THE STUDY

2016 AUTOMOTIVE PERFORMANCE INDEX FINDINGS

The striking similarities among today’s new automobiles within each competitive class – like features, near identical passenger and cargo space, comparable styling, even near matching MSRPs – has created a hyper-competitive marketplace with little variation among product offerings, at least at face value.

There are indeed underlying product-differentiating factors that have traditionally been exempt from automotive value-based assessments. Consumer product knowledge regarding environmental, socioeconomic and life-cycle costs are extremely limited, yet these costs have a measurable impact not only on the consumer’s best financial interest, but also on the best interest of the environment in which we live and the global community of which we are all an equal part. The Automotive Science Group (ASG) is tasked with the responsibility to bring comparative cost analysis in these important performance areas to everyday car buyers.

Using a unique combination of vehicle data inputs that include conventional specifications as well as environmental, social and economic performance indicators, ASG is redefining value in the automotive marketplace. ASG’s 2016 Automotive Performance Index (API) breaks each vehicle down into the sum of all its parts, and measures the natural capital, the social and human capital, and the economic efficiencies embodied within each vehicle to derive its real market value relative to other product offerings in 2016. The data-driven findings, based on scientific principles and methods, serves to enhance product and technology comparison capabilities to better serve the environment through informed consumer choice.

ASG’s 2016 API assessed 1,382 Cars and SUVs and 331 light-duty trucks (to trim level detail). The API findings highlight the stark contrast in performance merits that differentiate conventional and alternatively powered cars and SUVs, as well as the key differences in gasoline and diesel truck performance in 2016. Below you will find a brief discussion of the key observations that emerged when assessing and comparing all 2016 model offerings in head to head comparisons, irrespective of class division.

ASG’s top selections by class are reported in the 12 Car, SUV and Truck class sections of the site, as well as in the five Awards sections that can be accessed from the top navigation bar. A discussion on key findings from the 2016 Truck assessment is featured near the bottom of this page. For our 2016 methodology, please visit the methodology section of the site, also accessible from the top navigation bar. 

 

BEST ENVIRONMENTAL PERFORMANCE

ASG’s 2016 Study found hybrid vehicles, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) and electric vehicles (EVs), by and large, outperformed their conventional combustion engine counterparts from a life-cycle environmental performance view. When comparing all 815 model year 2016 cars in North America in a head to head life-cycle assessment, ASG’s study did not find a single vehicle with conventional combustion engine earning a place on ASG’s Best 20 Environmental Performance List (measured in life-cycle Gross Energy Requirement (GER) and Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions). The number one vehicle on the list – 2016 Nissan LEAF – produces 47% less life-cycle GHG emissions than the top ranking conventional combustion car – the Honda Fit – which landed at #22 just behind the Kia Optima Hybrid at #21. Both vehicles slipped off the Best 20 List by a narrow margin.

ASG found the 2016 Nissan LEAF to hold the smallest life-cycle carbon footprint of any model year 2016 car available in the North American market, marking the third consecutive year that the LEAF earned this distinction. ASG’s assessment found increased environmental impacts associated with production, manufacturing and assembly for the advanced lithium-ion battery electric technology, however these increased impacts were more than offset in the use phase with increased environmental performance during operational life. While the electricity mix of the U.S. grid varies by region, the average mix in 2016 provides an energy source for the LEAF that is environmentally beneficial. The 2016 LEAF is available with a 24 kWh battery pack, with 84 mile range and 114 MPG-e, and a 30 kWh battery pack, with 107 mile range and 112 MPG-e.

Looking forward, energy forecasts identify a cleaner electricity mix across the U.S. grid with an annual reduction of 0.03 pounds of CO2-equivalent emissions emitted per kWh delivered to U.S. users (this includes a U.S. national grid transmission loss factor of 8.33%). This trend further increases the environmental benefits of electric technologies in future years.

