Subscribe to the Road & Travel Blog RSS Feed

Planet Driven Feed

November 03, 2011

2012 Honda Civic Hybrid Sedan Road Test Review

2012 Honda Civic Hybrid Sedan Road Test Review

by Martha Hindes

If there's safety in numbers, Honda's compact Civic auto must certainly represent the feeling. Case in point: One Midwestern apartment complex recently had no fewer than five in various neutral shades lined up in a row in the parking lot. Add to that Honda's redone 2012 Civic Hybrid sedan, and the chances of that row of autos expanding grows exponentially.

Many of those parking lot Civics were owned by health care workers, one group that Honda cites as gravitating to the Civic for its reputation for dependability, economy and long-term value. Others include business professionals, educators, environmentalists and -- yes -- driving enthusiasts. Think fun, not funky. For despite its sometimes vilified understated demeanor, the Civic Hybrid hides a wealth of technical prowess under its skin.

As originator of the Insight, the first -- now exiting -- and highly recognizable, jellybean-shaped production hybrid to hit U.S. roadways in the 1990s in numbers great enough to count, Honda knows something about building a combined gasoline-electric powered auto. Transition to 2012 and the newest, refreshed Civic hybrid gains some significant technical advances, including a switch to a lighter weight lithion-ion battery pack and improved powertrain. Full Story

November 01, 2011

2012 Chevrolet Cruze Eco Road Test Review

2012 Chevrolet Eco Cruze Road Test

by Martha Hindes

If "electric" is the latest green car buzzword and "hybrid" its current category staple, whatever happened to yesterday's internal combustion engine? Past history, right? Well, no. Rather than being a fuel economy pariah, Chevrolet's 2012 Cruze Eco sedan is showing the energy elite just how it should be done.

Wearing the self-anointed crown as the "most fuel-efficient gas-powered/non-hybrid vehicle in America" in GM-speak is one thing. Living up to it is quite another. After time behind the wheel of a cheery cherry red Cruze Eco, I think that might be an understatement.

OK, so I didn't get the promised 42 highway miles to a gallon of regular. Fault the driver not the vehicle. I mean you wouldn't expect to punch the accelerator and get a "gee whiz" kind of seatback thrust if the car you're driving was designed to leave barely a shred of environmental impact. And without using an electric motor somewhere as part of its propulsion package.

I put the key in the ignition, shoved the overdrive-spiced six-speed manual tranny into gear, and expected a mild mannered response as it inched into traffic. Boy was I wrong. The Cruze just spun forward with an aggressive "own-the-road" attitude, catching me by surprise. Where did that come from? Was this a tread lightly reject in earth-tuned disguise? Full review here.


October 31, 2011

2012 Ford Fusion Hybrid Road Test Review

2012 Ford Fusion Hybrid Road Test Review

by Martha Hindes

Wishing never gets you anywhere, right? You'd really like to drive a hybrid car and breeze past those filling stations that rule the road when you're nearing empty. But you don't want to give up that kick-back reaction when you feel like tromping the accelerator. Or sufficient stretch room for five to relax and play with sophisticated, on-board electronics. And it would be really neat to drive all the way to work without making a sound. Not possible? Maybe you haven't met the 2012 Ford Fusion Hybrid.

The midsize gasoline/electric-powered, front-drive sedan from Ford isn't a newbie, by the way. It's been around since 2009 and now resides as a second generation pro, with tweaks here and tucks there for 2012 to give it more polish and panache. This isn't your mother's reject that's grown long-in-the-tooth after years of looking rather oddly off-beat as it ambles through a planet-tending restriction on fun. It's an honest-to-goodness handsome sedan that should look fitting in any executive parking spot. Full review.



October 27, 2011

2012 Toyota Prius v Hybrid Road Test Review

2012 Toyota Prius v Hatchback Road Test Review

All-New 2012 Model Morphs to Hatchback by Bob Plunkett

It only takes the blink of an eye to observe that Toyota's new fourth-generation design for the 2012 Prius hybrid electric vehicle differs from the previous version -- it's larger in a streamlined package that fashions the hood and windshield into a racked-back plane which resembles a rakish two-door GT coupe while flanks reveal the four-door configuration of a practical sedan as the roofline hikes high toward the tail to accommodate a hatchback-style rear cargo door.

This new design earns an aerodynamic rating of merely 0.29 cD (coefficient of Drag), which makes the 2012 Prius one of the slickest set of wheels on the road.

It's still pegged in the mid-size class of sedans, but the wheelbase grows 3.1 inches longer and the overall tip-to-tail measurement increases by 6.1 inches to 181.7 inches.

The passenger compartment -- long and broad and tall, thanks to the mid-size front-wheel-drive platform with wheelbase drawn to 109.4 inches -- provides ample room for five passengers on comfortable seats with a pair of buckets in front of a bench for three and room at the rear for cargo due to the hatchback roofline.

Name badge of this version acquires the alphabet letter "v" tacked on -- Prius v -- with v denoting versatility with the hatchback design.

Then numerical figures follow the v on the nameplate to describe three trim grades:  Prius v Two, Prius v Three and Prius v Five. (There's no explaining the absence of Prius v One and Prius v Four editions.) Read full review here.

October 21, 2011

How to Drive More Efficiently

Drive Sensibly
frustrated driverAggressive driving (speeding, rapid acceleration and braking) wastes gas. It can lower your gas mileage by 33 percent at highway speeds and by 5 percent around town. Sensible driving is also safer for you and others, so you may save more than gas money.

