Do you have to compromise on performance and style when opting for the latest environmentally friendly car? Our research shows you can have a desirable car that also has good green credentials.
Bluemotion, Greenline, EfficientDynamics, Blue Drive… it seems like we’re all driving eco cars these days. Pretty much Mercedes’ entire range falls under the ‘BlueEfficiency’ banner, for example.
But while the car industry churns out thousands of increasingly fuel-efficient cars (enforced, admittedly, by punitive EU taxes), there are some cars that go further – sometimes literally. These are the truest eco cars – those that use electric power and advanced technology to eke out every possible mile-per-gallon.
Our latest group test brings together five such models: the Nissan Leaf, Peugeot 3008 Hybrid4, Renault Fluence, Toyota Prius Plug-In and Vauxhall Ampera. The Nissan and Renault are powered purely by batteries, the Toyota and Vauxhall are petrol/electric hybrids and the Peugeot is a diesel/electric hybrid. So which is best? Watch our video to find out:
Plugged in to electric cars
Well, the electric cars are both admirably quiet and easy to drive, but their limited range and high price tags still rule them out for most people. Unless you never venture more than 50 miles from home, you’d need to buy a second car – a normal car – and how green is that?
The hybrids get around this problem by using internal combustion engines to increase their range. Unlike conventional hybrids such as the Peugeot, the Prius and Ampera can also be plugged into the mains to boost their batteries while parked. It’s a ‘best of both worlds’ solution that means you won’t be left stranded if you can’t find a plug socket (or a long-enough extension lead!).
In truth, even the plug-in hybrids are no more economical in the real world than the latest fuel-efficient diesels – especially for motorway journeys. Factor-in those high purchase prices and none of them will necessarily save you money. But for many drivers, mpg is the new mph, and being green is a lifestyle choice.
Eco cars put through their paces
That’s why I’d pick the Ampera. The Toyota actually wins our group test for various, eminently sensible reasons, as our eco cars video explains. But the Vauxhall is fun to drive, looks great and has an interior that resembles a 1980s sci-fi vision of the future. It can’t quite match the Prius for fuel economy, but it does make you feel good about driving an eco car.
As a car enthusiast, the Ampera gives me hope that leaner, greener cars don’t have to be dull to look at and boring to drive. People buy cars to suit their wants as much as their needs (how else do you explain all the 4x4s and sports cars on our roads) and, at the moment, the Ampera is the only eco car I actually want to own.
What would influence your choice when buying a green car? Do any of our eco car reviews tempt you into joining the green club?