Top 10 Cars for “Eco-Excellence”

Top 10 Cars for “Eco-Excellence”

A World View of What It Takes for Automotive Eco-Excellence

I am a believer that there is no such thing as too much good information, so in that spirit we presents a Top 10 list from the other side of the world from where we write (to be specific, India). What we find interesting is the thinking is pretty much in line with what we might come up with, should be asked to throw out our own Top 10. And we love the title—Eco-Excellence.

Truth be told, narrowing a field down to 10 without multiple caveats and qualifiers is quite difficult and getting more so every day. For your background, Eliza Lobo, who is listed as author or this list from, said her perspective was world-wide, so not all of the cars are available in the U.S. But more than one of them could be on the horizon, which we’ll note in our commentary. It’s not clear if she was listing the cars in hierarchical order since they are no numbers on the original list. We’ll add numbers and our own ranking, of course starting with those available in the U.S.

  1. Volkswagen e-Golf (which Eliza describes by as the Blue-e-motion, a name I find that borders on the strangely ironic, and also in other ways it’s almost as comical as the Smart ED). We’ll put this first because it’s our favorite electric car of the moment. As we said in our review, the electric Golf is every bit a Golf, and that’s a good thing, but it has an electric drivetrain.
  2. BMW i3 is another one we really like, quirky enough in design to stand out and well-thought out enough not just to be recognized for looking different. It may be the Toyota Prius of the first EV generation (although the Nissan Leaf might want to challenge it for that title), containing enough well-executed, revolutionary good ideas (like its carbon fiber passenger shell) to easily justify inclusion on the list.
  3. Nissan Leaf, of course, finds a place on the list of Eco-Excellence. How could the best-selling full-function electric car not make it on the list. We’ve enjoyed it every time we’ve been in one. Like both the e-Golf and i3, it’s a functional, well-executed electric car that’s also demonstrated real leadership by not only entering the market first, but continuing to improve over the years.
  4. Toyota Prius Plug-in is another logical resident for this type of list and one in which we’ve spent some good times. The name Prius almost screams Eco-Excellence, or whatever the
    Toyota,Prius,Plug-in, EV, HOV lane

    The Prius models plug along

    Japanese translation of the term might be. It seems like a pretty simple scheme. Take the already uber-popular hybrid Prius, add a bigger battery and plug-in capability, and capture a new market segment. Of course, the Chevy Volt took a slightly different course to even better success (and probably is one model that should be on this list).

  5. BMW i8 takes up way too much Top 10 list space all over the internet. Let’s just call it for what it is— plug-in porn. The car is beautiful to look at and delivers the kind of performance you’d expect from a $100,00+ Bimmer, but if this is a list aimed at eco-excellent cars people can buy (and the rest of the cars fit that description), then the i8 has no place here.
  6. Ford Fiesta ECOnetic, which in the U.S. is the one-liter, three-cylinder version of Ford’s subcompact. We’ve tested one and will have the review up soon, but we can tell you this. It’s fun and we put it high up on any list for someone willing to look for eco-excellence in a small car with a stick shift. The peppy performance is backed with a solid suspension and a functional interior that gives you more room than you might expect in such tight quarters.
  7. Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is available in Japan and Europe and has been promised here for way too long. It’s coming soon, Mitsubishi says, but it may or may not be the first plug-in hybrid SUV when it finally gets here. It merits a place on this worldwide-scope list for being out there first, whether we got to benefit from it or not. When it does arrive, we can hope it will be tricked out as slick as the concept Mitsubishi showed at last year’s LA Auto Show.
  8. BMW 116d—Really, threeBMWs on a 10-car list? Eco-excellence, or what BMW terms Efficient Dynamics, is a key driver in most of BMW’s new cars, including this great little subcompact,
    BMW,116d,diesel, clean diesel,Eurospec

    The littlest BMW gets more fuel efficient in Europe

    but its super-efficient diesel engine is what boosts it onto this list. We’ve driven a Euro-spec version of the 1-Series, but with a larger diesel engine that almost overwhelmed the petite package. Not that it wasn’t fun and efficient, but it fell short of the eco-excellence that comes from this slightly less-powerful version of the engine.

