Road Test: 2018 Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid

Road Test: 2018 Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid

Kia’s Small Crossover Fuel Economy King Gets Even Better

It may take a few decades, but there will come a time when more new cars are powered purely by electricity than gasoline. The bridge between that point will be the plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV), a technology that many auto manufacturers are adding to their model line-up. Case-in-point—the 2018 Kia Niro PHEV.

2018 Kia Niro PHEV

Kia pushes the mpg boundries

Kia’s first foray into this arena was the 2017 Optima PHEV. New for 2018 is the Niro PHEV, which joins its sibling the Niro Hybrid. Clean Fleet Report has reviewed the Niro Hybrid (reviews at the end of this story) and found Kia’s self-described “urban crossover hybrid vehicle” jumped to the top of hybrids for design, ride, comfort and value. With the addition of the plug-in Niro Hybrid, Kia has only increased the reasons consumers should be looking at this car.


The Niro PHEV has the same specifically engineered parallel hybrid powertrain as the Niro Hybrid—a 1.6-liter gasoline engine and a AC synchronous permanent magnet motor. The total system 139 horsepower and 195 pounds-feet of torque is the same for both cars, but the 26 miles of pure electric driving in the Niro PHEV makes a big difference in what you will get out of the car. Mated to a smooth shifting six-speed dual-clutch transmission (DCT), the torque made highway ramp sprints and passing 65+ mph big rigs easy.

2018 Kia Niro PHEV

Four ways to go, but all in the mpg stratosphere

There are four driver-selectable drive modes of Eco, EV, Hybrid and Sport. Eco is the default setting and will deliver the best fuel economy. It drives similar to the Hybrid mode. EV means you are only using electricity for up-to 26 miles. But for the most fun, opt for Sport mode, where there are quicker transmission responses, and a bit more spirited, albeit less fuel-sipping, driving.

The hybrid system’s 8.9-kWh lithium-ion polymer battery can be replenished through charging. It takes three hours with a 240V, Level 2 charger or overnight with a 120V regular household outlet. When braking or coasting, the regenerative braking system converts kinetic energy into electric energy and stores it in the battery. This process can be viewed on a dash gauge, where you can watch the power flow into and out of the battery and electric motor. The pedal feel on hybrids can be grabby at times, requiring a learning period to get it right. Not so on the Niro, where the regenerative braking required little pedal modulation and provided a confident feel. Missing on the Niro PHEV is an on-board generator that replenishes the battery when driving in gasoline/hybrid mode. Also, it lacks a “Hold” to conserve battery charge so it can be used when you want it.

The EPA fuel economy rating running as a hybrid is 48 mpg city/44 highway/46 combined. But adding together the gasoline and electricity, the EPA estimates 105 MPGe (Miles Per Gallon Equivalent). MPGe measures how far a plug-in car can travel on electricity (33.7 kWh) with the same amount of energy as is contained in one gallon of gasoline. In 650 miles of 60-percent highway/40-percent city driving throughout Southern California, Clean Fleet Report achieved an average of 62.8 mpg.

We accomplished this gaudy number by plugging-in the Niro PHEV at every opportunity, taking advantage of the idle stop/start, driving conservatively in hybrid and all-electric mode, even up to 65 mph. Because this number was so much higher than the EPA estimate, we contacted Neil Dunlop, product & technology communications manager at Kia, to get confirmation that our results were feasible. He confirmed that it was and that Niro PHEV owners have reported even higher numbers.

It is important to note that fuel economy reported by Clean Fleet Report are non-scientific, representing the reviewer’s driving experience in our reviewer’s city. If you live in cold weather, high in the mountains or spend time in the city or stuck in rush hour traffic, then your numbers may differ.

Driving Experience: On the Road

2018 Kia Niro PHEV

The numbers tell a great story

The front-wheel drive 2018 Kia Niro PHEV weighs in at 3,391 pounds. The well-distributed weight is due to the under-seat battery placement, creating a low center of gravity and resulting

in very good driving dynamics. The motor-driven power steering was a bit light, but tuned for good road feel. Maneuvering in town, including parking, was easy. The front MacPherson struts with stabilizer bar and gas shocks plus the rear multi-link suspension with twin tube shocks delivered a smooth and stable ride. Tire and wind noise could be hidden a bit better, but the engine in gasoline mode was quiet. Of course, when running on electricity only, there is no engine noise because no engine is running. Seems obvious, but it needed to be said.

The 16-inch alloy wheels and 205/60R Michelin low rolling resistance tires deliver handling that was direct with little body roll. While there is nothing sporty about the Niro PHEV, it had a very respectable zero–60 time of nine seconds.

As previously mentioned, the regenerative braking system has four-wheel disc brakes with ABS and brake assist. The stops were straight and true, with no brake fade, nor noticeable hybrid braking whine.

Designed with a Clean Slate

2018 Kia Niro PHEV

Could be mistaken for its non-plug sibling, but that’s an okay thing

Clean Fleet Report’s review of the 2017 Niro Hybrid went into detail on the exterior design, which continues over to the 2018 Niro PHEV. Then and now, we are impressed with the Niro as it is stylish and uncluttered, with excellent sight lines for the driver. We also like that Kia did not design the Niro to look like a hybrid car, as in it isn’t shaped like a wedge of cheese or has unnecessary scoops and cladding.

The Niro has incorporated Kia’s signature tiger nose grill that runs edge-to-edge on the front end, leading to the swept back projector beam headlights. LED daytime running lights and fog lights, located in the bottom fascia, complete the front end design. The side profile draws a nice line to the A pillars, leading to a gently sloping roof with rack rails, a shark fin antenna and an integrated black spoiler over the rear hatch window. The narrow horizontal LED taillights and smooth-surfaced hatch finish off the attractive rear. Only some blue accents differentiate the PHEV from the Hybrid Niro.

