AAA Names Diverse Top 10 Green Cars & Trucks
Another day, another Top 10 Green Car list. While many of these lists might be linkbait for websites scrambling to add eyeballs, some of them stand out as the result of actual testing and measuring. The AAA list just released is one of the latter, focused on real-world capabilities. After all, this the automobile club, dedicated to helping its members travel and keep up their cars; it’s not some non-profit environmental group wishing everyone would walk or bike wherever they need to go (not that there’s anything wrong with optimizing your mode of travel for environmental impact).
So, when the AAA of Southern California says they’ve tested more than 80 models and have a list of the Top 10 Green Cars and Trucks in each category—it’s worth a look. It’s also not surprising that Clean Fleet Report has more to add on almost every vehicle on the list. Here is AAA’s Top 10 (broken between the Top Green Cars and the Top Green Values as well as the greenest cars in some main categories) and our take on the winners with links to our own tests of these vehicles or news stories on them.
Top Scoring Green Cars
- 2015 Tesla Model SP85D (electric)
- 2015 Volkswagen e-Golf SEL (electric)
- 2014 BMW i3 (electric)
- 2015 Subaru Outback 2.5i PZEV (gasoline)
- 2015 Volkswagen Golf TDI SE (diesel)
Best Value (cost-per-point score)
- 2014 Nissan Versa SV (gasoline)
- 2014 Nissan Versa Note SV (gasoline)
- 2013 Hyundai Accent GLS (gasoline)
- 2015 Toyota Yaris LE (gasoline)
- 2014 Kia Soul+ (gasoline)
Of course the AAA also correctly separated vehicles into categories (since there isn’t a lot of cross-shopping at Toyota between the Yaris and Tundra, for instance) and came up with these six winners, two-thirds of which were reflected in the Top 5.
2015 AAA Green Car Guide Category Winners
Large car: 2015 Tesla Model S P85D (electric)
Midsize car: 2015 Audi A7 TDI Quattro (diesel)
Compact car: 2015 Volkswagen e-Golf (electric)
Subcompact car: 2014 BMW i3 (electric)
SUV/Minivan: 2015 Subaru Outback 2.5i (gasoline)
Pickup truck: 2015 Ford F-150 Supercab Lariat (gasoline)
So there you have it. If green is all you care about, there are a range of choices led by some great new electric cars. If your pocket book is the green you care about the most (while still wanting to make a green choice), then it looks like gasoline still rules the day in the AAA’s evaluation. The company has a very basic definition of what makes a car green, one that we at Clean Fleet Report follow as well—a car is green if it burns less fuel than an average gasoline or diesel vehicle and minimizes emissions from burning its fuel (we look at fuel in a global sense from “well-to-wheel” since we all know the electrons it takes to run an electric car create pollution where they’re created unless they’re coming from solar panels or wind power).
In their testing AAA took a holistic view of the car, rating them on not only emissions and fuel economy, but crashworthiness, braking, acceleration, handling, cargo-carrying capacity, ride quality, interior noise, ease of entry and exit, maneuverability, roominess and visibility—a total of 13 categories. Among the 80+ tested were diesels, hybrids, CNG-power vehicles, electrics, plug-in hybrids, flex-fuel vehicles and high-mpg gasoline vehicles.
Clean Fleet Report has tested most of the winning vehicles (though not quite as thoroughly since we don’t have a test track and a staff of engineers) and agrees with many of the AAA picks. The Tesla does stand alone among the “green” vehicles on the market right now, but as AAA noted, its price certainly doesn’t make it easy to go green. On the other end of the spectrum, our experience with the Nissan Versa Note and the Toyota Yaris validate the findings—there’s a lot of bang for the buck in those little cars.
Likewise, the Volkswagen e-Golf and BMW i3 are our two favorite “affordable” electric cars, along with the Fiat 500e. Since AAA had to use a standardized metric for cost, they used MSRP (the Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price, or the official list price), they weren’t able to show some of the lease deals or discounted sales that would have shifted the cost-per-point score to a much more favorable number. We’re also a sucker for the Golf TDI (or just about any Golf in the new generation) and the TDI on the tail of an Audi puts it at the head of any list we’re drawing up. Similarly, Subarus, including the Outback, have long been our choice among compact
all-wheel drives. We’ve seen the new F-150 and are impressed with the leap that Ford has made with the truck’s technology, but have only had a brief chance to put that knowledge into practice in a test session, so we’ll withhold judgement in the truck category. What we do know from past tests of the Chevy Silverado and drives of the Dodge Ram is—they have some tough competition in the Green Truck category.
The bottom line is, even if we quibble with some of the details of the AAA process and decisions that process leads to, we applaud their willingness to do hands-on testing of vehicles and their approach that looks beyond a simple “green” label based on the type of fuel or propulsion unit for the car. Factoring in the value is another critical step that every smart consumer makes, which is probably why the AAA remains such a valuable resource for some many people.
Related Stories You Might Enjoy:
Road Test: 2015 Toyota Yaris SE 5-Door
Road Test: 2014 Golf e-Golf
Road Test: 2015 BMW i3
Road Test: 2014 Subaru Outback