AAA rates green cars for fuel efficiency, value and performance

 Tesla Model S P85D

If you are looking for an ecologically friendly car that’s fun to drive, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better option than the 2015 Tesla Model S P85D (above)—if you can afford one. When it comes to finding a fuel-efficient car that offers great value, the 2014 Nissan Versa SV is the top choice. These are just a couple of the findings contained in AAA’s 2015 Green Car Guide.

The annual report, compiled by AAA Washington’s colleagues at the Automobile Club of Southern California Automotive Research Center, features reviews and ratings of 88 electric, hybrid, alternative-fuel, clean-diesel and gasoline-powered cars, trucks and SUVs. In addition to vehicles from the 2015 model year, those seeing no significant power-train upgrades since being released in either 2013 or 2014 are also included. The auto club’s evaluators weighed 13 factors, including handling, crashworthiness, comfort, braking, handling, fuel economy and emissions to determine each vehicle’s overall score. A second set of ratings was created by dividing each vehicle’s price by its score to determine value.

In addition to receiving high marks for comfort and handling, the 2015 Tesla P85D had the best acceleration time—0 to 60 mph in just over 3 seconds—of all the vehicles in the study. With a price tag of $133,320 (as tested, before incentives), it was also the third most expensive vehicle in the group, behind the 2014 BMW i8 ($136,219) and the 2014 Lexus LS 600h L ($135,025).

The Tesla’s overall score of 94.87 led the rankings by a wide margin. It was followed by two other electric cars: the 2015 Volkswagen e-Golf SEL Premium (85.50 points) and the 2014 BMW i3 (85.40 points).

Priced at just $16,050, the 2014 Nissan Versa SV, with a gasoline-powered engine offering 35 mpg, had the lowest cost-per-point score ($249), representing the best value. The 2014 Nissan Versa Note SV ($260) and the 2013 Hyundai Accent GLS ($269), both also powered by gasoline, earned the second and third best cost-per-point scores.

The 2015 Subaru Outback 2.5i Premium (priced at $31,535 as tested), the 2015 Volkswagen Golf TDI SE ($27,010), and the 2013 Nissan Leaf ($29,650) placed fourth, fifth and sixth, respectively, in the overall rankings, further demonstrating that you don’t have to break the bank to go green.

In addition to the rankings, the Green Car Guide provides a review of every car in the study and updates on recent advances in alternative fuels and vehicle technology. Among the report’s other interesting findings: Even with recent dips in gasoline prices, a person spending $31,840 on a Ford Fusion Hybrid Titanium instead of $30,290 on a non-hybrid Fusion FWD Titanium (4-cylinder) would recoup the price difference through savings on fuel in about three years (based on fuel prices of $2.50 per gallon and 15,000 miles of driving per year).

The Auto Club began producing the annual guide in 2011 to help consumers in the market for an eco-friendly car, truck or SUV learn more about their options. Visit AAA.com/greencar to find the report online.