An influx of electric and hybrid cars in 2011 was soon followed by a host of ultra-frugal petrol and diesel models as manufacturers’ views on what makes a successful green car differed.
For customers, this can only be a good thing. Not only has constant innovation meant more efficient, cheaper green technology, it also means there is plenty of choice for those looking for a car that is cheaper to run and kinder to the environment.
Below is a list of what we would describe as ‘green’ or, more accurately, ‘greener’ cars which will be going on sale in the UK in 2011.
We start off with a trio of electric cars from Renault, but hybrid, petrol and diesel cars all feature in the list.
1) Renault Fluence
Renault is now at the forefront of electric car technology and plans to exploit this with four new models over the next few years.
The Renault Kangoo van Z.E. is already on sale and it will be joined by the Renault Fluence in the UK from early 2012.
Electric cars remain a niche product. They are only really useful to those who travel shorter distances because of their range of around 100 miles.
However, the Renault Fluence is a big step forward in electric car technology. Its saloon body style means there is more space in the front and back – a welcome change from the view of electric cars as glorified two-seat electric golf karts.
In fact, the Fluence looks incredibly normal, matching a clean, modern design with a classy interior. The only sign it is an electric car at all is the smooth running and instrument displays showing battery life and nearest charging station.
The Renault Fluence is also a breakthrough in terms of electric car prices, costing just £17,000 to buy before battery leasing costs are taken into account.
Visit the Renault page for more Fluence information
2) Renault Zoe
The second of Renault’s electric cars, the Renault Clio-sized Zoe, is probably the most exciting electric car of 2012.
Set to go on sale in the summer, the Renault Zoe not only features Renault’s new front end and a design language set to influence the next generation of the Clio, it will also cost under £15,000 and will boast a range of around 100 miles.
The supermini will be able to seat four and because of its smaller size will have impressive performance figures including a top speed above 80mph and a 0-62mph time a little over eight seconds.
However, its real lure will come in its clever interior, which promises futuristic equipment and additions such as a climate control which can not only heat and cool the car, but offer sounds and smells to relax a driver while the car is being driven.
Once again there will be a leasing cost for the battery but with a supermini-size starting price, it represents the cheapest, most realistic electric car option around.
Visit the Renault page for more Zoe information
3) Renault Twizy
The Renault Twizy will arrive early in 2012 and represents the smallest model in Renault’s electric line up.
The tiny two-seat Twizy is designed purely for city driving – it is in fact Renault’s take on the future of driving in congested cities.
With a short range, lightweight structure (it does not even include proper doors) and compact dimensions, the car is not designed to be a family car.
Instead it is incredibly cheap to run, free from parking charges in many places and exempt from London’s congestion charge.
It’s also highly customisable and is sure to appeal to cost (and eco) conscious young drivers in the UK’s busy cities.
It will start from under £7,000 (once again with a cost of leasing the battery) and this represents a tempting deal for many inner city drivers.
Visit the Renault page for more Twizy information
4) Vauxhall Ampera
The Vauxhall Ampera is not actually an electric car because it boasts a small petrol engine alongside its electric motor and battery combination.
However, nor is it a hybrid car. Instead, it is a completely new setup in the UK – an extended range electric vehicle.
This is because, unlike a hybrid car, the petrol engine never actually powers the car. Instead it recharges the on-board battery when the charge runs low. In turn, the battery then powers the electric motor which drives the car.
By doing this, the car can travel for up to 40 miles on electric power alone and a further 310 miles by using the battery-charging petrol engine.
The result is a car with fuel economy above 100mpg, CO2 emissions below 50g/km and exemption from road tax and congestion charges in the UK.
The Vauxhall Ampera is also a great looking car with a much more premium interior than you would expect from a standard five-door hatchback.
It comes with a practical boot and four spacious seats as well as a host of modern equipment such as air conditioning, satellite navigation and battery charge indicator.
The Vauxhall Ampera is also eligible for the government’s electric car grant and costs around £29,000 in the UK, where it will go on sale early in 2012.
Visit the Vauxhall page for more Ampera information
5) Peugeot 3008 Hybrid4
A five-seat, practical 4×4 people carrier with road tax-free levels of CO2 emissions and 69mpg on the combined cycle? It can only be the Peugeot 3008 Hybrid4.
The ‘green’ 4×4 delivers 200bhp from a unique diesel hybrid powertrain – the first of its kind to ever be sold in the UK.
Performance is excellent – it takes 8.8 seconds to hit 60mph from standing – and as with standard versions of the 3008, the HYbrid4 model offers plenty of room in its vast estateSUVMPV crossover-like interior.
At around £31,000 it is expensive, but costs can be recouped through the frugal powertrain and the quality of the Peugeot 3008 Hybrid4 makes it worth every penny.
