Friday, July 5, 2013

Ask The Green Miles: Are Smart Cars the Greenest Choice?

Ning & Smart Girl
The quintessential auto show picture
When folks ask me for advice on car-buying, they almost always bring up Smart Cars. They're so small, they must be the most fuel efficient, right?

But smallest size doesn't necessarily mean the best fuel efficiency. Sure, the Smart ForTwo gives you a really good 36 miles per gallon combined city/highway at a very low base price. But a nice gas-sipping subcompact - say, a Ford Focus or a Toyota Yaris - will give you very similar fuel efficiency (low 30s) with TWICE the passenger volume for only a couple of thousand more.

If you're a short-to-medium distance commuter, all-electrics like the Ford Focus Electric or Nissan Leaf will deliver absolutely amazing savings on fuel cost and pollution. And for folks who regularly make longer drives and need a hybrid, the Toyota Prius is still king.

The Environmental Protection Agency's FuelEconomy.gov gives a great rundown of the most fuel-efficient cars, along with the most and least fuel-efficient SUVs and trucks.

That brings me to a related pet-peeve: When people think I'm reflexively anti-SUV. Yes, if you're a single person driving a Chevy Suburban because you might go skiing once next year, you're wasting money and polluting our air for absolutely no reason. But if you need some room for your family, get a Toyota Highlander Hybrid and you'll be getting only somewhat worse mileage (28 mpg combined) than those Smart Car drivers.
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