As reported by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) in January 2016, a continued decline in power generation from fossil fuels is forecasted for 2016 and beyond. This reduction is offset by an increase from renewable energy sources. The share of generation from natural gas falls from 33% in 2015 to 31% in 2017, and coal falls from 34% to 33%. For renewables, the forecasted share of hydropower rises from 6% in 2015 to 7% in 2017, and the forecasted share for other renewables increases from 7% in 2015 to 9% of total U.S. power generation in 2017. Wind capacity grew by 13% in 2015, and it is forecasted to increase by 14% in 2016 (EIA).

All of this means that PHEVs and EVs not only improve environmental performance and reduce GHG emissions today, and with increasing benefits into the future, but this also means that with the continued increase in renewable energy production as a significant share of the national grid, comes new economies of scale that reduces the overall cost of clean power. Since 2009, the cost of photovoltaic modules has come down 70%, and according to Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, utility scale solar installations costs have dropped 50% in the past 6 years, translating to a highly competitive renewable electricity rate. The average rate for solar electricity from the grid came in at .05 cents per kWh in 2015, as the Berkeley Lab reports. In many regions across the U.S., wind and solar are now cheaper per kWh than electricity from traditional fossil fuels. The electric car race has begun.

When comparing all 567 SUVs in a head to head life-cycle assessment, ASG’s study found the 2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid to hold the smallest life-cycle carbon footprint of any model year 2016 SUV available in the North American market. The RAV4 Hybrid produces 16% less life-cycle GHG emissions than the #20 SUV on the Best 20 Environmental Performance List. Of the nine SUVs with hybrid and PHEV configurations, only five of these models made the Best 20 Environmental Performance List, the remaining 15 places were held by SUVs with conventional powertrains powered by unleaded gasoline. No diesel configurations made the list in 2016.

 

BEST 20 ENVIRONMENTAL PERFORMANCE LIST (CAR)

RANK MAKE MODEL TRIM ENVIRONMENTAL PERFORMANCE SCORE
1  Nissan  Leaf  S 4dr Hatchback (24 kWh electric DD) 100
2  Ford  Focus  Electric 4dr Hatchback (107 kWh electric DD) 95
3  Chevrolet  Volt  LT 4dr Hatchback (gas/electric hybrid DD) 81
4  Toyota  Prius  TWO Eco 4dr Hatchback (1.8L 4cyl gas/electric hybrid CVT) 77
5  Hyundai  Sonata Plug-In Hybrid  4dr Sedan (2.0L 4cyl gas/electric hybrid 6A) 74
6  Tesla  Model S (70 kwh) Model S (70 kwh) 73
7  Toyota  Prius c One 5dr Hatchback (1.4L 4cyl gas/electric hybrid CVT) 71
8  Ford  C-Max Energi  SEL 4dr Wagon (2.0L 4cyl gas/electric hybrid CVT) 65
9  Ford  Fusion Energi  SE Luxury 4dr Sedan (2.0L 4cyl gas/electric hybrid CVT) 65
10  Ford  Fusion Hybrid  S 4dr Sedan (2.0L 4cyl gas/electric hybrid CVT) 60
11  Toyota  Prius v  Two 4dr Wagon (1.8L 4cyl gas/electric hybrid CVT) 59
12  Lexus  CT 200h  4dr Hatchback (1.8L 4cyl gas/electric hybrid CVT) 59
13  Hyundai  Sonata Hybrid  4dr Sedan (2.0L 4cyl gas/electric hybrid 6A) 59
14  Cadillac  ELR  2dr Coupe (gas/electric hybrid DD) 59
15  Toyota  Camry Hybrid  LE 4dr Sedan (2.5L 4cyl gas/electric hybrid CVT) 58
16  Audi  A3 Sportback e-tron  1.4 TFSI PHEV Premium 4dr Hatchback (1.4L 4cyl gas/electric hybrid Turbo 6AM) 56
17  Lincoln  MKZ  Hybrid 4dr Sedan (2.0L 4cyl gas/electric hybrid CVT) 56
18  Ford  C-Max Hybrid  SE 4dr Wagon (2.0L 4cyl gas/electric hybrid CVT) 56
19  Toyota  Avalon Hybrid  XLE Plus 4dr Sedan (2.5L 4cyl gas/electric hybrid CVT) 56
20  Lexus  ES 300h  4dr Sedan (2.5L 4cyl gas/electric hybrid CVT) 56

* This score is relative to the Best 20 list, not each vehicle’s competitive class set. The difference between a score of 100 and 94 is a 6% performance differential. The models listed are the best performing trim of that corresponding model. 