The interior is well put together and there is more than enough space for five as well as a generous boot capacity.
For practicality, low running costs and 4×4 ability, the Peugeot 3008 Hybrid4 takes some beating, if you can take the hit on the original price.
Visit the Peugeot page for more 3008 information
6) Fiat Panda
The undisputed king of the green petrol cars is the Fiat 500 city car. The TwinAir range, named after the two-cylinder petrol engine it uses, is the most efficient and cleanest petrol car available on the market today.
It is also the first petrol model to offer sub-100g/km of CO2 emissions and, as a result, qualify for free road tax and exemption from the London congestion charge.
This engine will soon be offered in the new 2012 Fiat Panda, a city car designed to appeal to less style conscious buyers, but those needed a dose more practicality.
It will be incredibly cheap to run and despite a modern update inside and out, the new Fiat Panda will have five doors, roof bars, a raised rear end to give passengers more space and a good size boot.
It will also offer a 4×4 option in higher spec models and comes with over 30 years of UK history courtesy of two previous generation models.
The Fiat Panda could be the best small car to come out of 2012 and the 4×4 option is sure to go down a storm in UK Fiat dealerships.
Visit the Fiat page for more Panda information
It isn’t just the Italians impressing with their green petrol technology. Mazda has shunned electric cars in order to make its petrol (and diesel) engines as efficient as possible for 2012.
The result of this is the new Skyactiv petrol engine for the Mazda2. The 1.3-litre engine delivers an incredible 85mpg – nearly 10 mpg more than the Ford Fiesta Econetic diesel – and road tax-free levels of CO2 emissions.
Extra technology such as Start/Stop in the Skyactiv engine helps to reduce fuel costs and save the driver money on the road.
The Mazda2 will retain its superb handling and ride but now adds a green engine worthy of challenging the Fiat 500 and Fiat Panda as the greenest petrol car.
What’s more, the Skyactiv technology will lead to an even more frugal next generation model because it will include more lightweight materials and chassis design to improve emissions.
Prices for the Skyactiv Mazda2 have not been announced, but it arrive in UK Mazda showrooms early in 2012.
Visit the Mazda page for more Mazda2 information
8) Seat Mii
Seat has been missing a city car in its UK line up but as more new car buyers are downsizing to smaller models with smaller, more efficient engines, it was only a matter of time before it jumped on the bandwagon.
Seat is a perfect fit for the Mii because it already has the superb Ecomotive eco-signature, which offers road tax-free models in its Ibiza and Leon ranges.
Using Volkswagen (Seat’s owner) engines, the tiny but stylish three-door Mii comes with a 1.0-litre petrol engine in 60PS and 70PS variations.
Both less powerful of the two delivers CO2 emissions of just 97g/km, largely thanks to its efficiency and the low weight of the city runaround.
Expect plenty of Seat’s eye-catching body colours, typical VW Group high-quality interiors and a price below £10,000.
It also comes with plenty of customisation options, bringing the stylish Seat spirit to the small car segment for the first time.
Visit the Seat page for more Mii information
9) Peugeot 208
The supermini market is a lucrative one and the ageing Peugeot 207 has been left behind by the likes of the Vauxhall Corsa and Ford Fiesta in recent times.
Enter the new Peugeot 208. A completely new design, bigger boot and more equipment bring it up to speed with its rivals, while new engines put it ahead in many respects.
CO2 emissions are improved by 34g/km compared to the 207 because the Peugeot 208 uses micro-hybrid technology first seen on the likes of the Citroen DS3 Airdream+ model.
What this means is the diesel engine gets fuel saving Start/Stop technology with an electronic ‘e-booster’ designed to restart the engine more efficiently.
It also boasts weight reduction and a more aerodynamic body – those lines are not just a cosmetic improvement – and as a result is one of the greenest diesel cars around.
Fuel economy is as high as 83.1mpg and CO2 emissions are 87g/km on the diesel range, while petrol versions are just as impressive with both 1.0-litre and 1.2-litre models qualifying for zero road tax.
Visit the Peugeot page for more 208 information
10) Renault Twingo
Renault’s new 2012 Twingo is an important car for the brand because it is the first to display the new styling first seen on the stunning DeZir electric car concept in 2010.
This means a distinctive front end with horizontal grille, larger Renault badge and new front and rear lights.
It also means plenty more customisable options, a cleaner interior with better quality plastics and, more importantly, some new engines.
The pick of the four engines (two diesel and two petrol) is the 75bhp diesel, which delivers sub-90g/km of CO2 emissions.
This means the new Renault Twingo is one of the greenest non-electric cars available to buy and is exempt from road tax and the London congestion charge.
With its small dimensions and attractive design, it is expected to be a big hit with city buyers and with running costs at an all-time low, those looking to save some pennies on their next new car purchase.
Visit the Renault page for more Twingo information