  9. Volkswagen Polo Bluemotion is another non-U.S. car, but one that VW has considered bringing to the States, at least until gas and diesel prices dropped so steeply last year. With a peppy three-cylinder diesel, this car would slot below the Golf and provide a super high-mileage model in whatever form it came—gas, diesel or electric.
  10. SEAT Leon Twin Driver Ecomotove. The last one on the list is one we’ll never see. SEAT is one of VW’s entry-level brands in Europe, so this model is a bit of a surprise. The three-door (hatchback) model is small, of course, but features a plug-in powertrain that can deliver EV-only miles on top of an efficient normal operation.
SEAT,Leon,Twin Drive,EcoMotive,PHEV

Take a seat, we won’t see this one on our side of the Atlantic

Now, here’s the most important part of any Top 10 discussion. Who got left out? We have our biases, of course, but there are three models that really should be on any list of Eco-Excellence. Leading that list is the Tesla Model S. It is available in Europe and China as well as North America, and it represents the state-of-the-art when it comes to electric cars. With a starting prices just over $70,000, it is clearly not a car for everyone, but it also definitely deserves a spot on this kind of list.

Another one we’d add to the list is the little Fiat 500e, which, until the e-Golf hit the market, was our favorite electric car. Like the Golf, it sacrifices nothing other than driving range compared to its gasoline counterpart. It’s fun to drive while still being as excellent as an eco-car can be.

Finally, we’d add the Chevy Volt to this list. It’s the best-selling plug-in hybrid and getting even better in its second generation. If we took inventory of diesels available in Europe and the funky little hybrids and plug-ins in Japan, there might be a few more to add. We’d also probably stick a fuel cell vehicle on the list just because when you’re talking about eco-excellence, it’s hard to beat a car that takes in hydrogen and delivers 300 miles of electric driving range.

The bottom line is that these are 10 worthy vehicles, but there are plenty more out there to choose from.

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10 Best Engines of 2015 the Most Diverse Ever

10 Best Engines of 2015 the Most Diverse Ever

Fuel Cells, Electric Motors Join Gas & Diesel Engines

It’s a whole new world. WardsAuto World has been calling out the 10 Best Engines for 20 years. The list has been dominated by the basic internal combustion engine configurations—V8s, sixes and fours, usually fueled by gasoline. During the past decade, hybrid-electric and diesel engines have joined the crowd and a few electric powertrains have been honored. But 2015 looks like a watershed—two traditional (though very modern) and very powerful V8s were picked along with a turbodiesel V6, three four-cylinders (including one in a boxer configuration), two three-cylinders, an electric motor and, for the first time, a fuel cell powerplant.

Wards may be fast-approaching the point where they will need to rename the award and drop the “engine” moniker. Traditionally, electric motors are not described as engines and fuel cell

Hyundai,Tucson,FCEV,fuel cell,electric car

Hyundai’s fuel cell electric takes a prize

“powerplants” are really electrochemical reactors designed to create the electricity to run the electric motors found in fuel cell cars.

The bigger import of this year’s 10 Best Engines is its reflection of the diversity of choices the American consumer now faces in the showroom. No longer is the choice between bigger or smaller engines with a commensurate amount of horsepower. Small, turbocharged engines now offer power as impressive as much larger ones, but with the added benefit of excellent fuel economy. Even big gas engines like the two V8s picked this year deliver 20+ mpg highway miles (along with up to 700+ horsepower!). Diesels don’t smoke any more, but continue to offer great torque and significant fuel economy improvements compared to similar-sized gasoline engines. A variety of hybrid powertrains are now joined by pure electric motors capable to head-snapping acceleration without using any petroleum. Finally, fuel cells have entered the mix and because of their technological achievements are likely to make regular appearances in Ward’s lineup.