 

BEST 20 ENVIRONMENTAL PERFORMANCE LIST (SUV)

RANK MAKE MODEL TRIM ENVIRONMENTAL PERFORMANCE SCORE
1  Toyota  RAV4 Hybrid  Hybrid XLE 4dr SUV (2.5L 4cyl ECVT Hybrid) 100
2  Mazda  CX-3  Sport 4dr SUV (2.0L 4cyl 6A) 99
3  Subaru  Crosstrek  Hybrid 4dr SUV AWD (2.0L 4cyl gas/electric hybrid CVT) 98
4  Honda  HR-V  LX 4dr SUV (1.8L 4cyl CVT) 98
5  Mazda  CX-5  Sport 4dr SUV (2.0L 4cyl 6M) 93
6  Chevrolet  Trax  LS 4dr SUV (1.4L 4cyl Turbo 6A) 93
7  Lexus  RX 450h  4dr SUV (3.5L 6cyl gas/electric hybrid CVT) 93
8  Nissan  Rogue  S 4dr SUV (2.5L 4cyl CVT) 91
9  Honda  CR-V  LX 4dr SUV (2.4L 4cyl CVT) 91
10  Hyundai  Tucson  Eco 4dr SUV (1.6L 4cyl Turbo 7AM) 91
11  FIAT  500X  Pop 4dr SUV (1.4L 4cyl Turbo 6M) 90
12  Buick  Encore  4dr SUV (1.4L 4cyl Turbo 6A) 89
13  Mitsubishi  Outlander  ES 4dr SUV (2.4L 4cyl CVT) 87
14  Subaru  Forester  2.5i PZEV 4dr SUV AWD (2.5L 4cyl CVT) 86
15  Volvo  XC90  T8 Momentum 4dr SUV AWD (Twin Engine Plug-in Hybrid) 85
16  Jeep  Renegade  Sport 4dr SUV (1.4L 4cyl Turbo 6M) 85
17  Mitsubishi  Outlander Sport  ES 4dr SUV (2.0L 4cyl CVT) 85
18  Toyota  RAV4  LE 4dr SUV (2.5L 4cyl 6A) 85
19  Toyota  Highlander Hybrid  Limited 4dr SUV AWD (3.5L 6cyl gas/electric hybrid CVT) 84
20  Ford  Escape  SE 4dr SUV (1.6L 4cyl Turbo 6A) 84

* This score is relative to the Best 20 list, not each vehicle’s competitive class set. The difference between a score of 100 and 94 is a 6% performance differential. The models listed are the best performing trim of that corresponding model.

  

BEST ECONOMIC PERFORMANCE

When assessing economic performance over the first five years of ownership, conventional combustion vehicles outperformed nearly all hybrid vehicles, PHEVs and EVs. This trend suggests the price premiums paid at purchase for many alternatively powered vehicles, are not recovered within the first 60 months of ownership through fuel cost savings. The significant drop in fuel prices at the pump, and the EIA forecasts for continued low retail gasoline and diesel prices, has increased the economic benefits of conventional powertrains.

ASG’s assessment did not factor in discount rates that result from Federal, State and local government rebates for PHEVs and EVs, due to the considerable variance in rebate values according to personal income, geographical location, and availability. The Federal rebates can be as high as $7,500 for some qualifying PHEVs and EVs, which serves as a significant economic incentive for buyers to transition toward advanced powertrains. But without these financial incentives, the math doesn’t pencil out from a conventional economic view. To be certain, ASG ran the numbers to factor in the Federal incentives for qualifying 2016 PHEV’s and EV’s, and while it made a significant difference in the economic performance ratings, as high as a 17% improvement, still these advanced powertrains fell short of ASG’s Best 20 Economic Performance List.