Fuel Economy Benefit:


Equivalent Gasoline Savings:


Observe the Speed Limit
Graph showing MPG VS speed MPG decreases rapidly at speeds above 60 mph
While each vehicle reaches its optimal fuel economy at a different speed (or range of speeds), gas mileage usually decreases rapidly at speeds above 60 mph.
You can assume that each 5 mph you drive over 60 mph is like paying an additional $0.29 per gallon for gas.
Observing the speed limit is also safer.

Fuel Economy Benefit:


Equivalent Gasoline Savings:


Remove Excess Weight

Excess items in trunk
Avoid keeping unnecessary items in your vehicle, especially heavy ones. An extra 100 pounds in your vehicle could reduce your MPG by up to 2 percent. The reduction is based on the percentage of extra weight relative to the vehicle's weight and affects smaller vehicles more than larger ones.

Fuel Economy Benefit:

1–2%/100 lbs

Equivalent Gasoline Savings:


Full story - click here.


July 21, 2011

Women Adopt Eco-Friendly Car Technology

It's not surprising that women are eagerly adopting the new breed of environmentally friendly vehicles that boast updated technologies. The perks of purchasing a hybrid electric or natural gas car go above and beyond environmental benefits; they open the door to tax incentives, express driving lanes and even free parking. And with gas prices at record highs, considering an eco-friendly car is a practical decision that can save time and money.

For its Women's Car Guide section,, the premier online automotive resource, spoke to women across the U.S. to learn the benefits and drawbacks of owning these eco-friendly cars, presented in series entitled "How Far Would You Go For the Planet?"

"Women are very sensitive to their impact on the environment," said Joanne Helperin, senior features editor for "And an increasing number of women are interested in purchasing 'green' vehicles for other, more practical reasons, including significantly better mileage, access to free parking or express driving lanes and significant tax incentives."

[Read full story]

July 08, 2011

Documentary Review: Six Degrees Could Change the World


By Sara Hoffman

Another enlightening and thought-provoking environmental film, National Geographic: Six Degrees Could Change the World is a methodical yet scary prediction of each increasing degree's effect on our planet. Simply navigating the Scene Selection Menu is astonishing: Our World + One Degree, Our World + two Degrees...all the way to a horrific six degrees. narrated by Alec Baldwin, the theme is that something big is happening. With every degree of global warming, irreparable damage occurs - damage that could not only ruin our environment, but the social structures that keep people sane. [Read More]

July 06, 2011

Tips on How to Buy a Used Hybrid Car

Buying a Used Hybrid

Hybrid vehicles have been on the market since model year 2000, making the option of buying a used one a viable alternative for those who want to go "green" but cannot or are unwilling to make the investment in a new one.

Here, auto expert Lauren Fix seeks to answer questions about buying used by offering consumers tips on "technical service bulletins", ways to get the most for your money and, of course, saving cash at the pump.

As the first generation of hybrid vehicles has made its rounds, many questions arise pertaining to buying a used one (yes, you can buy used!). Most people can only name two or three hybrids on the market, but there are actually 14 new makes and models.

"There is not much more of a risk in buying a used hybrid compared to any other used car, as long as you do your homework," says Fix. "If you are comfortable with purchasing a non-hybrid car used, then you should feel comfortable buying a hybrid car used."

Below, find key facts about hybrid vehicles that potential buyers should consider prior to purchase... [read full article]

June 14, 2011

Campgrounds Offer a Place to Plug In

Charging Your Electric Vehicle at Campgrounds Across the Nation

Electric Car Owners Are Increasingly Using Campgrounds
as Refueling Stops on Longer Journeys
By Jeff Crider

Most private campgrounds have 50 amp/240 volt hookups, which can charge most electric vehicles in about 4 hours

Cherry Hill Park is probably one of the greenest campgrounds in the country, having made substantial investments in solar panels for water heating and power generation.

But two years ago, a visitor from the University of Delaware opened park owner Mike Gurevich’s eyes to yet another way his park can support the environment.

“This guy knocked on the door and said, ‘Can I charge my car?’ I said, ‘Absolutely.’”

Using a campground’s 50 amp/240 volt electric hookups, most electric vehicle owners can charge their cars in about four hours.

So what do people do when they’re waiting at Cherry Hill Park for their vehicles to recharge?

“They just hang out,” Gurevich said. “Some sit at our picnic tables and work on their computers, using our Wi-Fi system. Others eat lunch at our café.”

Only a handful of electric car owners have used Cherry Hill Park for refueling purposes so far, but Gurevich plans to market the concept in the coming weeks in an effort to build a new business base and to support the environment. He charges $10 for a four-hour charge. [Full Story]

August 25, 2009

Efficiency Dilemma: Air-Conditioning or Windows Down?

Drivingac Fall's coming - meaning temperature fluctuations and cooler temperatures in general. This period of change revives a common question: when should drivers use air-conditioning in their cars as opposed to rolling down the windows to use fuel the most efficiently?

Well, according to the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), driving with the windows up and the air conditioning on is typically a more fuel-efficient way to drive.  Driving with the windows down decreases fuel efficiency by twice as much as driving with the air on. But this is only true while driving at speeds over 55 mph, and there are times when it isn't the case.

While driving at slower speeds it is always better to roll down the windows and switch off the A/C. Because there is less aerodynamic drag at slower speeds, the extra force added by having the windows down isn't as extreme. When speeds increase, drag increases exponentially, which uses more power and therefore more gas.

Another way to solve the air conditioning/windows down dilemma is to just forget about both except for in short spurts. periodically lower the windows to circulate air, or blast the air once in awhile.

For more fuel-efficiency tips from RTM, visit our Planet Driven section.

Free Twitter buttons from Bookmark and Share Digg!

Subscribe to Roadandtravel Blog   Become a Facebook Fan