Hey Mr. Green,
I drive a Honda Civic coupe, but I am incredibly active outdoors and it’s somewhat difficult to fit all the stuff for my treks into such a small vehicle. Are there any larger vehicles that aren't terribly hurtful to the environment? I also need something that can handle rough dirt roads.
--Dan in Genola, Utah
If you're thinking SUV, some of the hybrid SUVs like Ford’s Escape or Mazda’s Tribute would give you decent gas mileage, though some other hybrids are no easier on the environment than many gas-guzzling conventional SUVs. If space is more of a concern to you than ability to survive on gnarly roads, you might consider some conventional station wagons, too. Audi and Volkswagen have models that get 42 mpg on the highway and 30 mpg in the city. Also, keep in mind that, unlike other vehicles, hybrids usually get better mileage in the city than on the highway, so a hybrid may be a good choice for people who have to do a lot of city driving. For example, the Ford Escape hybrid two-wheel-drive SUV gets 36 mpg in the city and 31 on the road, while Toyota's Highlander hybrid gets 27 mpg in the city and 25 on the highwayYou can compare all vehicles of the major manufacturers by going to the EPA's fuel-economy site (sorry, Mr. Green can’t do your homework for you). When you click on any manufacturer, you see the available choices. Another click takes you right to mpg ratings, air pollution scores, and even estimated fuel costs for cars made in recent years, plus mpg ratings going all the way back to 1984, if you’re considering a used model.
Finally, remember that speeding and lousy maintenance can cause any car, no matter how efficient, to burn a whole lot more fuel than it should. So stay under the speed limit and keep your tires properly inflated. For more thorough advice on saving gas, visit the Federal Trade Commission and Natural Resources Canada’s sites. Your tax dollars at work.