I've always known fuel efficiency is not the best feature of my car. My car is helpful in many ways, but the MPG is shameful. Unfortunately, it isn't worse than other cars in it's class and there are many of them on the road. I have kept the car because I use all the 3 rows of seats to carpool across town. I also have been anticipating bigger advancements in hybrid offerings and was biding my time to switch cars when I could find one that is significantly more efficient than mine. With the price of gas skyrocketing, I thought I should start my search sooner rather than later.
I started by looking up some models that had caught my eye on Yahoo Autos to see how they compared. I looked at MPG, how many kids it could seat (using boosters), cargo capacity and the Yahoo Green rating. I ended up scraping the cargo capacity findings because I wasn't sure they were accurate. For instance, they claim the Honda Fit has more cargo capacity than my Chrysler Pacifica. In reality, I wouldn't be surprised if the Fit could fit in my Pacifica!
Keep in mind that I didn't expect all these cars to be green choices. They were just cars I see often and I wondered how they fared. Here is what I found, in no particular order:
Mazda 3 hatchback: 22/29 mpg, 3 kids, 66 green rating Mazda 5: 22/28 mpg, 4 kids, green rating not available Volvo V50: 19/27 mpg, 3 kids, 62 green rating Ford Escape Hybrid: 34/30 mpg, 3 kids, 76 green rating Toyota Prius: 48/45 mpg, 3 kids, 84 green rating Mini Cooper: 26/34, 2 kids, 71 green rating Honda Civic Hybrid: 40/45 mpg, 3 kids, 84 green rating Honda Element: 20/25, 2 kids, 62 green rating Honda Fit: 28/34/ 3 kids, 73 green rating Toyota Camry Hybrid: 33/34 mpg, 3 kids, 76 green rating Chrysler Pacifica: 15/23 mpg, 4 kids, 53 green rating
Personally, if I were to replace my car at this point I would really want the MPG to be as high as possible (35+, but over 40 is even better). You can actually search for new cars by MPG very easily on Yahoo Autos.
As I research car options I have learned that there are some exiting things on the horizon and perhaps I will wait a little bit longer. For instance, here in the Bay Area it is expected that Prius sales may start to have wait lists again soon. Plus, I read on hybridcars.com that "according to an inside company source, Toyota dramatically reduced production of the Prius sedan when it began retooling its production line for the 2009 model year. The new model is expected to be slightly bigger, faster and more efficient than the current version. In addition, company sources confirmed that Toyota is preparing to offer a wagon version of the Prius in either 2009 or 2010." A wagon version?! Hurry up, people!
There are also some new clean diesel cars that are promising impressive results, such as a Mercedes Bluetec or a VW TDI engine. Hybridcars.com reports, "VW says the Jetta will get more than 50 miles per gallon on the highway (40 mpg around town), and can go over 600 miles between fill-ups." It's not a hybrid, but the TDI is a clean diesel which is promising excellent MPG.