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Green Guide

There are many ways to be green these days. This category includes cars that get at least 40 mpg. But beyond fuel efficiency, this category includes alternative-fuel or electric vehicles and PLEV, ULEV, andZLEV category cars.

Ford C-Max

Year: Starting at $25,200 Hybrids are settling into the mainstream. The proof comes from Ford’s all-new C-Max Hybrid and Energi. The compact car is cute in the current Ford style, with wedgy shaping and a toothy grille, but its main selling point is fuel economy. It is rated at 47 mpg both in town and on the highway—which Ford hastens to point out is 7 mpg better than the Toyota Prius v’s highway numbers. The C-Max has a lithium-ion battery that recharges when the gasoline engine is in use; plus, there’s regenerative braking—recycling at its least onerous—which recaptures up to 95 percent of the energy used in braking and uses it to recharge the battery. The C-Max is not only efficient; it also responds to the eco-conscious aesthetic by using a greenery theme in its Smartgauge display, which displays more leaves and vines as a “visual reward” when a driver is more efficient in his or her driving habits. The C-Max’s popular price, starting just over $25,000—lower than its closest rival, the Toyota Prius, and some $10,000 cheaper than the Chevrolet Volt and the Nissan Leaf—will help it win fans, as will its uncontroversial styling. The fact that you can drive the plug-in Energi at speeds up to 85 mph on electrical power alone should electrify the highway commuter crowd. But the number-one drawing card will be its efficiency in a time of insecure gasoline prices. …
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Nissan Leaf

Year: Starting at $35,200 MPG 92-106 The 2013 Nissan Leaf is in the vanguard of electric cars coming on the market in the U.S. It’s kind to the environment and it has become increasingly attractive, especially in an era of $4-a-gallon gasoline. But the EPA rates the Leaf’s driving range at 73 miles per charge – which makes the little EV impractical for anyone with a long commute. The federal government says there are only 4,466 public charging stations in the U.S., a statistic that may increase “range anxiety” for anyone who owns or is thinking about buying an electric car. Still, the Leaf has a lot going for it. The price is good for an electric car and the Leaf is eligible for federal and state incentives that can help to defray the cost. It drives like a “real” car with sprightly acceleration, zero tailpipe emissions, and a 90-mph top speed. The EPA rates the Leaf at the miles-per-gallon equivalent of 106 in the city and 92 on the highway – the second most fuel-efficient car in America after the Mitsubishi i. The downside is that Leaf home charging can take up to twenty hours without an optional quick charging station. The range can also vary depending on the weather and how much cargo you are carrying. The Leaf suffers from tight rear seats, small cargo space for a hatchback, and confusing cabin technology. But if you have short commutes, have no fear of running out of juice, and want to boost your green credentials, the Leaf may be the way to go. …
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Toyota Prius

Year: Starting at $24,200 MPG 48-51 As the saying goes, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” But what happens if at first you do succeed? Do the same thing again and again and don’t change much. Toyota certainly struck gold with its 50-mpg Prius hybrid, so last year, it took the Prius’s winning formula, added a model with a little more cargo space (and, according to some, better-looking styling), and called it the Prius v. Shortly thereafter, Toyota created the Prius Plug-in, which uses the same wedgy body of the workaday Prius but gets super-potent batteries that can be recharged in three hours from a standard power outlet, thus helping it travel up to fifteen miles at speeds up to 62 miles per hour on electricity alone. Note, to stay in electric power, you have to go seriously easy on the go pedal, as the gas engine will fire up at the slightest provocation or incline. This makes driving an un-fun vehicle even less fun, but the payoff comes in stratospheric EPA-rated fuel economy of 87 MPGe. The catch? At nearly $33,000 before options, the plug-in model costs considerably more than the standard Prius. But for now, the Prius Plug-in remains the closest thing Toyota has to an extended-range electric vehicle like the Chevrolet Volt. Given the busy year it had in 2012, the Prius doesn’t change much for 2013, with the only noteworthy news being addition of the new Prius Persona Series, available in black, white, or new Black Cherry Pearl with seventeen-inch wheels, charcoal SofTex interior, and some dark chrome interior trim. …
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Audi A3

Year: Starting at $28,750 MPG 21-28 A compact wagon was a novel idea when the Audi A3 came on the market, but since then the A3 has found a home with buyers. The hatchback means there is plenty of room in the trunk, but you won’t feel cramped sitting in the back. The A3 has an available all-wheel-drive system that is unique to its class, and the choice of a turbo-diesel engine means that it can make up to 42 mpg on the highway. The diesel engine is only available in a six-speed automatic, but a six-speed manual is available when you give up the efficiency of the diesel for a standard engine. The interior is awash in typical Audi luxury, with leather trim and seating surfaces, as well as Audi’s navigation and Bose sound system. Though the A3 has a history as the best choice for a small wagon, there are more options these days and it may be worth checking out some of the competition. The A3’s design could use an update to keep up with the pack, but Audi’s name and engineering are usually a good recommendation, and this car is not likely to disappoint. …
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Infiniti M37

