Green Cars: Best of 2012 at the LA Auto Show

2012 CODA EV

Here we have another electric car you can buy now, although I’m not sure you’d want to. The CODA EV is based on a rudimentary Chinese-market car; the styling is outdated, the interior is cheap and chintzy, and driving it is about as enjoyable as getting a tetanus shot. And that’s a shame, because it has a high-tech temperature-controlled battery pack that gives it a significantly better range than most other EVs on the market now, as well as those coming to market this year. CODA expects an EPA range rating of just over 100 miles (compare that to 73 miles for the Nissan Leaf), and a real-world urban range of up to 150 miles. Too bad the car is so crummy — the Nissan Leaf is significantly nicer and $5,000 cheaper. The good news: Along with selling their own car, CODA is looking to license their battery technology to other automakers. We can’t wait to see what CODA’s future models will look like; fingers crossed they’re attractive.

who should buy it?

True electric-car mavens who are willing to suffer for their passion

epa range

100+ miles (estimated)



2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas

Natural gas: We cook with it, we heat our homes with it, and if we happen to be Hollywood-movie bad guys, we blow up the hero’s house with it. And now, thanks to the Honda, we can fuel our car with it! Why would you want to drive a car powered by natural gas? Because natural gas is cheap, it’s plentiful, and — Hollywood dramatizations notwithstanding — it’s actually much safer than gasoline. Most importantly of all, it’s very clean: Natural gas cars produce far less pollution than gasoline-powered cars, even hybrids. The Civic Natural Gas drives pretty much like an ordinary Civic, except for limited trunk space (the fuel requires a bulky cylindrical tank) and fueling stations that are few and far between outside of urban areas. Honda has actually been selling natural-gas-powered Civics for about 10 years, but only in limited markets. As of 2012, they’re rolling it out cross-country to 200 dealerships in 36 states.

who should buy it?

Drivers who want a car that’s cleaner than a hybrid and more flexible than an electric car

epa fuel economy estimates:

27 MPG city / 38 MPG highway


$26,925 – $28,425

2012 Toyota Prius v

Seeing the Prius v for the first time, I had to fight the urge to burst into a chorus of “I like big butts, and I cannot lie!” You other brothers (or sisters) can’t deny that the Prius v is an excellent, if elementary idea — an ordinary Prius hybrid with the rump of a station wagon. The wagon profile opens up 34 cubic feet of space, as much as most small-to-medium-sized SUVs, plus more back-seat headroom. But under the hood, the Prius v is identical to the regular Prius. Result: The Prius v hauls as much stuff as an SUV, but gets roughly double the gas mileage — Toyota and the EPA say 42 MPG, but during my week-long sneak-peak test drive, I averaged an astonishing 46.3 MPG.

who should buy it?

Families who want to reduce our reliance on oil — or just save a big butt-load of money on their gasoline bills

epa fuel economy estimates

44 MPG city / 40 MPG highway


$26,170 – $36,330

2012 Volkswagen Passat TDI

How do you get a big, American-sized sedan to accomplish 40 MPG? Volkswagen’s solution is the diesel-powered Passat TDI. Diesel cars use a less-refined form of petroleum that burns differently than regular gasoline. Truckers love big diesel engines because they are great at lugging heavy loads; Europeans love small diesel engines because they get great fuel economy (Europe pays quite a bit more than we do at the pump). But getting diesel cars to pass strict U.S. emissions standards has always been a challenge. Volkswagen has done it with the Passat TDI, so now Americans can enjoy diesel fuel economy in a big sedan. The Passat has a limosine-like back seat and swimming-pool-sized trunk, and yet its EPA fuel economy estimates are better than most small cars: 30 MPG city / 40 MPG highway with an automatic transmission and 31 / 43 with a stick-shift. And with its big 18.5 gallon fuel tank, the Passat can drive up to 750 miles — maybe more — on a single tank of fuel.

who should buy it?

Families that love to take road trips and anyone who likes a spacious interior but wants to sip fuel

epa fuel economy estimates:

30-31 MPG city / 40-43 MPG highway


$26,765 – $32,965

Featured Image: © Anton Sokolov |
Dok-Ing Image © Croq

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One Response to “Green Cars: Best of 2012 at the LA Auto Show”

  1. But carmakers are still holding back the sippiest models, aren’t they? Example: VW Passat, which you report as getting 31/43mpg. Volkswagen makes a version (2.0L TDI Bluemotion) that gets 48mpg as reported by actual users. And the one with the 1.6L TDI Bluemotion engine will get better mileage than that. Models like these are carmakers’ get-it-now ticket to compliance with the new CAFE2025 emissions standard. We should ask for them to be made available to US drivers; after all, the rest of the world has been driving them for years already.

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