Top 10 Low Carbon Footprint Four-Door Sedans for 2009

Honda Insight to Underprice Toyota Prius

Honda Insight to Underprice Toyota Prius

The four-door sedan continues to be a popular vehicle for fleets and for individuals. These sedans often deliver the right amount of space for 4 or 5 passengers and enough cargo space for a taxi. The following 10 four-door sedans have the lowest greenhouse gas emissions per mile of any vehicles available for volume commercial sales in the United States in 2009. In many cases, they also have the best fuel economy. All can achieve freeway speeds. Buying these clean cars often gives fleets tax breaks and special funding opportunities.

Reduced greenhouse gas emissions are becoming a priority with fleet managers and millions of conscientious consumers. These Top 10 Low Carbon Footprint Four-Doors are listed from lowest to highest in carbon footprint.

  1. Toyota Prius
  2. Honda Civic Hybrid
  3. Honda Insight
  4. Ford Fusion Hybrid
  5. Nissan Altima Hybrid
  6. Honda Civic CNG
  7. Toyota Camry Hybrid
  8. Toyota Yaris
  9. Chevrolet Aveo
  10. Volkswagen Jetta TDI

2009 will be a challenging year for automakers. This list is likely to change with new announcements and also because at least one on the list may not be announced for volume fleet availability.

This list was developed by first searching the U.S. EPA and DOE’s valuable, with its extensive search capabilities. The EPA combined miles per gallon rating is based on 45% highway and 55% city driving. The carbon footprint is carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) based on 15,000 miles of driving, using the GREET 1.7 model.

Fleets are also early adopters of vehicles with even less emissions including electric vehicles, hydrogen fuel cell, plug-in hybrid conversions, and diesel hybrid concept cars. Because these are not offered for commercial volume sale, they are not part of this Top 10 Four-Door Sedan list. Electric and alt-fuel vehicles are also covered in detail at Clean Fleet Report.

The Toyota Prius continues to lead the four-door sedan field in fuel economy and lowest lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions. This perennial favorite midsize is lowest on the list with 4 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent for the EPA annual driving cycle; combined fuel economy is 46 mpg. Yes, 4 tons of CO2e is a lot; by comparison the 2009 Lamborghini Murcielago rates at 18.3 tons and only gets 10 mpg. Sorry fleet managers, you’ll need to take that Lamborghini out of the budget. At the North American International Auto Show, Toyota announced the 2010 Prius with an expected 50 mpg combined and an optional solar roof option to power accessories and thereby boost mileage. Prius


The Honda Civic Hybrid compact rates at 4.4 tons of CO2e for the EPA annual driving cycle and a combined 42 mpg. Civic Hybrid

The new Honda Insight four-door sedan with an Ecological Drive Assist System is  priced for thousands less than the Prius. Honda will start selling the Insight in North America in spring 2009. The Insight will deliver 41 mpg combined, with annual emissions of about 4.5 tons of CO2e. Honda Insight

The Ford Fusion Hybrid midsized sedan will be on sale in the US by next spring, with an EPA certified 41 mpg rating in the city and 36 mpg on the highway. Clean Fleet Report makes an unofficial estimate that emissions will be 4.8 tons of CO2e for the EPA annual driving cycle. The Fusion Hybrid and Mercury Milan Hybrid may travel up to 47 miles per hour in pure electric mode. The Advanced Intake Variable Cam Timing allows the Fusion and Milan hybrids to more seamlessly transition between gas and electric modes. Green Car Congress

The Nissan Altima Hybrid also delivers good mileage for a midsize, benefiting from Nissan’s continuously variable transmission technology. The EPA rating is 5.4 tons of CO2e for the EPA annual driving cycle and a combined 34 mpg.

The Honda Civic CNG emits 5.4 tons of CO2e for the EPA annual driving cycle and a combined 28 mpg equivalent. This vehicle is popular with fleets that also want to reduce their criteria pollutant emissions and have their own CNG fueling. Heavy CNG buying accelerated last year when oil prices soared.

