There was a time when the environmentally friendly cars available on the market reminded us of the old days of the Model T. By that we mean you could have any green car you wanted as long as it was a Toyota Prius. But that was then. As we, the Editors of Kelley Blue Book's kbb.com, went about choosing our annual Green Car list for 2011, we were immediately struck by the much wider range of vehicles we had the privilege of considering this year. Yes, the Prius is still very much among us as is the newest version of the Honda Insight, which had the honor of being the first modern hybrid on sale in the United States way back when. But these days not only are there more hybrids than before, there are also more high-efficiency gasoline-powered vehicles on the road. In fact, that is one of the key trends we have identified this year -- fuel-efficient conventional gasoline cars are making their own statement with combined EPA fuel economy numbers in the high 30s and highway ratings nudging over 40 miles per gallon. Since these vehicles are also significantly less expensive than hybrids, we expect them to have a big impact with consumers who are staring $4/gallon gasoline right in the face.
That is not the only important trend exemplified by our Green Car list, however. For the 2011 model year, we have also witnessed the rise of the electrically powered vehicle. Nissan has created a stir with its all-electric Leaf, daring to plunge into territory that General Motors eventually found untenable over a decade ago. Meanwhile, GM has learned from its EV1 experience and launched the Chevrolet Volt, an electric car that, interestingly enough, carries with it a gasoline engine that on only the rarest occasions actually drives the wheels. Instead, that task is left to the electric motor-generator, making the Volt feel like a pure electric. Since both Leaf and Volt are plug-ins, they can relieve you of the need to frequent gasoline stations. Due to its all-electric-all-the-time nature the Leaf is emission-free, while the Volt's emission performance depends a great deal on how - and how long - it is driven.
As the consideration process wore on, we in the kbb.com editorial department were confronted with the fact that, in terms of Green Cars, there are more good choices than ever before. And while that might make our job of choosing a Top 10 a bit tougher, it is nothing but a positive for all of you who are considering an environmentally friendly car these days.
Top 10 Green Car #10:
2012 Ford Focus | 31 mpg (28 city/38 highway)
Impressive fuel economy is just one of the things we like about the new 2012 Ford Focus. Among our favorite features are its excellent handling, impressively outfitted interior, sweet Euro styling and the availability of cool features like Ford's Sync entertainment and communications system. You can even equip the Focus with Ford's highly impressive auto-park feature. And for maximum efficiency, Focus sedan buyers can add the SFE package, upping highway fuel economy to a solid 40 mpg.