While the initial cost premium for EVs and PHEVs will be recouped in fuel cost savings over time, the simple facts are that they will not be recovered in the first 5 years of ownership. A lease option for EVs and PHEVs is worth serious consideration and further analysis, as this is the growing trend in the market with 75% all EVs on lease. This lease penetration is significantly higher than the average 28% lease rate across all cars (Edmunds.com). Lease option details were not incorporated in the API’s economic performance indicators in the 2016 study, but lease options are a valuable consideration for buyers that can leverage promotional discounts offered by automakers, as well as Federal, State and regional economic incentives.

Topping the Best 20 Economic Performance list was the 2016 Nissan Versa, holding claim to the lowest cost of ownership over a five-year economic forecast, taking into account purchase and operating costs of all model year 2016 automobiles available in the North American market (with minimum four-person occupancy).  The Versa was found to have 26% lower costs over the first 60-months of ownership than the #20 vehicle making the Best 20 Economic Performance List. However, its worth noting that the Versa also landed at #26 in terms of environmental performance, and with a 49% environmental performance deficit when compared to the #1 LEAF. Only one vehicle with an advanced hybrid configuration made the Economic Performance List – the Toyota Prius c at #19. The next best vehicle with an advanced configuration was the Prius Two landing at #35, followed by the Prius Two Eco at #40. The Prius c is also the only vehicle to land in both the Best 20 Environmental Performance and Best 20 Economic Performance Lists for 2016.

The 2016 Jeep Patriot was found to hold the lowest cost of ownership over a five-year economic forecast, taking into account purchase and operating costs of all model year 2016 SUVs available in the North American market. This marks the fifth consecutive year that the Patriot has earned this distinction. The Patriot’s economic assessment showed 21% lower costs over the first 60-months of ownership when compared to the #20 SUV on the Best 20 Economic Performance List. The list was rounded out by all conventional powertrains, with no hybrid or PHEV’s. 

  

BEST 20 ECONOMIC PERFORMANCE LIST (CAR)

RANK MAKE MODEL TRIM ECONOMIC PERFORMANCE SCORE
1  Nissan  Versa  1.6 S 4dr Sedan (1.6L 4cyl 5M) 100
2  Chevrolet  Spark  LS 4dr Hatchback (1.2L 4cyl 5M) 99
3  Kia  Rio  LX 4dr Sedan (1.6L 4cyl 6M) 89
4  Ford  Fiesta  S 4dr Sedan (1.6L 4cyl 5M) 87
5  Chevrolet  Sonic  LS 4dr Sedan (1.8L 4cyl 5M) 87
6  Hyundai  Accent  SE 4dr Sedan (1.6L 4cyl 6M) 86
7  Honda  Fit  LX 4dr Hatchback (1.5L 4cyl 6M) 83
8  Toyota  Yaris  4dr (1.5-Liter 4-Cylinder 4-Speed Automatic) 82
9  Kia  Forte  LX 4dr Sedan (1.8L 4cyl 6M) 80
10  Chevrolet  Cruze Limited  L 4dr Sedan (1.8L 4cyl 6M) 79
11  Kia  Soul  4dr Wagon (1.6L 4cyl 6M) 79
12  Nissan  Sentra  S 4dr Sedan (1.8L 4cyl M) 78
13  Toyota  Corolla  L 4dr Sedan (1.8L 4cyl 6M) 77
14  Dodge  Dart  SE 4dr Sedan (2.0L 4cyl 6M) 77
15  Hyundai  Elantra  SE 4dr Sedan (1.8L 4cyl 6M) 76
16  FIAT 500  Pop 2dr Hatchback (1.4L 4cyl 5M) 76
17  Ford  Focus  S 4dr Sedan (2.0L 4cyl 5M) 76
18  Mazda 3  i Sport 4dr Sedan (2.0L 4cyl 6M) 76
19  Toyota  Prius c One 5dr Hatchback (1.4L 4cyl gas/electric hybrid CVT) 75
20  Hyundai  Veloster  3dr Hatchback w/Black Interior (1.6L 4cyl 6M) 74

* This score is relative to the Best 20 list, not each vehicle’s competitive class set. The difference between a score of 100 and 96 is a 4% performance differential. The models listed are the best performing trim of that corresponding model. 