Welcoming Interior

2018 Kia Niro PHEV

It’s not a luxury car, but you will be comfortable

In our earlier review of the 2017 Niro Hybrid, we were impressed with its spacious cabin; our impressions of the Niro

PHEV are no different. Clean Fleet Report tested the Niro PHEV LX trim level with cloth seats. The front seats were supportive and 6-way power adjustable. We like that the outlook on the road is higher than a sedan (6.3-inch ground clearance), but not as high as an SUV. The rear 60/40 split-folding rear seat has a center armrest with cup holders, and is best suited for two adults. The flat load floor provides for extra cabin space and legroom. Rear storage features a large flat carpeted surface, made even larger when the rear seat is folded flat. An added bonus is a concealed storage compartment beneath the cargo floor, where an optional sectioned storage tray makes keeping loose items secure and separated.

The center dash in our Niro PHEV came with a 7.0-inch touchscreen housing Kia’s UVO eServices infotainment system, which included Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. The six-speaker sound system plays AM/FM/CD/MP3/AUX and SiriusXM (with a 90-day introductory subscription). The Bluetooth worked very well for voice recognition; most of the entertainment is controlled by switches on the leather-covered steering wheel. Big thanks to Kia designers for the knobs and wheels to control the radio and dual-zone automatic climate control.

Safety, Pricing and Warranties

The 2018 Kia Niro PHEV comes with an extensive list of standard and optional safety features. Since some of the features are only available on higher trim levels and through packages, we advise getting your car with as many advanced driver technology and safety features as possible.

Features available on the Niro PHEV include seven airbags, four-wheel power disc ABS braking system with brake assist, forward emergency braking and collision warning, stability control, smart cruise control, blind spot monitoring, park assist with front and rear sensors, vehicle stability management, traction control, hill launch assist, tire pressure monitoring system, engine immobilizer, lane departure warning and rear cross traffic alert.

The 2018 Kia Niro PHEV comes in three trim levels. MSRP for each without options or the $940 destination charge:

  • LX                     $27,900                               
  • EX                    $31,500
  • EX Premium  $34,500

    2018 Kia Niro PHEV

    With the hatch and fold-down seats, you’ve got flat-out room

The 2018 Kia Niro PHEV comes with these warranties:

  • Powertrain – 10 years/100,000 miles
  • Battery – 10 years/150,000 miles (CA, OR, WA, NY)
  • Battery – 10 years/100,000 miles (Remaining states)
  • Basic – Five years/60,000 miles
  • Roadside Assistance – Five years/60,000 miles
  • Corrosion – 10 years/Unlimited miles

Observations: 2018 Kia Niro PHEV

2018 Kia Niro PHEV

In our view–simply the best

No mincing words here: the 2018 Kia Niro PHEV is a near perfect small wagon/crossover. The fuel economy is stellar, even if yours is closer to the EPA estimate than our test results. The

design doesn’t scream for attention, which is just fine for the discerning buyer who wants a clean, classic looking car from a company offering the best warranty on the market.

Our Wish List of an on-board charger while driving, and a Hold feature to conserve your battery charge, are minor items and should not present an obstacle to your owning a very nice, modern car. If you are interested in getting at or above 50 mpg in a well-built, attractively designed, comfortable-to-drive station wagon/compact crossover, go check-out the Kia Niro PHEV. We know you will not be disappointed.

Whatever you buy, Happy Driving!

In order to give you the best perspective on the many vehicles available, Clean Fleet Report has a variety of contributors. When possible, we will offer you multiple perspectives on a given vehicle. This comes under SRO-Second Road Test Opinion. We hope you’ll enjoy these diverse views–some are just below—and let us know what you think in comments below or at

Road Test: 2018 Kia Niro PHEV (Steve’s view)

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Other PHEVs

Road Test: 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid

 Flash Drive: 2017 Ford Fusion Energi

Flash Drive: 2018 Hyundai Ioniq PHEV

Road Test: 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Plug-in Hybrid


Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition, we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class, which leads us to emphasize electric cars, plug-in hybrids, hybrids and diesels. We also feature those efficient gas-powered vehicles that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at

Road Test: 2018 Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid

Road Test: 2018 Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid

Today’s Vehicle, With a Big Upside

The 2018 Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid (PHEV) is a stylish and useful compact crossover. You can drive it much of the time on battery power and, when necessary, take a long trip using the gasoline engine.

Kia has sold an all-electric Soul for several years. It also offers hybrid and PHEV versions of its Optima midsize sedan, but the Niro is meant to be the brand’s green warrior. A hybrid Niro preceded the plug-in; when I tested one, I recorded 43.8 mpg. An all-electric version just debuted at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit and is due in a year or so, with a reported range of 238 miles. That just happens to be the same as the Chevrolet Bolt EV, which currently is the most affordable way to go 200+ miles between charges. There is no gasoline-only Niro.

2018 Niro Plug-In Hybrid

The right size and shape for a plug-in?

The 2018 Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid is blessed with appealing, nicely balanced lines and proportions, without any extreme styling excesses. It wears Kia’s now familiar “tiger mouth” grill with the pinch in the middle. It looks good from every angle.

Inside Class As Well

The interior design is complementary, with cleanly rendered panels that blend smoothly and surprisingly rich-looking textures wearing matte finishes. What might be taken for hard plastic on the door and dash panels is slightly padded, giving the car a more upscale feel. The switchgear feels durable and moves with precision. An asymmetrical center console sweeps down from the dash, implying some sportiness.

Both the inside and outside classiness owe their dignity to former Audi designer Peter Schreyer, who has led Kia and Hyundai design for a decade, transforming both brands’ design language and image.

