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Top 5 'green' cars for suburban commuters

By James Croxon, Contributing writer
Published On: Feb 08 2012 03:01:51 PM CST
Updated On: Jun 28 2013 09:52:16 AM CDT
line of green cars hybrid environmental

iStock/mattjeacock

So you want an affordable car that will stand up to the rigors of the daily drive from the 'burbs to work? Oh, and preferably something that doesn't supersize your carbon footprint in the process?

What's a conscientious commuter to do?

Before you give up and invest in that used Yugo you've been eying in the "bargain rides" section of the classifieds, we're here to help.

These days there are a wide range of "green" vehicles for the Earth-conscious commuter to choose from.

Ranging from completely electric, eco-friendly compact cars to sport utility vehicles and family-friendly sedans able to burn the cleanest fuels, there is a green machine for nearly every situation.

2010 Toyota Highlander hybrid

Toyota Highlander hybrid

With a vehicle category highlighted by their dominance over Mother Earth, the SUV crowd is hard pressed to find gas-sipping, energy-conscious, terrain-dominating vehicles.

Despite the total lack of an all-electric SUV or even electric/gas combos, manufacturers are beginning to produce hybrid vehicles able to guzzle more Earth-friendly blends of fuel such as those made of ethanol while still being able to head off-road.

The Toyota Highlander has a hippie cousin that digs the ethanol. At 28 miles per gallon, it won't score many points with the Earth defense crowd, but rest assured with true four-wheel drive it's still able to head off road with its gasoline-powered siblings.

With an MSRP of $38,140 it's pricier than the traditionally powered Highlander, but it's a small price to pay for the hybrid badge gracing an otherwise mud-covered fender.

2012 Toyota Camry hybrid

Toyota Camry hybrid

It would appear that the alternative or hybrid vehicle market mirrors the fashion world where smaller is better.

The vast majority of electric and hybrid vehicles fall into the compact or sub-compact categories, leaving a family of five little to choose from.

The best-selling Toyota Camry is one option the Earth-loving family able to seat five adults.

Though not electric, it is able to get 35 miles per gallon using hybrid fuels. The $21,955 MSRP is a small price to pay to instill energy conservation in the little ones.

You can rest assured you're getting a safe ride for your family, too. Consumer Reports picked the Toyota Camry Hybrid as its top family sedan and it also received the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety's top safety pick for 2012.

2012 Chevrolet Sonic sedan car

Chevrolet Sonic

If you're looking to go small, but don't want to pay for a hybrid, Chevrolet's newly revamped Sonic may be right for you.

The Sonic is General Motor's replacement for the Chevy Aveo, which never quite proved to be a runaway hit. And if you weren't exactly a fan of the Aveo, rest assured, the Sonic got a redesign with a more aggressive grill and a more stylish cockpit.

Available as a sedan starting at $13,865 and a hatchback at $14,765, the Chevy Sonic is a steal. Like most compact cars, the sonic is small. Like a modern clown car, it's exterior belies an impressive amount of interior space.

The "green" aspect of the Sonic is the car's gasoline-powered efficiency. The lightweight, tuned engine is able to achieve an impressive 40 miles per gallon on the highway.

2011 Chevy Volt

Chevrolet Volt

You might feel if you have a bit longer commute that an electric car isn't for you. You may be right. Unless, of course, you are talking about the Chevy Volt.

When considering the longest legs for vehicles, the Chevy Volt stands out for its versatility. The electric/gasoline combination power plant is able to go 35 miles without taking a sip of gasoline. Once the gasoline engine kicks on, the car achieves an equally impressive 40 miles per gallon on the highway.

This capability comes at a price. As one of the first gas/electric vehicles on the market, the Chevy Volt goes for $31,645.

But you can recover some of those extra costs through government rebates and all that gas you won't be buying. You might even find it hard to wipe the smile off your face as you fight traffic on the way into work.

2009 Tesla Roadster sports car

Tesla Roadster

Can an all-electric car be sexy and hold its own against Motor City muscle? That all depends on the price you're willing to pay.

At $109,000, the Tesla Roadster is able to hold its own against other exotic gas-powered sports cars like Corvettes, Vipers and Porsches, but does so without a drop of gasoline.

With 288 horsepower, the svelte roadster is able to accelerate from zero to 60 in just 3.9 seconds. The company claims the roadster is able to travel 245 miles fully charged but this distance depends greatly on the type of roads traveled and the amount of lead in the driver's foot.

But what really matters is that while you'll be doing your part to be green on your way to work, you'll also look damn good. That might just be worth that extra bit on the price tag.

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