Toyota Camry Hybrid delivers good mileage for a midsize with an automatic transmission. The EPA rating is 5.4 tons of CO2e for the EPA annual driving cycle and a combined 34 mpg. Toyota has been showing a concept Camry CNG Hybrid which would lower CO2e to only 4.6 tons should Toyota decide to offer it to fleets.

Toyota Yaris is a less expensive subcompact, when priced in comparison to the larger hybrids listed above. The Yaris delivers good mileage for this affordable subcompact when using a 5-speed stick, and is respectable with an automatic. The Yaris has a 5.7 ton CO2e footprint and a combined 32 mpg rating. Yaris

The Chevrolet Aveo is a pick for fleets that prefer to buy from a company headquartered in the United States. This affordable compact delivers good mileage with a manual 5-speed, delivering an EPA rating is 6.1 tons of CO2e for the EPA annual driving cycle and a combined 30 mpg.

The Volkswagen Jetta TDI delivers very good freeway mileage for this turbodiesel which outperforms many hybrids. This VW rates at 6.2 tons of equivalent for the EPA annual driving cycle and a combined 34 mpg with a 6-speed shift. The mileage is equally good in the SportsWagen version, and almost as good with an automatic transmission. Drivers often report getting over 40 mpg.

Carbon emissions are of growing concern. Government fleets are showing leadership in transportation solutions with shrinking carbon footprints. The stock market is favoring corporations that are sustainable. As states implement climate solution law, lowering CO2e is critical. California, in 2009 has the CO2e emission standard of 323 grams per mile for passenger and light-duty vehicles. The standard drops each year to 205 grams per mile.

Not considered in this Top 10 list are vehicles with the lowest smog-forming emissions, once the only factor considered by government regulators and buyers. In general, vehicles with low greenhouse gas emissions are low in criteria pollutants.

The list should be more exciting in 2010. During 2009, expanded fleet trials of plug-in hybrids, fuel cell vehicles, and electric vehicles are on-going.

Fleets need wide range of vehicles. The 2009 Ford Escape Hybrid has more cargo space and a smaller carbon footprint (5.7 tons) and better mileage (32 mpg) than some of the above sedans. The optional AWD is desirable where roads get icy. With a common drive system, the Mercury Mariner Hybrid and Mazda Tribute Hybrid deliver the same carbon footprint and respectable mileage.

Delivering lower emissions than some on the list is the Honda Fit, which is a four-door small station wagon with a carbon footprint of only 5.9 tons of CO2e. Honda is developing an even more efficient Fit Hybrid which it is likely to commercialize in Japan and possibly the U.S.

If you are planning to buy any four-door sedans, this list may be a good starting point. The focus is on low CO2e emissions and likely commercial availability in the United States, thereby excluding some of the small diesel wonders in Europe and electric vehicles in Asia. Some people will need larger sedans, while others will need affordable small cars, including small station wagons and two-doors which are not part of the list. Executives and sales managers that once required luxury sedans may now insist on one of the green alternatives in the Clean Fleet Report Top 10 Low Carbon Footprint Four-Door Sedans for 2009.

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About Author: John Addison

Founder of the Clean Fleet Report, author of Save Gas, Save the Planet. John writes about electric cars, renewable energy, and sustainability.

9 thoughts on “Top 10 Low Carbon Footprint Four-Door Sedans for 2009

  1. etsvetkova
    February 20, 2009 at 2:54 pm

    Reduced greenhouse gas emissions are definetely becoming a priority both with fleet managers and consumers. Emissions reduction mandates are expected to come into effect very soon—not just for heavy emitters, but medium and small emitters too. While mandatory reporting is a useful tool for managing carbon change, what is lacking in a lot of these programs is the ability to provide contextual detail, or to showcase emissions reduction achievements. CSA just launched the GHG CleanStart™ Registry based on ISO 14064. It’s a voluntary program, but it covers the same bases as the regulated programs, while also allowing organizations to highlight their successes. Check it out at

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