As a hybrid, the Niro combines a 1.6-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine with a 60-horsepower electric motor, which in PHEV form is fed by an 8.9-kWh battery. This energy source weighs 258 pounds versus the much smaller and lighter battery in the standard Niro Hybrid, which only gathers electrons by regenerative braking. The engine’s 104 horsepower and 109 pounds-feet (lb.-ft.) of torque mixes with the motor, with its robust 125 lb.-ft. of torque, giving a total of 139 horsepower and 195 lb.-ft. of torque combined.

2018 Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid

The commuting numbers turned out very nice

A stop-and-go system turns the engine off when the car is stationary, further saving gasoline. The drivetrain flows through a six-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission.

The car is no rocket, with an 8.8-second zero-to-sixty time. When you press the pedal down hard, you’ll hear the sound of downshifting and an engine working hard to contribute its part to moving the 3,450-pound crossover forward. I noticed this mainly on the uphill climb to my house, but it was otherwise not a big deal.

The Mileage Numbers

The 2018 Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid earns 110 MPGe city/99 highway/105 Combined on the EPA’s tests, and a still decent 48 mpg city/44 highway/46 combined on gasoline only. The official battery range is 26 miles, although my test car’s display always read 24 when it was full. That, luckily, was enough for me to commute all week on electricity alone, leading to an exemplary 81.3 mpg for the week. If you rarely go more than 24 miles on a trip, you may find your gas lasts for months. Kia claims an impressive gas + electric range of 560 miles.

EPA Green Scores are 7 for Smog and a perfect 10 for Greenhouse Gas.

Three Flavors

The 2018 Kia Niro PHEV comes in three trims—LX, EX, and EX Premium. My Platinum Graphite tester was an

2018 Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid

The Niro interior stays classy

EX Premium with a soothing light gray interior. The price-leader FE model hybrid isn’t sold as a plug-in.

The LX offers a decent sound system, Android Auto/Apple CarPlay, a smart key with pushbutton start, and more. The EX adds safety features, including blind spot detection, lane change assist and rear cross traffic alert. You also get “hybrid” cloth and leather seats, heated front seats and outside mirrors, 10-way driver seat adjustment with lumbar support and more. The EX Premium steps it up with leather seat trim, three-level heated and ventilated seats, a larger 8-inch touch screen on the dash and a voice-command navigation system.

With an 8.9-kWh battery, you can easily fill the battery at a Level 2 240-volt charger in a couple of hours from empty, or fill it overnight at home on 120-volt household current. When I charged at work after my 18-mile commute, I received a bill for less than a dollar! The charge door includes a small light—a thoughtful touch.

You can use the console button to set the car to EV or HEV mode. In the default EV mode, the Niro uses pure electricity until its big battery is depleted, and then runs as a hybrid. In HEV mode, you can select hybrid driving right away and retain the power for later. That’s great for cruising on the freeway in hybrid mode and preserving the electric power for local driving when you reach your destination. I did notice the engine kick in sometimes in the morning when I started up, even when I thought was EV mode.

The Long & the Short of It

At just 171.5 inches long on a 106.3-inch wheelbase, the car is tidy for nipping around town, but can carry 54.5 cubic feet of gear when you flip down the rear seats.

2018 Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid

A small badge and a big plug separate this from the straight hybrid

Pricing starts at $28,840 for the LX and moves up to $32,440 for the EX and $35,440 for the EX Premium. All prices include shipping. My car’s only option was $135 worth of carpeted floor mats.

As a crossover, the 2018 Kia Niro PHEV is sitting pretty, right in the middle of today’s most rapidly growing vehicle segment. I found it just right for family and musical instrument hauling.

The Niro PHEV just won Green Car Journal’s Green SUV of the Year Award, so I expect to see lots of them on the road soon. Plug-in hybrids provide local electric-only clean driving with zero range anxiety when you range farther afield. Until EV batteries are all high-range and quick charge, and the charging network is built out more, it’s the ideal choice for many people.

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News: Toyota Mirai Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicle Passes 3,000 Sales In California

News: Toyota Mirai Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicle Passes 3,000 Sales In California

Fuel Cell Vehicles May Be Slow Sellers, But They’re Trending Up

Toyota began selling the four-door sedan Mirai hydrogen fuel cell vehicle in California in October 2015, and last week passed the 3,000 sales mark, making the Toyota Mirai the best-selling fuel car car. While not a particularly impressive number, say compared to the 43,000 Toyota Camrys sold last month nationwide, consider that there are only 31 hydrogen fueling stations in the state, mostly concentrated in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay areas. That helps put the sales into perspective.

Toyota Mirai

The Mirai hits another sales milestone

The Mirai wasn’t the first fuel-cell car offered for sale to the general public in the U.S. That distinction goes to the Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell sport utility, which went on sale in the Golden State in late 2014. But the Mirai was the first to be a distinct model, rather than a fuel-cell version of an existing model–and the first with a marketing push. The Mirai also competes against the Honda Clarity Fuel Cell sedan. Hyundai will soon replace the Tucson Fuel Cell with a new model called the Nexo. Other automakers may throw in with models as well.

Of the three fuel cell models currently offered, Toyota is responsible for 80 percent of all hydrogen cars sold in California.

“Toyota remains at the forefront of developing and deploying hydrogen fuel cell technology, and we believe strongly in its potential to help realize a more sustainable and zero-emissions society,” said Bob Carter, Executive Vice President, Toyota Motor North America, Inc.

The Toyota Mirai, a four-door, midsize sedan, is a zero-emission hydrogen vehicle. It creates electricity using hydrogen, oxygen and a fuel cell, and emits nothing but water vapor in the process. The EPA estimates a driving range rating of 312 miles and 67 MPGe (miles-per-gallon equivalent) city/highway/combined. The car can be refueled in approximately five minutes. Power is derived from an electric motor running 151 horsepower and 247 pounds-feet of torque.

