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 Cartrade.com, 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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,
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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
Related Stories You Might Enjoy:
Road Test; 2014 Volkswagen e-Golf
Road Test: 2014 BMW i3
Road Test: 2013 Nissan Leaf
Road Test: 2014 Toyota Prius Plug-in