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Top 10 ’green wheels’ to watch in 2009 02.02.09

As part of their regular ’Top 10 green wheels’ series, the superb WhatGreenCar.com team look ahead to the greenest cars due for launch in the UK during 2009.

With the ’credit crunch’ coming hard on the tails of the sharp increases in fuel prices in the first half of 2008, there cannot have been a better time to buy a fuel-efficient, low emission car. As government, company car and London Congestion Charge incentives for low carbon cars steadily increase, the auto industry is beginning to offer a wider range of quality new low carbon models.

2009 will a particularly important year for hybrids with both Honda and Toyota going head-to-head by bringing out new hybrid models – the new Insight and the new Prius. With the economic downturn deepening, car manufacturers will increasingly be offering fuel-efficient, low emission models – that’s why eight of the ten cars listed below have tailpipe CO2 emissions of 110 g/km or less.

Note: While we usually provide a WhatGreenCar environmental rating for all models listed, as most of these cars have yet to be launched, only published and/or target CO2 emissions are available. Therefore all models are rated using tailpipe CO2 and are listed in order of increasing CO2 emissions.

Mitsubishi i-MiEV electric – CO2: 0 g/km Unlike most of the EVs currently available, the i-MiEV (Mitsubishi innovative Electric Vehicle) is a proper four-seat electric car (as opposed to a quadricycle). Bigger than the G-Wiz, and with more room than the two-seater MINI E, the i-MiEV shares the same chassis and body as its petrol-engine counterpart. The car has a reasonable performance of 0-62 mph in 13.0 seconds, a top speed of 87 mph, a range of up to 100 miles, and a recharge time of 7 hours using a conventional three-pin plug. However, zero-emission motoring does come at a cost – on top of car purchase, the first lithium-ion battery pack is expected to be leased for £750 per month. That said, fuel costs are less than 2p per mile, road tax is nil, and the car will qualify for the 100% discount from the London Congestion Charge. From £20,000 (est); available Autumn 2009. Website: Mitsubishi i-MiEV

Smart fortwo cdi – CO2: 88 g/km The world’s CO2 champion, the smart fortwo cdi is coming to Britain. The cdi’s 799cc three cylinder common-rail diesel engine (the world’s smallest direct injection diesel) develops a healthy 45 bhp, and provides a top speed of 84 mph and 0-62 mph in 19.8 seconds. All this with CO2 emissions of only 88 g/km, the lowest of any conventional production car. As well as impressive green credentials buyers are likely to appreciate the car’s remarkable fuel economy; fuel consumption on the combined cycle is 85.6mpg, which means the new smart can travel 670 miles between top-ups, equivalent to a journey from Dover to Prague. The diesel model will be available in both coupe and cabrio versions. From £7,195; available Spring 2009. Websites: Smart cdi, WhatGreenCar news

Ford Ka ECOnetic – CO2: <99 g/km (expected) The first three models in the ECOnetic range, the Focus, Mondeo and Fiesta, have already shown Ford’s new commitment to offering low carbon models. The engineering behind the ECOnetic range includes a recalibrated engine management system, and an improved aero-profile. Interestingly the emissions improvements are achieved without fitting longer gear ratios, as adopted by the competing VW BlueMotion and BMW EfficientDynamics models. With the Fiesta ECOnetic’s 1.6 litre engine emitting only 98 g/km CO2, the new Ka’s 1.3 litre power unit is likely to be very impressive in terms of its emissions and fuel economy. Although performance data have yet to be confirmed, the new Ka will have much in common with the Fiat 500 given that the 1.3 TDCi engine is shared between the Ford and Fiat models. From £8500 (estimated); available Spring 2009. Website: Ford ECOnetic

Toyota iQ – CO2: 99 g/km Innovative interior packaging design means that you can fit three adults and one child into a car that is less than 3 metres long – making the iQ the world’s smallest 4-seater. The main engine on offer will be the 67bhp, 998cc 3-cylinder unit (also used in the Toyota Aygo, Citroen C1 and Peugeot 107), with resulting emissions of just 99 g/km CO2, and a combined fuel economy of 65.7 mpg. The iQ comes with a manual or a CVT transmission, the manual being recommended and the more economical choice. Its top speed is around 93 mph and it will crack the 0-60 mph benchmark in 14.0 seconds. The iQ is relatively expensive for a car of this size, and although described by Toyota as a premium car, the interior is hardly the lap of luxury. That said, the iQ comes with 360-degree airbag protection as standard (nine in total). From £9,495; available January 2009. Website: Toyota iQ

VW Golf Mk VI BlueMotion – CO2: 99 g/km

The forthcoming Volkswagen Golf BlueMotion (MkVI) will be capable of achieving a combined 74.3 mpg while emitting just 99 g/km of CO2 – matching the economy of the current Polo BlueMotion, itself among the most efficient vehicles currently on sale. Powered by a 1.6-litre TDI common rail diesel engine, and despite its frugality, the Golf BlueMotion will be able to reach 62 mph from rest in a respectable 11.3 seconds with a top speed of 117 mph. As with all BlueMotion models, the Golf adopts improvements to drive-train and aerodynamics including: a set of low rolling resistance tyres, revised ratios in the five speed gearbox, and a particulate filter fitted as standard. Even in non-BlueMotion form, the new MkVI Golf sets new economy standards – the entry-level diesel Golf is powered by a 2.0-litre TDI 110 PS common rail engine capable of achieving 62 mpg (combined) while emitting 119 g/km of CO2. From £16,000; available September 2009. Website: WhatGreenCar news