More Hydrogen Fuel Stations Coming

In an effort to expand the hydrogen refueling network, Toyota continues to partner with FirstElement Fuels and Shell to support the creation of a broad network of hydrogen infrastructure in California, with an additional twelve stations projected to open in 2018. The automaker is also collaborating with Air Liquide, a producer of industrial gases, to set up a network of 12 hydrogen fueling stations stretching from New York to Boston, with the first station expected to launch in Boston later this year.

In addition, Toyota is building a new Tri-Gen facility at the Port of Long Beach that will use bio-waste sourced from California’s agricultural industry to generate water, electricity and hydrogen. The hydrogen will fuel all Toyota fuel cell vehicles moving through the Port, including new deliveries of the Mirai sedan and Toyota’s Heavy-Duty hydrogen fuel cell Class 8 truck, known as Project Portal.

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Road Test: 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV Premier

Road Test: 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV Premier

The First Mainstream Electric Car that Can Go the Distance

Ever get the feeling Chevrolet is daring you not to buy an all-electric Bolt? With the average purchase price of a new car in 2017 being about $31,000, you can get into a Bolt with all tax credits and incentives (Federal and State) included, in the high-$20,000 range for the base model. Oh, and of course you will not spend a penny on gasoline or oil, nor will you have the regular maintenance associated with a gasoline-powered car. Sounds pretty good? So what’s not to like? Could it be an unfounded perception that an EV keeps you from going where you want to go? Or maybe it is not accepting the fact that a pure electric car will satisfy 90-percent of your driving needs and lifestyle. If you are like most people and drive solo or with one passenger, under 50 miles daily, the reasons to own a gasoline-powered car are decreasing daily. This is Range Anxiety debunked.

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

The Bolt goes further

The 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV is fun-to-drive and quiet, but why shouldn’t it be? With no internal combustion engine (ICE) or transmission gears, the all-electric Bolt simply whooshes along with smooth efficiency at any speed.

238-Mile Range Technology

It is hard to believe that General Motors, known for big trucks and SUVs, would be the first full-line auto manufacturer to come out with an all-electric car that can travel 238 miles on a single charge. The EPA arrived at this number as the Bolt gets 110 MPGe on the highway and 128 MPGe in the city. MPGe is an EPA measurement of how far a car can travel, electrically, on the same amount of energy as is contained in one gallon of gasoline.

Charging and Stopping

The 60-kWh lithium-ion battery is charged by the 7.2-kW onboard charger. A plug-in port offers three charging speeds. The batteries, going from discharged to a full charge, the approximate times would be:

2017 Chevrolet Bolt

Charging three ways

  • 120V (Level 1)            20 hours
  • 240V (Level 2)           10 hours                 
  • 480V DC Fast Charging 90 miles of range in 30 minutes

Additional charging is through the regenerative braking system that converts braking or coasting into electricity that is stored in the battery. Driving around town, stuck in stop-and-go rush hour freeway traffic or coasting down hills will recharge the battery. The battery charge and mileage range are metered instantly by dash gauges.

The Driving Experience: On the Road

Powered by a 150-kW electric motor driving the front wheels, the 200 horsepower and 266 pounds-feet of torque zips the Bolt around with great fun. Chevrolet claims a 6.8-second 0-60 time and 91 mph top speed. We matched the former but didn’t even attempt to get anywhere near the latter. At 3,560 pounds, the 2017 Bolt is quiet and smooth. The batteries located under the seats made for a sure-footed driving experience that truly shines in city maneuvers and around tight corners. Considering it comes with all-season, Michelin Energy Saver 17-inch tires that are designed for low rolling-resistance, Chevrolet designed the Bolt with a very good road feel. The electric power steering was not too light, and body roll, even when pushed above recommended corner speed limits, was predictable and minor. Highway 65+ mph cruising was solid and confident.

2017 Chevrolet Bolt

The batteries create road-hugging weight

There is a choice of driving modes that affects the regenerative braking. Selecting the Drive mode, the brake pedal is used as normal for slowing and stopping. But using the Low mode, you can control braking with your fingertips, which is a very cool and useful technology. Found on the left side behind the steering wheel is a paddle “shifter” that, when blipped, initiates regenerative braking. What is cool about this is, once you get the hang of it, driving around without using the brake pedal—even coming to a complete stop. This technique, called “one-pedal driving,” lends itself to getting the most electricity from regenerated braking, as fingertips are far more sensitive than a foot tromping on the brake pedal. It is an especially fun technique to master when driving on curvy roads as it gives the ability to slow with your fingers and accelerate with your foot.

A good handling car is nothing without good brakes. The Bolt comes standard with an anti-lock braking system, power-assisted front vented and rear solid discs. Handling and driving confidence was aided by dynamic rear brake proportioning and electronic stability control.

Driving Experience: Exterior

Chevrolet likes to say the Bolt is a small crossover. The EPA (which classifies all vehicles into categories) says the Bolt is a small wagon. Does the difference matter? To Chevrolet it does, as crossovers are hot sellers and wagons not so much. But if Chevrolet really wanted the Bolt to be a true crossover size, why didn’t they design it as such and eliminate any confusion?

2017 Chevrolet Bolt

Non-stand-out styling

The Bolt has a very common hatchback design, a sloping roof-to-windshield-to-bumper profile, that has slim LED projector headlamps wrapping onto the fender, with LED daytime running lights in the lower fascia. The roof, with rack and side rails, never finds a flat surface as it gently arcs to an integrated spoiler over the rear hatch window. Large LED tail lamps wrap onto the fenders. From the side view, the window design is eye-catching and unique, with blacked-out B-pillars and just the lightest touch of a chrome accent strip. The Bolt is clean and looks smaller than it is, partly because of the visual perception from the wide-set wheel placement and the roof height.

