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UK gov offers car CO2 rankings by class

Prius gets ass whupped by supergreen Polo

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

The UK government has set up a website advising consumers on which cars are the greenest.

The new "Best on CO2 Rankings" webpage uses What Car? magazine's system of classification, breaking motors down into the following groups: Supermini, Small family, Family, Estate, MPV, Compact Executive, Executive, Coupe, Open-top, Hot hatch, Compact 4x4, Large 4x4, Luxury and Performance.

The government seems to believe that people's first decision will always be what kind of car they want, regardless of how green that might be. Well-off urban professionals will continue to buy 4x4 offroad vehicles that they don't need and haven't the skills to use fully. Other families will continue to buy ever larger estate cars and MPVs, in order to move the burgeoning piles of junk they are supposed to have. Men young and old will continue to pay big money for unnecessary and often illegal performance levels.

But the Department for Transport seems to reckon that, having decided on a class of vehicle, people might then be willing to consider CO2 emissions; hence the web page. Say you're a young man who's just taken out an enormous crippling loan, or an older wealthier one who wants a virility-boosting toy. You select "performance", and new fast cars for sale in the UK are listed in worsening order of CO2 emissions.

So far, so routine. But then try "all vehicles", which should show the lowest-CO2 motors to be had. There still aren't any all-electric cars listed, offering zero carbon emissions (though one needs to use nuclear, solar, wind, or whatever to generate the 'leccy for this to be really true).

UK motorists can buy the controversial G-Wiz electric vehicle, but this is officially a quadricycle, not a car - and is frowned on by the DfT as unsafe - so its absence isn't surprising.

More promising fully electric rides such as the Lightning supercar, powered by the potentially game-changing "NanoSafe" fast-charge battery tech, aren't yet on sale.

OK, surely the lowest-carbon cars must be hybrids, which use batteries and motor-generators combined with ordinary engines to reduce emissions? That's the most advanced green-car tech in widespread use on the roads.

No, actually. There's a new class of ultra-low-emission ordinary cars coming, encouraged by the zero-road-tax band for vehicles rated at less than 100 grams of CO2 per kilometre. The first of these will be out shortly: the Volkswagen Polo Blue Motion diesel. It's basically an ordinary Polo tweaked for ultimate fuel economy. It pips the Toyota Prius hybrid into first place for minimal CO2 belch, avoiding even the £15 per annum road tax paid by Prius drivers. To add insult to injury, it's at least five grand cheaper than a Prius and achieves a slightly higher top speed, though slower 0-60. Auto Express say the Polo is "an excellent motorway car." On the other hand, the Prius is a bigger vehicle altogether and has doors for the back seats.

Still, if you really want to be greener-than-thou, as opposed to liking new technology, you should really get one of the new, teeny, and efficient ordinary cars rather than a hybrid. According to the government, anyway. ®

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