Here’s a list of this year’s winners with some key notes are their significance:

  1. Hyundai’s fuel cell. Ward’s may be rewarding Hyundai for its aggressive marketing as much as its technology, but fuel cells are remarkable machines, taking in hydrogen, creating the electricity to run the Tucson for more than 250 miles and emitting water vapor out of the tailpipe. I suspect next year we may see another fuel cell “engine” from Toyota, Honda or maybe Mercedes in the mix.
  2. BMW’s ground-breaking i3 electric motor. While the motor is impressive, BMW also may be singled out for the package it comes in as well. We just road-tested the i3 and the motor
    BMW,i3,EV,electric car

    BMW’s electric is among the 10 best engines

    may be the most BMW part of that package.

  3. Ford Fiesta’s 1-liter turbocharged three-cylinder engine. Well, now we’ve moved back to the traditional engine, except in a tiny three-cylinder configuration, something previous to this decade relegated to loss-leader econoboxes, East European machines of dubious quality and motorcycles. They’ve grown up now, not in size, but sophistication. The Fiesta engine is a great representative of the genre; we’ll have a road test of it coming up soon, but we can give you a hint—it really works great.
  4. Mini’s 1.5-liter turbocharged threecylinder engine. Minihas a reputation to keep up as a “fun” car, so it took three cylinders and made them fun and
    Ford Fiesta,1-liter,EcoBoost,mpg

    Small but mighty

    powerful enough to keep up the Mini tradition while also delivering more than 30 mpg.

  5. Subaru’s 2-liter turbocharged boxer four in the WRX. Subaru’s engine may be a fairly traditional four-cylinder but its configuration is not traditional at all. The boxer format, usually only found in high-end sports cars, helps the engine to crank out excellent horsepower while still delivering good fuel economy.
  6. Volvo’s 1.8-liter turbo four found in the S60. The Wards editors found the power output and fuel economy of this engine exceptional. It stood out from among the 15 turbocharged four-cylinder engines considered for this year’s awards.
  7. Volkswagen’s 1.8-liter TSI turbo four found in the Golf. This engine is the poster child for the advancement of gasoline-fueled engines in their quest to try to emulate the efficiency of diesels. Since VW is one of the world leaders in diesels, it looks like they have done quite a job of applying some of the technological advances from compression-ignition engines to the spark world of gasoline, with a trifecta of great results in power, fuel efficiency and emissions. We’ve driven this engine and it gives no quarter to any of its challengers.
  8. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ turbodiesel 3-liter V6 found in the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Ram 1500 pickup. Last year Wards had three diesels among its final 10; this year one made the cut, but it’s one that’s tearing things up. We’ve been in the Jeep powered by this powerful but fuel-sipping engine and we’ll have the test up soon. Suffice it to say, it deserves its place in the group.
  9. Corvette’s 6.2-liter V8. What can you say? Here’s a push-rod V8 cranking out 455 horsepower and still delivering more than 21 mpg on the highway. Where’s the sacrifice? Where’s the
    Jeep,Ram,EcoDiesel,fuel economy

    Torque & fuel economy is the diesel’s forte

    pain at the pump that comes with exotic-car level performance. It’s so last century, GM seems to be saying. I’ve driven this car with the seven-speed manual and it’s a blast—not Clean Fleet Report material, but plenty of fun.

  10. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ V8 found in the Hellcat Dodge Challengers and Chargers. Does anyone really need 707 horsepower or a 204 mph top speed? Of course not! But is it a fun challenge for a mass market car company to crank out a car or two with an engine packing those performance stats? Not even a rhetorical question. This supercharged V8 takes an already potent Hemi engine and changes up to 90 percent of its components and software to boost its performance up into the stratosphere. Oh, but did we mention this engine also delivers 22 mpg highway if you lay off the throttle? Such is the way of performance in the 21st

It’s quite a group and one that is likely the forerunner of many to come with a variety of different powertrains all delivering the delicate combination of power and fuel economy that consumers demand. We at Clean Fleet Report think the quest for best ways to move a car down the road is going to continue to turn up great new technologies and we look forward to reporting on those as they arrive on the scene.

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