Driving Experience: Interior

The Bolt interior gives a feeling of spaciousness, with four full-size adults fitting comfortably, or two adults upfront and three children in the rear. The big issue with the Bolt interior is the materials. There is an abundance of hard plastics and surfaces that should be soft, like the armrests and seats, which were, well, to be kind–hard. Recaro racing seats are firm: Bolt seats are hard. We even noticed the “leather appointed seats” were covered in a leather we had never seen before. For a $43,000 car (the top-of-the-line Bolt Premier model tested by Clean Fleet Report), the interior fit and finish was a disappointment. Also, the seven-shape shifting pattern of the console-mounted gear shifter made getting into reverse a stop-and-think-about-it process.

Now, onto what is good about the interior. The front seating position is higher than would be expected for what looks like a compact car. Sight lines are excellent. This is how Chevrolet came to the conclusion that the Bolt is a crossover, as all vehicles in this class raise the front seats to a road-commanding view height.

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

An interior not quite up to its price range

All controls are within easy reach of the driver, including the 8.0-inch instrument cluster, viewed through the steering wheel, with a white background on the gauges making them easy to read. The 10.2-inch color touchscreen housed Chevrolet’s MyLink infotainment system (information and entertainment) that featured navigation and a Bose, six speaker AM/FM/HD radio and CD player, with USB slots. Also part of the infotainment system is SiriusXM (90-day trial included), Bluetooth for telephone and streaming music and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto from Google. Other nice features are wireless device charging, assuming your device has this ability, rear charge-only USB ports, and a front storage area that can swallow a tablet or laptop.

The heated front seats are manually adjustable for height, sliding and lumbar. When combined with the height adjustable and telescoping steering column, a comfortable driver position could be found. Especially noticeable was how far back the driver’s seat slides: no circus contorting for the six-foot plus crowd. The rear seats are heated in the outboard positions. Exterior road and wind noise were very low.

Storage space with the rear seat up, accessed through the rear hatch, is ample, but not as much as others in this class of EVs such as the Hyundai Ioniq, Volkswagen e-Golf and Toyota Prius Prime. If the driver and front-seat passenger are on a long weekender, the rear seat back splits 60/40 and lays flat, providing 56.6 cu. ft. of cargo capacity – large enough for a full-size bicycle. Additional storage comes in the guise of a false floor, that when removed, allows for the hauling taller objects.

Other features are a leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel with radio and telephone controls, power windows with one-touch operation down/driver one-touch up, remote start, power adjustable and manual folding exterior mirrors with turn signals, and a multi-function car analytics and trip computer display.

Safety and Convenience

The Bolt Premier is well equipped with convenience features including power door locks, adaptive cruise control, automatic HVAC, heated outboard rear seats, wireless charging, 4G LTE Wi-Fi Hotspot with a three-month trial subscription, tire pressure monitoring system, keyless push button on/off and OnStar. A unique safety feature is the Rearview camera mirror that replaces the regular image with an 80-degree image applied over the inside rearview mirror.

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

Maybe not sport, but utility

Hotspot with a three-month trial subscription, tire pressure monitoring system, keyless push button on/off and OnStar. A unique safety feature is the Rearview camera mirror that replaces the regular image with an 80-degree image applied over the inside rearview mirror.

A note regarding OnStar: a simple push of a button connects you with a friendly General Motors representative to handle emergencies, directions and general assistance to make your driving experience safer and more enjoyable. This is one area where GM is the industry leader, and after the one-year service plan expires it is well worth renewing.

The Bolt EV has 10 airbags, a tire pressure monitoring system, forward collision alert, front automatic braking, lane assist, blind spot monitoring and park assist and rear parking distance control sensors.

Pricing, Warranties and Safety

There are two 2017 Chevrolet Bolt models.

  • LT                   $37,495
  • Premier         $41,780

Clean Fleet Report tested a Bolt Premier with option packages of DC Fast Charging, Driver Confidence II and Infotainment. That added $1,730. The MSRP of our test Bolt Premier was $42,635. All prices do not include the $875 destination charge.

The 2017 Chevrolet Bolt has not been rated by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

The 2017 Bolt comes with these warranties:

  • Complete Care – Two years/24,000 miles
  • Bumper-to-Bumper – Three years/36,000 miles
  • Powertrain – Five years/60,000 miles
  • Electric Propulsion Components – Eight years/100,000 miles    

Observations: 2017 Chevrolet Bolt Premier

New in 2017 and with few changes for the 2018 model year, Chevrolet says the Bolt EV is “every reason to drive electric.”  Clean Fleet Report agrees.

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

Leader of the pack

The Bolt has made it possible to go 238 miles on a single charge in a car costing about $30,000 after incentives are applied. Before December 2016, when the Bolt debuted, you would need to spend at least twice that amount for a vehicle with comparable range.

The Bolt is a comfortable and well-designed car, with good handling in a spirited all-electric driving experience. It is also practical in many ways, starting with the ability to handle a full week’s worth of 40-mile per day commuting without recharging. Notice we didn’t say using any gasoline? Well, that also drives home another practical point that zero dollars will ever be spent on gasoline or the usual maintenance that comes with an internal combustion engine.

Other mass market, five seat all-electric compacts that sell against the Chevrolet Bolt are the Volkswagen e-Golf and Nissan Leaf, with only the Leaf joining the Bolt as a car that can be purchased in all 50 states. The Fiat 500e says it can seat five adults, but we have tried and it is more like four. The Tesla Model 3 can also seat five, but it will cost more than $50,000 when optioned equally to the Bolt Premier—and is still trying to deliver vehicles promised to those on the waiting list who have put down deposits.

