Category 2: Granola Boxes

People ask what’s greenest: electric, hybrid or diesel? The answer is, ‘depends’. Electric cars have been around for a century. They just haven’t been practical off the golf course — but urban infrastructure is increasing viability. Many huge SUVs and trucks are coming in hybrid editions, which leaves you wondering whether they really read the green memo closely. I love clean diesels but have yet to try the latest offerings, so can’t recommend the 2013s yet.

Frankly the ‘greenest’ cars belong to drivers who are light-footed, regularly check tire pressure, maintain their vehicles and keep them years longer, rather than scuttling them for two fresh tonnes of recyclable material every other year.

Mitsubishi i-MiEVNissan Leaf
Top 10 Vehicles for the Urban Grind. Click image to enlarge

Mitsubishi i-MiEV

In regular driving mode, D, it’s responsive and fun. The marketers should use the headline, “Charge!” (Get it?) Configured similarly to a lot of tiny cars mentioned here, wheels at the corners, it’s a physics experiment trying to tip it in corners. In Eco regenerative braking modes, it’s positively meditative and only advisable for the most patient of green warriors. For its size, you’d expect a smaller price tag, so milk any government green incentives. But with the wheelbase almost matching car length it seats four with surprising comfort — that is, during a city commute — so carpool to get some of that cash back.

Nissan Leaf

Electric cars have the undeserved reputation of being gutless. But without gears, they deliver instant full torque, like toddlers who awake from naptime and instantly take off — only much quieter. What an opportunity! The Leaf gives the driver the balanced steering and sporty handling to control that sudden surge into bends and hills. Many people fear they’ll run out of electricity without an electric filling station or 2 km extension cord nearby. The Leaf’s charge lasts a relief-inducing 175 km, compared to the Chevrolet Volt’s 77.

Infiniti G37x AWD Coupe
Cadillac ATS
Top 10 Vehicles for the Urban Grind. Click image to enlarge

Category 3: The Performance Sedan

Why go flashy, oversized or undersized, when a sporty sedan coolly offers the spirited driver all the excitement you’d want? If you’re the type who leaves an hour before sunrise to beat traffic and actually enjoy the physical pleasure of driving, here are two genuine contenders.

Infiniti G37x AWD Sedan

Okay, so there’s not really a cheaper alternative here. And if I could, I’d list three or four others. Unlike some Driver Sport modes that claim to adjust to your driving style and shift gears accordingly, this G37’s truly did. Possibly because it had just 205 km total on it when I picked it up. Infiniti loaned it to me to fly to Montreal and back in spring, on either side of the Grand Prix. They’re partners with the typically winning F1 Red Bull team. Its 3.7L six-cylinder engine led the charge down the 401 like a homing pigeon late for a meal.

Cadillac ATS

Do I win a prize if I’m the ten thousandth writer to say ‘This ain’t yer grandpa’s Cadillac”? Last summer, I took one for a bucket-list-shortening drive down California’s Highway 1 to Big Sur. Not exactly the city, admittedly, but I also got to do that last autumn. It’s precisely tuned, exactingly built with the lightest possible materials, and forgiving when you make a mistake. Warning: watch out for option creep. Be wary when they start asking if you want fries with that.

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