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PLANET OZ STAFF


meghan oldham

You’re environmentally savvy but you need a new ride. While cars may be the enemy, today’s way of life demands some sort of automotive solution to the dual challenges of making a living and getting around to enjoy what life offers. Picking the greenest wheels while being the baddest dude on the road requires some professional help, and that’s where Planet Oz comes in. With some help from Larry Read, a life-long car expert and owner of the largest collection of historic and modern “small” cars in Canada, we have come up with three options to choose from with some pros and cons for each.

Conventional Sedan. The Toyota Corolla (or any other four/five seat sedan) is the choice for the conforming, forward-thinking consumer.  Pro: fuel efficient four cylinder engine, seating for at least four, maybe five, good resale value since most other people lean this way too. “You get excellent value for the dollar,” Read says. Con: The price of fuel will continue to rise and availability will be more and more limited in the future. High Tech Wonder Car. Hybrids (like the Toyota Prius, Ford Escape, or the Honda Accord) are “kind of a put up or shut up thing for people who are into green,” Read says.  Pro: gas/electric power trains providing much-reduced inner city pollution in stop-and-go traffic since the engines automatically shut off when sitting in traffic. Good seating and legroom. Con: Pricey with at least a $10,000 premium over similar conventional models, plus how much will it cost to replace those hi-tech batteries when they wear out, and how long do they actually last? Longer than the ones in your iPod, hopefully. “Battery technology is certainly good these days,” says Read. “But it’s not excellent.” Also, the larger the hybrid the less performance improvement you get versus the conventional gas-powered alternatives.

Smart Car. Say hello to the goofiest looking vehicle on the market, which supposedly only smart drivers will buy, hence the name. DaimlerChrysler’s European-developed and manufactured Smart Car is a zippy, fun (in a go-kart sort of way) and head-turning two-seater that, at little more than two metres in length, is a cinch to park. Pro: It’s overly cute and attention grabbing in much the same way as the Olsen twins circa 1991, but safe too with its special crash-resistant cage design. A real energy miser using a three-cylinder diesel engine it just about fits in any pocket. Con: Speaking of pockets, the Smart Car carries a fairly respectable price tag when you’re finished with options, taxes, freight and the like, especially since you only have room for two and maybe a bag of groceries. “You’re not going to be carrying a family in the damn thing,” jokes Read. It is exclusively for two people and costs as much as the family sedan. “It’s better than a hybrid,” says Eric Eisen, senior Smart specialist for the Toronto Retail Group. In terms of mileage, the Smart Car compares to the hybrid in city driving, he says, but it beats the hybrid in highway driving.

Plus, the Smart Car is 85 per cent recyclable. That’s right, the majority of all materials used in the body and components can be used again, Eisen says. “It’s obviously a very small car,” but Eisen says this is an environmental perk. “It is an ultra-low emission vehicle; it is extremely fuel-efficient.”

The Smart Car only costs $15 to $18 to fill and that tank of gas will last over 400 kilometers. Use our handy chart to compare your choices, but remember, the hot blonde is not an option with any of the models described.
  
 

       
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