With our only negatives on the Bolt being the interior, we are confident you can easily overlook these quirks to enjoy miles and miles of silent running, non-polluting electric driving.

All major auto manufacturers are announcing plans for electrifying their models, with an impressive number being released before the year 2025. In eight short years it will be nearly impossible to find a mainstream manufacturer that does not have a hybrid, plug-in hybrid, EV or hydrogen fuel cell. So, getting a Bolt EV now will set you up for that next generation of electrified cars that will cost around $35,000, but go 400+ miles on a charge. It is an exciting time to be a car buyer.

Whatever you end up buying, enjoy your new car and as always, Happy Driving!

Related Stories You Might Enjoy:

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News: First Tesla Model 3 Deliveries

Flash Drive: 2018 Nissan Leaf

Road Test: 2017 Fiat 500e

Buyer’s Guide: Tesla Model 3, Chevrolet Bolt or other EV?


Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition, we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class, which leads us to emphasize electric cars, plug-in hybrids, hybrids and diesels. We also feature those efficient gas-powered vehicles that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at


Road Test: 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid

Road Test: 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid

Best of Both Worlds

The new 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid combines 47 miles of pure electric motoring with an efficient gasoline engine for a 340-mile range, letting you have your EV and drive it (anywhere). It’s affordable, too.

2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid

There’s a lot to like with the Honda Clarity PHEV

The midsized Clarity is essentially the same size and shape as the ubiquitous and newly redesigned Accord (although it weighs just over two tons). It’s one of the roomiest hybrid sedans, positioning it favorably against competitors such as the more compact Chevrolet Volt and Toyota Prius Prime.

The Clarity PHEV pairs an efficient 1.5-liter gasoline engine with an electric motor, which uses a 17-kWh battery. The engine produces 103 horsepower (hp) and 99 pounds-feet (lb.-ft.) of torque, while the motor contributes 181 hp and 232 lb.-ft. of torque, for a total system horsepower of 212.

The Real World of Electric Miles

With a real 47 electric miles available, you can drive on electricity nearly all of the time, but if you stretch out your trip, the engine kicks in when your battery’s empty, or will join the motor anytime if you need an extra boost for quick acceleration.

This was borne out in real life. During my test week, I commuted to and from work and used the Clarity PHEV for all my domestic errands without consuming a drop of gas. However, when I drove 130 miles round trip to visit relatives over the holidays, the battery emptied about two thirds of the way to my destination and I just kept going as a hybrid, switching back and forth between gas and electrons, and generating energy every time I cruised downhill or applied the brakes.

Clean Inside, Too

The cleanly designed instrument panel of this all-new Honda displays a maximum-efficiency of 199.9 mpg when you’re driving in all-electric mode. As soon as the engine starts contributing to

2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid

Honda Clean Here

forward motion, that number begins to drop. By the time I got home from my 130-mile trip, it had diminished to below 100 mpg (still amazing for a hybrid). As I drove back and forth to work the following few days, the average crept back up again, until it achieved a remarkable 160.8 MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent) when I turned in the test car. It’s hard to argue with the wonderfulness of that.

One day, with combined errands, I was down to one mile of battery left, and watched the display hit 0. Then, the engine came on, just before I reached home. A 47-mile EV range is about perfect, but here, a 48-mile one would have done the job petrol-free.

According to EPA tests, a standard gasoline-powered sedan emits about 400 grams of CO2 per mile. The 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid, per, puts out just 57. Other important numbers are 110 MPGe—the way EV energy use is measured with gasoline equivalent—and on gasoline alone, a still respectable 44 City, 40 Highway, and 42 Combined mpg. The green EPA scores are a perfect 10 for Greenhouse Gas; the Smog score wasn’t available yet, but is likely to be a 9 or a 10 as well.

Drive Choices

You can drive your Clarity every day without thinking about which fuel you’re using, but you can also take things into your own hands with three different driving modes, set with buttons on the center console.

  • The EV mode disconnects the engine entirely, making the Clarity a pure EV (as long as there’s juice in the battery).
  • Hybrid Mode means both halves of the powertrain run as needed based on driving and battery conditions. The gasoline engine is coupled and, along with the generator motor, either helps drive the car or charges the battery.
  • Engine Drive mode hooks up the engine directly to the drivetrain fulltime, and is useful for cruising at medium to high speeds.
2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid

The usual helpful gauges

Then, there are three operating modes—Normal, Econ, and Sport, which allow you to configure your car for your personal priorities. Sport provides more responsive acceleration. Econ focuses on pure electric driving, and when the engine does come on, reduces throttle response to use less gas. Normal uses what Honda’s engineering team thinks is the best overall driving experience.

There’s another choice too—HV mode. Normally, the Clarity runs as a pure EV until the battery is depleted, except when a strong accelerator push turns on the engine for a quick burst of power. With a quick tap of the HV mode button, the car starts out as a hybrid and saves the electricity for later. This is ideal, for example, if you want to use engine power on 80 mph runs down Interstate 5 and then switch to pure EV driving around town when you arrive in Los Angeles.

In case you want to use the HV mode but your battery has a low charge, hold down the button longer, and the 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid will accumulate battery charge up to about 58 percent without using the electricity, after which it switches back to the normal HV mode, saving that charge until you need it.

New Tech Twists

Despite showing D, N, and R on the center console controls and instrument panel display, the Clarity PHEV doesn’t use a conventional transmission at all, saving weight and complexity. The controls and display do help you to select which way you’re going to move when you tap the accelerator.

