On last year's list of Top 10 Green Cars, Kelley Blue Book cited skyrocketing gas prices, a weak economy and growing environmental consciousness as the major reasons more car buyers were focusing on fuel economy. As we approach Earth Day 2009, gas prices have come back to Earth but the shaky economy is trumping most other concerns and causes. Result: far fewer car buyers.
The current sales slump is unfortunate for many reasons, one of which is that 2009 is shaping up to be a banner year for fuel efficiency. The year's arrivals include an all-new Toyota Prius that's even more fuel-efficient than its world-beating predecessor, a new Prius alternative in the Honda Insight and a range of new 50-state clean-diesel cars, among others.
In addition to these newcomers, this year's list highlights some familiar faces, and it was again compiled to include a variety of vehicle shapes and sizes because not everyone who wants to get greener can go smaller.
Here, presented in order of combined EPA-estimated fuel economy, are Kelley Blue Book's Top 10 Green Cars for 2009:
2010 Toyota Prius | 50 mpg (51 city, 48 highway)
The third-generation Prius has arrived with sleeker looks, added creature comforts, upgraded performance and even-better fuel economy. Despite a larger engine, 24 additional horsepower and quicker acceleration, the new Prius manages to deliver four more miles per gallon than its predecessor. The coolest new option is a glass moonroof with a solar-powered ventilation system, but the list also includes voice-activated navigation and Dynamic Radar Cruise Control with Lane Keep Assist.
2010 Honda Insight | 41 mpg (40 city, 43 highway)
With a starting sticker price of $20,470, the all-new Honda Insight is the least expensive full-production hybrid available in the U.S. Even the top-level Insight EX with Navigation that includes features like a voice-activated navigation system, Bluetooth phone connectivity, upgraded audio system and electronic stability control is just $23,770. These figures should give the Insight a clear price advantage compared to the newest Prius, for which pricing has yet to be announced.
2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid | 39 mpg (41 city, 36 highway)
The Ford Fusion is getting better with age, and perhaps the best addition is the hybrid version. For the 2010 model year, the lineup benefits from new exterior styling and an interior redesign, which grace the new hybrid version that handily out-economizes both the Toyota Camry (33 city/34 hwy mpg) and the Chevy Malibu (26 city/34 hwy mpg) hybrids. We were fans of the Fusion before, but even bigger believers after seeing and driving the latest iterations.