Car Tips

Auto Club's Green Car Guide rates top models

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Alternative fuel cars keep improving, and you have many more models to consider. The Auto Club wants to help by rating these cars. Which green vehicles rank the best?

The latest edition of the Auto Club's Green Car Guide is 130 pages. Ten years ago it would have been more of a pamphlet.

"'Green' has become kind of 'in,' and so there's a much wider selection and that keeps getting bigger every year," said Chief Automotive Engineer at Automobile Club of Southern California.

Triple-A evaluates all sorts of cars in things like fuel economy, emissions output and performance, giving every car a score.

And this year the top score went to the Toyota RAV4 EV. It's one of a growing number of plug-in electric vehicles, and the only one that's a small SUV.

"Over 100 miles of range and the convenience of an SUV. You can still make your Costco run and have plenty of room," said Toyota spokesperson Jana Hartline.

Not only did the RAV4 EV garner the highest score this year, but its total score of over 89 points is the highest they've ever given.

The plug-in SUV is a pricey one at nearly $50,000, but there are federal and state incentives that can knock $10,000 off. And overall, the Auto Club says operating costs are far lower than the gasoline version of the RAV4.

If you are shopping more by price, the guide has you covered too. The Nissan Versa 1.6 S tops their best-value list, followed right behind by the Chevy Spark 1LT. Both were under $15,000 as tested.

The Auto Club gave good scores to lots of different vehicles, so buyers can choose based on their taste and budget.

Triple A says pretty much any car you select from their Green Car Guide can save you money on your commute. But there's something else that some of these vehicles have that others don't that can save you something else: time.

That's another advantage of the RAV4 EV, along with other plug-ins: access to the carpool lanes via a special sticker. Compressed natural gas vehicles qualify for those too.

"At least for the next couple years, and there's a move afoot to extend that out a few years," said Mazor.

Printed guides are available free at any Auto Club branch while supplies last, and it's available online.

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auto news, environment, car tips, dave kunz
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