s nice to know it’s there. On the safety side, you’ve got to appreciate the active park assist, ideal for those of us who live in mortal fear of parallel parking. Press a button and the sensors on the front and rear will help guide the vehicle into a parking space.

Oh and there’s also one other thing you might like about the Escape hybrid: It’s available in Lime Squeeze Metallic. Go on, gild the lily. Sometimes you’ve just got to.

Featured Image: © Anton Balazh

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