Five Turbocharged Green Cars You Need To Drive

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2013 Chevrolet Sonic

2013 Chevrolet Sonic

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There was a time when a turbocharger under the hood meant one thing and one thing only: that the car you were driving was a performance-oriented, sporty beast with that oh-so-addictive turbo whine. 

Today, the turbocharger has become the biggest thing in green car technology since the hybrid drivetrain, with everything from minicars to luxury sedans switching to smaller, turbocharged engines in the pursuit of higher gas mileage. 

But with so many cars to choose from, which turbocharged green cars are the best? 

Here are just five you need to drive. 

2013 Chevrolet Sonic 1.4-liter turbo

Aimed at younger buyers, the 2013 Sonic is enjoying its second year shaking up the small car market. 

Introduced as a smaller companion to the Chevrolet Cruze, the Sonic is proving to hold its own in a segment already occupied with cars like the Honda Fit, Ford Fiesta and Toyota Yaris. 

Unlike some of its competitors, however, the Sonic comes in two different guises: a funky, fun, five-door hatchback, and a slightly more refined four-door sedan. 

Like many cars on the market today, the Sonic is available with or without turbocharging. 

The 1.4-liter, four-cylinder turbocharged engine is more robust and flexible than the 1.8-liter, four-cylinder option, making the turbocharger the sensible choice.

The 2013 Sonic is available with 6-speed manual or optional 6-speed automatic transmission. Both gearboxes provide a fun drive, but the manual allows you to get the very best performance from the 1.4T engine. 

That particular gearbox option also gives you the best fuel economy: an EPA-approved 40mpg highway, 29 MPG city, and 33 mpg combined.

2013 Dodge Dart 1.4-liter turbo

2013 Dodge Dart SXT

2013 Dodge Dart SXT

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It’s taken Chrysler what seems like an eternity to bring a small, fuel-efficient car to the market. 

But the wait for the 1.4-liter turbocharged Dodge Dart has been well worth the wait. 

Like the 2013 Sonic above, the Dodge Dart comes with either a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder, or a 1.4-liter, four-cylinder, turbocharged engine.

The 1.4-liter turbocharged MultiAir engine--direct from Fiat--gives the Dart a much-needed jolt of life when compared to the larger 2.0-liter option. 

Combine it with a six-speed manual, and the turbo provides more than enough power to make driving entertaining. The only caveat, as John Voelcker has pointed out in the past, is that the 1.4-liter engine’s power band is somewhere between 3,000 and 6,000 rpm.

That means to get the car to perform at its best, you’ll be revving the engine a lot, changing late, and occasionally, downshifting twice to find the power you need.

When it comes to fuel economy, the manual gearbox should yield 27 mpg city, 39 mpg highway, and 32 mpg combined, while the six speed automatic manages a few mpg less. 

Although Dodge offers the Dart Aero--a specially-built, high-mpg version of the Dart, it does cost more than the regular 1.4-liter turbo, and only gives a few mpg extra on gas mileage.

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Comments (5)
  1. Worth noting that the Fiat 500 has the best city MPG of the lot, at 31 mpg. Seems like a great little city car.

  2. My mistake, it is actually only 28 mpg city.

  3. Nikki, I agree with you turbos are key to small engine performance, especially in gas engines. Mercedes had lots of diesel turbos as standard equipment in the early 1980's, over 30 years ago.

  4. My 2010 Golf TDI with six speed manual never ever got below 42 mpg in the city. I have achieved 51 on the highway with 44 as an average. I don't know what they are smoking with a 30 mpg city rating. Golfs with six speed manuals always get better mpg than the DSG tranny.

  5. Certainly seems to be a discrepancy between EPA and user data on diesels, but perhaps not as much as you are seeing

    EPA is listing 2010 Golf at 34 mpg combined. Fuelly data shows 40 mpg (assumed combined) or 18% higher than EPA.

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