Charging up is a snap. If you have access to a Level 2 (240-volt) charger, you can fill the battery from empty in just 2.5 hours. If you’re using Level 1 (120-volt) household current, it’ll take longer, but can easily be done overnight. I tried both. If you’re diligent, you can live in EV mode practically all the time. On the opposite end, if you drive the Clarity without charging at all, you’re still piloting a 40+ mpg hybrid.

2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid

Style is part of the Clarity package

The 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid is an all-new, fresh design. The styling itself is futuristic and, to my eye, a bit overdone, although I did get used to looking at it. My tester came in Moonlit Forest Pearl, an exclusive color to the PHEV version of the Clarity. It looks black until sunlight hits it, when you see it’s really an elegant very dark green. It helps to mitigate some of the odd body shapes.

There are two trims—the well-equipped standard model and the Touring, which adds navigation, leather-trimmed seats and steering wheel, and power seat adjustments—eight-way for the driver and four-way for the passenger, with two-way driver memory.

All cars feature handsome 18-inch alloy wheels; LED lights all around, a sweet-sounding eight-speaker, 180-watt audio system, Bluetooth, rearview camera, dual automatic climate control and more. The upgraded tan suede dash panels on my Touring test car provided a real sense of luxury.

Interior Touches

The interior of the 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid feels big and wide, with a chiseled, sweeping dashboard running from door-to-door in this 73.9-inch wide car. You can fit three people comfortably in the rear seat. The trunk measures a generous 15.5 cubic feet because the batteries are relatively small and are under the car, not taking up cargo space.

2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid

A functional trunk

The interior boasts a Volvo-inspired flying bridge console, with room below for a purse or a small parcel. The doors and dash are all nicely padded and the materials are fairly upscale and nicely coordinated. The only sour note for me was the grained plastic fake wood, which stood out as inauthentic amidst the otherwise posh accommodations. The doors slam with a satisfying “thunk.”

The instrument panel exhibits the clean look you expect from Honda. A silvery trim shape surrounds the gauges and is oddly asymmetrical to allow the “transmission” and EV information to display.

In town and on the highway, this Clarity rides whisper quiet. Honda engineers spent considerable time in the wind tunnel tweaking the aerodynamics, keeping airflow from being disturbed as it passes over the car. For example, the rakish cut of the partially covered rear wheel wells is meant to keep the air flowing smoothly over the rear wheels. Even the taillamps are aerodynamically tuned. Acoustic laminated windshield and front door glass help muffle outside noise as well.

Invisible Engineering

So many invisible engineering choices collectively make a difference. The Clarity uses an array of advanced materials in construction to make it about 15 percent lighter than a conventional midsize sedan. These include greater use of aluminum and plastic, and about 40 percent of the car is built from ultra-high-strength steel. You can’t see it, but it’s helping make the Clarity more efficient.

There’s a little startup sound when you press the Start button. Apple CarPlay popped up when prompted on the eight-inch center screen, although it did go on hiatus one of my test days. My wife thought the center display, which floats over the suede panel, to be intrusive, but car designers today seem to like the “here’s your tablet” look.

2018 Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid

The Clarity PHEV has flair everywhere

The instrument panel features the usual Charge/Power gauge front and center, so you can monitor your driving behavior. A center panel display shows where the energy is coming from and when the battery is charging, if you’re curious.

I noticed that the steering wheel would sometimes pulse in my hands. I discovered it was a form of lane departure warning, letting me know I was near a line. Otherwise, the electric power steering felt smooth and neutral.

The Price Point

Pricing starts at $34,290 for the standard trim and $37,490 for the Touring. Both prices include an $890 destination and handling charge. Those numbers are competitive, especially considering the spaciousness the car provides.

2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid

Honda plugs in once again

The Clarity currently offers three versions: Pure EV, Hydrogen Fuel Cell, and this new PHEV. The PHEV is likely to be the volume seller, as it’s practical for anyone who wants a highly efficient sedan, while the other two models appeal mostly to true believers. The EV model ekes out a disappointing 89 miles of range, while the Fuel Cell version is hampered by both a very limited fuel station infrastructure and fuel that is expensive compared to gasoline or electricity.

The Clarity trio just won Green Car Journal’s 2018 Green Car of the Year award, in recognition of offering three clean ways to go in one package.

Although pure electric vehicles will likely become the norm for most driving in the future, for now, plug-in hybrids like the 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid, with a decent electric-only range, offer a pain-free way to drive an EV most of the time and eliminate any excuse for not getting a green vehicle.

Related Stories You Might Enjoy:

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Flash Drive: 2018 Hyundai Ioniq PHEV

News: 2018 Kia Niro PHEV Introduced

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Comparison Test: Ford Fusion Hybrid & Energi

Road Test: 2017 Chevrolet Volt

Road Test: 2017 Toyota Prius Prime


Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition, we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class, which leads us to emphasize electric cars, plug-in hybrids, hybrids and diesels. We also feature those efficient gas-powered vehicles that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at

Flash Drive: 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf

Flash Drive: 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf

Still the Most Affordable Fun

It seems like a simple equation. Take a solid, popular, respected hatchback. Add in a state-of-the-art electric powertrain. Improve often. The best example I can think of that fits this equation is the 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf.

2017 Volkswagen e-Golf

The e-Golf keeps the fun and adds some range

We’ve been in this model before and have very little negative to say about it. We’ve loved the Golf through it’s multiple generations and the electric version is icing on the cake. It loses none of the great handling of the gas or diesel models (maybe even gains a little from the battery weight).

In our view the e-Golf is one of the best EVs out there. Competition from new models has made me modify my previous “best” to “one of the best.” But that’s because of the advances of new models from Chevy and Tesla, not through any deterioration from the VW.

Most Improved?

