Five Small, Eco-Friendly Luxury Cars That Sip Gas

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Published June 12, 2012

| Bankrate.com

High-End Cars Go Small

Rising fuel costs and stricter environmental standards are affecting car selection for everyone, including luxury-car buyers. In 2012, premium auto manufacturers have responded by introducing vehicles that combine eco-friendly features and a more compact size with the typical performance and quality characteristics of luxury brands.

It's a growing trend; high-end cars are going small.

The eco-friendly car was once the domain of budget-conscious or niche buyers. But today, discerning shoppers can find environmentally friendly autos in such cars as the fuel-sipping Lexus hybrid hatchback or high-performance BMW small coupe.

These smaller luxury cars often have lower price points when compared to their standard versions. Many have starting prices of about $30,000. This means some shoppers will have an opportunity to enter the luxury market at an affordable price point.

Here are some 2012 premium compact models that fit that mold of combining eco-friendly features with high-end luxury and performance packaging.

  • Lexus CT 200h

  • Starting price: $29,120
  • Fuel economy: 43 mpg city, 40 mpg highway
  • Engine specifications: 1.8 liter, four cylinder

This four-door hybrid hatchback was chosen as a 2012 Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, or IIHS. It did so by receiving top marks for frontal and side impact, roof strength and head restraints.

The CT 200h has a Vehicle Proximity Notification System, which warns pedestrians and cyclists of its approach by emitting a low-pitch sound. This hybrid luxury car also includes a trial of the Safety Connect system, a subscription-based telematics service package that includes emergency assistance, automatic collision notification and a stolen-vehicle locator.

Eco-conscious drivers will likely appreciate the automaker's claims that it is designed to be at least 90% recyclable. The CT 200h is Bluetooth compatible, has a six-speaker audio system, rain-sensing wipers and eight air bags.

  • Mercedes B-Class F-Cell

  • Starting price: Lease only
  • Fuel economy: The equivalent of nearly 90 mpg highway
  • Engine specifications: Fuel-cell powered

Mercedes-Benz claims the world's largest supply of fuel-cell vehicles in operation, and the B-Class F-Cell is on the cutting edge as the first zero-emission Mercedes-Benz available.

The F-Cell operates by converting compressed hydrogen into electricity. This luxury car has a range of up to 240 miles. Its eco-benefits go beyond those of even hybrid vehicles because it doesn't require gasoline for fuel.

However, you can't go to any car lot and pick up a Mercedes B-Class F-Cell. Your only option is to lease them. They are only available through a pilot program in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay area, where stations exist to power the cars.

  • Audi A3

  • Starting price: $27,270
  • Fuel economy: 21 mpg city, 30 mpg highway
  • Engine specifications: 2 liter, four cylinder

The 2012 Audi A3 model is available with a gasoline (2.0T) or diesel fuel engine (TDI).

The gasoline version of this luxury car uses premium fuel and gets a respectable 30 mpg highway, but the TDI "clean diesel" model reaches 42 mpg highway. Such engines run on an ultralow-sulfur version of diesel fuel and produce less pollution.

The Audi A3 comes standard with a four-year, 50,000-mile warranty plan and roadside assistance for four years. In addition, it has front-wheel drive, comes standard with a six-speed manual transmission and goes from zero to 60 mpg in 7.1 seconds. A six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission is optional.

This small luxury car aims to please music lovers. It comes equipped with a CD player with MP3 playback capability, auxiliary input jack, speed-dependent volume control and a three-month trial subscription to Sirius XM radio.

If that doesn't work, file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Consumers receive a tracking number after submitting a complaint to check its status on the CFPB website.

  • Acura TSX

  • Starting price: $30,010
  • Fuel economy: 22 mpg city, 31 mpg highway (automatic transmission)
  • Engine specifications: 2.4 liter, four cylinder

The Acura TSX's gas mileage caught the attention of Kelley Blue Book. It says, "The TSX delivers an exceptional balance between ride comfort and road handling, and returns fuel economy figures rivaling some economy cars."

Both the standard and sports-wagon models of the TSX earned IIHS 2012 Top Safety Pick honors. Standard safety equipment on the base Acura TSX model includes six air bags, a four-wheel anti-lock brake system with brake assist, steering control, and electronic brake distribution. The latter system detects emergency braking by monitoring the speed at which the brake pedal is depressed and ensuring the ABS system is activated.

The compact luxury car is roomy enough for the driver and front passenger, but the small second row may be more ideal for children than for teens and adults. The Acura TSX offers a USB audio interface, a seven-speaker audio system, MP3-compatible CD player and key remote functionality.

The Acura TSX is backed by a four-year, 50,000-mile warranty plan.

  • Acura TSX

  • Starting price: $30,010
  • Fuel economy: 22 mpg city, 31 mpg highway (automatic transmission)
  • Engine specifications: 2.4 liter, four cylinder

The Acura TSX's gas mileage caught the attention of Kelley Blue Book. It says, "The TSX delivers an exceptional balance between ride comfort and road handling, and returns fuel economy figures rivaling some economy cars."

Both the standard and sports-wagon models of the TSX earned IIHS 2012 Top Safety Pick honors. Standard safety equipment on the base Acura TSX model includes six air bags, a four-wheel anti-lock brake system with brake assist, steering control, and electronic brake distribution. The latter system detects emergency braking by monitoring the speed at which the brake pedal is depressed and ensuring the ABS system is activated.

The compact luxury car is roomy enough for the driver and front passenger, but the small second row may be more ideal for children than for teens and adults. The Acura TSX offers a USB audio interface, a seven-speaker audio system, MP3-compatible CD player and key remote functionality.

The Acura TSX is backed by a four-year, 50,000-mile warranty plan.

  • BMW 128i

  • Starting price: $31,200
  • Fuel economy: 18 mpg city, 28 mpg highway
  • Engine specifications: 3 liter, six cylinder

Performance is a dominant feature in the 1 series, which is the only rear-wheel drive vehicle in its class.

The car boasts an aerodynamic Air Curtain design that counters turbulence near the wheel arches, thereby reducing aerodynamic resistance. The Air Curtain is standard on 2012 BMW 128i models. The "SULEV" designation refers to super, ultralow emissions vehicle.

The BMW 128i comes with a 230-horsepower engine, 6-speed manual transmission, heated dual power mirrors, heated windshield washer jets, auxiliary audio input for portable music players in the center armrest and an on-board computer that provides feedback on the vehicle's operating status. A feature that's new for the 2012 model is an extended luggage compartment.

The BMW 1 series comes with an owners maintenance package that includes scheduled inspections as well as oil service, brake-pad and brake-disc service, wiper-blade inserts, and unlimited-mileage roadside assistance for the first four years or 50,000 miles.

The BMW Connected Drive system affords you a host of technologies, all within the reach of a thumb, according to Kelley Blue Book.

The performance features come at a price. At a starting price tag of $31,200, the 1 series is the most expensive small luxury car in this roundup.

 

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