Year: Starting at $48,700 MPG 18-26 The 2013 Infiniti M performance luxury sedan is designed to give Nissan’s upscale brand a foothold in a segment dominated by Mercedes-Benz and BMW. However, that foothold may be shod with an L.L. Bean utility boot instead of a sexy Jimmy Choo. The M sedan gets a bulging, strapping exterior that gives few clues to the car’s elegant interior. So top drawer is the cabin of the M that it can be ordered with a special Japanese ash wood trim with genuine silver embedded in the grain. Of course, the trim is part of a $4,200 premium package. Such packages can raise the price of the M well past the $50,000 mark rapidly. A base M37 starts at $49,095, including an $895 destination charge. There are three engine choices: a 330-horsepower 3.7-liter V-6, a 360-horsepower hybrid V-6, and a 420-horsepower 5.6-liter V-6. The hybrid version is fast and frugal, returning 27 mpg in city and 32 mpg on the highway, according to the EPA. A seven-speed automatic transmission is standard on all models. All-wheel drive is available. The 2013 M lineup gets a serious boost of sportiness, with the popular sport package offered for the first time with Infiniti M AWD models and a new performance tire-and-wheel package with twenty-inch wheels and tires and sport brakes that replaces the previous eighteen-inch wheel package. …
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Fisker Karma

Year: Starting at $102,000 If the Fisker name doesn’t sound familiar, that’s because this American carmaker is only five years old. The plug-in hybrid Karma is the only Fisker model currently on sale, and with a price hovering around $100,000 it is no impulse buy. The Karma aims to illustrate that environmentally friendly doesn’t mean boring, and in that right they have certainly succeeded. The Karma’s batteries have a range of about fifty miles, after which a gas engine takes over until batteries are recharged. At times, for instance during fast acceleration, the Karma operates using both battery and gas engine power. For even more eco-friendliness, the Karma has a solar panel roof that increases the electric range by about four to five miles per week. Those extra miles won’t get you far, but it still adds a certain car-of-the-future feel to Fisker’s first offering. When it’s running on electric, the Karma gets an impressive 54 miles to the gallon equivalent. On the gas motor, however, it earns an entirely unimpressive 20-mpg combined. This relatively low number belies the Karma’s true spirit – that of a luxury sports car. With an attractive interior, unforgettable design, and innovative technology, the Karma can’t fail to make a statement. …
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Ford Focus

Year: Starting at $16,200 MPG 26-36 The Focus was newly redesigned last year in the same cute image as the smaller Fiesta, and 2013 brings only minor changes to a setup that has been a success. What a change from the frumpmobile that was the previous Focus. You can get a sedan or a hatchback, both with four doors and both undeniably easy on the eyes. Inside, you’ll find a surprisingly comfortable interior both for seating and for cabin amenities. These days, you might be even more impressed to know that a Super Fuel Economy version gets 40 mpg on the highway (and 28 mpg around town). That SFE model comes with the six-speed PowerShift automatic transmission. With a five-speed manual transmission, the standard Focus’s fuel economy is actually lower, although still impressive, at 26 mpg in town and 36 mpg on the highway. Available options include active park assist, Ford’s Sync telematics system with MyFord Touch touchscreen and voice-activated navigation, and an anti-theft engine immobilizer. As attractive as the compact Focus is, there are even more choices in the lineup. There’s the Focus Electric, Ford’s first all-electric vehicle, with a miles per gallon equivalent rating of 110 MPGe city and 99 MPGe highway—and the ability to recharge in as little as four hours. On the other extreme, the Focus ST is coming later in the year and will offer a turbo four-cylinder engine and sporty performance, optional two-tone Recaro racing seats, and a performance instrument cluster. Ford says more than 10 million Focus cars have been sold since the first one came out in 1998, and the company is definitely going in the right direction to make that number keep moving upward. …
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Ford Fusion

Year: Starting at $21,700 MPG 22-34 Ford thinks its brand-new Fusion is going to be a very important car for the company. It could be an important car for you, too, since 37 mpg on the highway is expected for the version with EcoBoost four-cylinder engine. That’s really terrific for a mid-size sedan. There are two other four-cylinder engine choices, and auto start/stop technology is another gas saver on versions with the six-speed automatic transmission. Even better for the fuel conscious, Ford Fusion Hybrid and Energi models are out, too. The Hybrid is projected to get the equivalent of 44 mpg in town and 47 mpg on the highway, and the plug-in hybrid Energi is looking at 100 MPGe (equivalent) when it gets the EPA's official numbers this fall. Looks-wise, the new Fusion has a trapezoidal grille, a sleeker body design and a more modern silhouette than the previous model. It’s so much sleeker that aerodynamic drag is actually down by 10 percent from the previous Fusion. Among the equipment you can get on the 2013 Fusion is the MyFord mobile app that lets you communicate with your vehicle using your smartphone or computer. …
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