In fact, I could make an argument for a new title for the 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf—most improved EV. Only three years after its introduction, VW has upgraded the battery pack in this compact sedan and booted its range beyond the magic 100 miles. I’ll be the first to admit these arbitrary milestones don’t really mean anything in the real world, but I’ll almost be first in line to admit the 2017 e-Golf just feels better than its previous version.

2017 Volkswagen e-Golf

A modest nod to VW’s new direction

Those extra miles change the equation on so many trips, it changes the viability of the car and its appeal. Like the similar upgrade by Nissan with its 2018 Leaf, this is a gamechanger. Not as big of a gamechanger as the Chevy Bolt or Tesla Model 3 with their 230-mile-plus ranges, but still significant.

Cars are still about how we use them and more range means more useability. This takes the e-Golf, already a great EV choice, into new territory.

The Good Stuff

2017 Volkswagen e-Golf

Like any good driver’s car, the cockpit is all about you behind the wheel

The Golf is a wonderful platform to start with. Crisp handling and a great road feel is the starting point. Feedback from the steering wheel is immediate and the car tracks true. For a small car, it’s quiet (and even quieter due to the electric drivetrain). This is a car that seems to know where it’s going and is eager to get there.

The eight-inch touchscreen is a great size and contains a wealth of information about the car and the technology included. On some screens, it becomes a great training ground to teach you how to become a better EV driver.

The Range

I made a point about how the longer range (EPA rated at 125 miles, a number I saw on several recharges). Here are the caveats, which will be familiar to most EV drivers. Drive fast, drive in extreme cold or extreme heat, push acceleration, take on big hills—all result in diminished range. Of course, with the e-Golf’s strong regen capabilities, coasting, driving down hill and gentle braking puts energy back into the battery. When the disclaimer says “your mileage may vary,” that’s pretty much the subtitle of every electric car on the road. Drivers deal with it, but it does come back to a fundamental lifestyle change. Every time you get in an EV, you have to calculate how much range you have left on your battery, where you’re going and auxiliary factors like the weather and traffic patterns.

The good news is the 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf pushes these considerations to a lower level. More of your life will more easily fit the EV lifestyle. We won’t even delve into the 119 MPGe (mles per gallon equivalent) rating of the e-Golf since that number means a whole lot less than the range. (If you’re keeping score, the e-Golf comes in at 126 MPGe city/111 highway/119 combined.

The e-Golf Choices

Like most cars on the market, the 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf comes in several flavors. The entry-level model is the SE, which starts at $30,495. Next step up is the Limited Edition at $33,795. The top-of-the-line is the SEL Premium, which we tested, at $36,995.

2017 Volkswagen e-Golf

Open up. Not all EVs give you this kind of storage

Even at the top level, options were available, including a $1,395 technology package that included forward collision warning, autonomous emergency braking w/pedestrian monitoring, adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitor w/rear traffic alert, high beam control (light assist), parking steering assistant and the VW digital cockpit. All good stuff that, along with the destination charge of $850, brought the bottom line on our tester to $39,240.

Clean Fleet Report recommends leasing all plug-in vehicles because of the rapid advance of these vehicles (as demonstrated by the quick refresh of the e-Golf), so taking advantage of lease deals (latest one we saw was $159/month for 36 months with $2.349 down). A lease gives you the opportunity to do a reality check after two or three years. Imagine buying an e-Golf with an extended payment plan a year or two years ago and then seeing this new higher-range model coming out now.

The Basic Package

2017 Volkswagen e-Golf

VW’s motor cranks out the torque for the 3,430-pound e-Golf

The 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf comes with a good package of standard equipment. It’s 100 kW electric motor delivers 134 horsepower and an all-important 214 pounds-feet of torque to get you off the line. It’s capable of taking you from 0-60 in less than nine seconds.

VW’s battery packaging keeps the 35.8-kWh pack out of site and not taking up any of the hatchback’s great storage space (52.7 cubic feet with the back seats folded down). The boost in the battery size was a big part of the range boost for this year’s e-Golf.

The 7.2 kWh on-board charger allows fast charging (an option on the base model, but standard on the upper trim levels). Even with a level 2 charger, you could bring the e-Golf up to full charge in about four hours.  

The Bottom Line

The EV choices out there are increasing and starting to feel more like traditional cars. If you want maximum range and good utility in a mildly styled package, there’s the Chevy Bolt. If you want the range and some cachet, there’s the Tesla Model 3. Bargain basement fun is the Fiat 500e. Luxury cred comes with the BMW i3, Mercedes-Benz B-Class or either of the two big Teslas. Modest sedan competence is the Ford Focus Electric, Honda Clarity Electric, Hyundai Eoniq EV or Nissan Leaf. Then there’s the quirkiness of the Kia Soul EV or Smart ED.

2017 Volkswagen e-Golf

We still think the e-Golf has the edge

In this crowd I see the 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf as one that cuts its own path—a fun-to-drive, affordable, reasonable-range compact EV. I could think of no more higher recommendation. While we’d love to say wait for the upcoming Volkswagen I.D., that’s far enough down the road that a three-year lease of an e-Golf will be long over before you’re tempted to move on to the new generation.

Flash Drive: Clean Fleet Report “Flash Drives” are concise reviews of vehicles that include the major points and are easy and quick to read. A “Flash Drive” is often followed later by a comprehensive test drive review.

Road Test: 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf (John’s view)

Road Test: 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf (Steve’s view)

First Drive: 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf

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Road Test: 2016 Ford Focus Electric

Flash Drive: 2017 Honda Clarity Electric

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Flash Drive: 2018 Nissan Leaf

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Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition, we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class, which leads us to emphasize electric cars, plug-in hybrids, hybrids and diesels. We also feature those efficient gas-powered vehicles that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at