Toyota Prius hybrid – CO2: <100 g/km (expected) 2009 will see the launch of the next generation Prius. With a lighter and more and compact power-train, the new 5-seater Prius is expected to be greener than ever with a combined fuel economy of around 75 mpg and CO2 emissions below 100 g/km and – almost as low as the emissions of 2-seater smart cdi! The new Prius will be powered by a 1.8-litre petrol engine in conjunction with nickel-hydride batteries; interestingly both Toyota and Honda have decided to stick with nickel-metal hydride batteries rather than use lithium-ion batteries for the next generation of hybrids. Other larger MPV models based on the Prius’ Hybrid Synergy Drive engine are also being developed for launch, as is a ‘plug-in’ Prius which can be refuelled using petrol or recharged using electricity – this will take the hybrid concept to the next stage. The Toyota is expected to be more costly than the outgoing model though, starting from around £20,000. Price £20,000 (est); available June 2009. Website: Toyota Prius

Nissan Pixo – CO2: 103 g/km The Indian-built Pixo super-mini is a 5-door, 4-seat one-litre engine hatchback. The car in its manual version has a combined fuel economy of 61.4 mpg and CO2 emissions of just 103 g/km; placing it in VED tax band B. A less economical but more convenient automatic version will also be available. The Pixo is actually very similar to the Suzuki Alto; in fact the Pixo and the Alto are effectively the same car, though with different styling, and Suzuki will build them both at its factory in India. The Pixo will be sold in Visia and Acenta trim levels which will include: power steering, ISOFIX child seat fixings, a tilt-adjustable steering column, while the Acenta also has: keyless entry, a CD/MP3 player, electric front windows, a split-folding rear seat, front foglights and side airbags. Prices tba; available August 2009. Website: Nissan Pixo

Honda Insight hybrid – CO2: <110 g/km (expected) One of the main highlights of the year will be the launch of the Honda Insight hybrid; the first real competitor to the well-known Toyota Prius. The 5-seater family Insight (which takes its name from the 2-seater hybrid launched in 1999) will use an updated Integrated Motor Assist system, as already used in the 1.4 litre petrol Civic IMA, and incorporates a nickel metal hydride battery pack as does the Prius. Honda’s aim is to offer a low-emission family hybrid car at a lower price than the Prius. While the Insight will be closer to a ‘mild hybrid’ than the Prius’ ‘strong hybrid’ design (meaning that electric only operation will be limited), the Insight will offer the benefits of hybrid motoring to a new and (Honda hopes) wider audience – especially as Honda aims to price it well under Toyota’s hybrid offer. From £15,000 (est); available April 2009. Websites: Honda Insight, WhatGreenCar news

Honda CR-Z hybrid – CO2: TBA g/km For drivers who want a sports coupe that can claim to be green, Honda are planning to launch the CR-Z (Compact Renaissance Zero) as a follow-up to the successful second-generation CR-X. The new CR-Z is set to be a hybrid and will (probably) be the second Honda hybrid to be launched in 2009/10 – after the Insight and before the Jazz hybrid. Like the Insight, the CR-Z will utilise a mild hybrid Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) drive-train, which places an electric motor between the petrol engine and transmission. Unlike Toyota’s Prius system, this limits the possibility of electric-only operation, but does significantly increase overall fuel economy, so reducing emissions. Although its sporty image, the efficiency of the 2+2 front-wheel drive sports coupe CR-Z is helped by its small size and low weight. From £16,000 (est); available December 2009. Website: Honda CR-Z

Lexus RX450h SUV hybrid – CO2: TBA g/km Given the success of the Lexus RX hybrid models sold in the UK, it’s should be no real surprise that the new RX450h hybrid SUV will replace both the existing RX400h hybrid and the RX350 when it goes on sale in the UK in summer 2009. Powered by a 3.5-litre V6 295bhp engine, the RX450h system includes non-permanent four-wheel drive and regenerative braking to significantly improve fuel economy. This second-generation hybrid RX also utilises a heat recovery system to reduce engine warm-up time and a cooled exhaust gas recirculation system to reduce engine pumping losses. The new high spec model comes with 10 airbags, adaptive front lighting, active headrests a new front grille and bumper, a new 19-inch alloy wheel design with LED headlights available as an option. Not the greenest car by far, it is still likely to have relatively good fuel economy for its class. Not the cheapest car by far either. From £37,000; available Summer 2009. Website: Popular Mechanics

This article first appeared on WhatGreenCar.com, the leading website on green driving in the UK. The site is packled full of information and advice for drivers to keep their carbon footprint down.

Peter Shield

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