 

BEST 20 ECONOMIC PERFORMANCE LIST (SUV)

RANK MAKE MODEL TRIM ECONOMIC PERFORMANCE SCORE
1  Jeep  Patriot  Sport 4dr SUV (2.0L 4cyl 5M) 100
2  Honda  HR-V  LX 4dr SUV (1.8L 4cyl 6M) 96
3  Jeep  Renegade  Sport 4dr SUV (1.4L 4cyl Turbo 6M) 94
4  Mazda  CX-3  Sport 4dr SUV (2.0L 4cyl 6A) 94
5  Jeep  Compass  Sport 4dr SUV (2.0L 4cyl 5M) 92
6  Chevrolet  Trax  LS 4dr SUV (1.4L 4cyl Turbo 6A) 92
7  Mitsubishi  Outlander Sport  ES 4dr SUV (2.0L 4cyl 5M) 91
8  FIAT  500X  Pop 4dr SUV (1.4L 4cyl Turbo 6M) 89
9  Mazda  CX-5  Sport 4dr SUV (2.0L 4cyl 6M) 87
10  Subaru  Crosstrek  2.0i PZEV 4dr SUV AWD (2.0L 4cyl 5M) 85
11  Dodge  Journey  SE 4dr SUV (2.4L 4cyl 4A) 84
12  Nissan  Rogue  S 4dr SUV (2.5L 4cyl CVT) 82
13  Chevrolet  Equinox  L 4dr SUV (2.4L 4cyl 6A) 82
14  Hyundai  Tucson  SE 4dr SUV (2.0L 4cyl 6A) 82
15  Subaru  Forester  2.5i PZEV 4dr SUV AWD (2.5L 4cyl 6M) 82
16  Mitsubishi  Outlander  ES 4dr SUV (2.4L 4cyl CVT) 82
17  Kia  Sportage  LX 4dr SUV (2.4L 4cyl 6A) 82
18  Honda  CR-V  LX 4dr SUV (2.4L 4cyl CVT) 81
19  Jeep  Cherokee  Sport 4dr SUV (2.4L 4cyl 9A) 80
20  Buick  Encore  4dr SUV (1.4L 4cyl Turbo 6A) 79

* This score is relative to the Best 20 list, not each vehicle’s competitive class set. The difference between a score of 100 and 94 is a 6% performance differential. The models listed are the best performing trim of that corresponding model.

 

BEST SOCIAL PERFORMANCE

From a social performance perspective – considering the rights of those charged with vehicle manufacture and assembly – Mercedes-Benz demonstrated the best corporate social responsibility initiatives, earning ASG’s BEST SOCIAL PERFORMANCE BRAND award for 2016.

Mercedes-Benz assembles the vast majority of its vehicles in Germany, with one of the highest labor costs and related labor and environmental protections. They also build the SUV line in their U.S. facility in Alabama, paying higher wages to their U.S. employees than any other automaker with an average factory hourly wage of $65. While consumers expect to pay a price premium for the luxury brand, they are paying for more than just a luxury vehicle, they are paying the real costs to build vehicles with care for the people tasked with vehicle assembly and with care for the environment. This is a model that has served Mercedes-Benz well, and is a true model of corporate social responsibility. In fact, Mercedes-Benz reported the highest annual volume of cars and SUVs sold in its U.S. history in 2015.

On other fronts, many automakers are ramping up investments in manufacturing facilities in Mexico, with Mexico now producing 20% of vehicles destined for the North American market (LMC Automotive). With new manufacturing facilities coming on-line in the coming years, Mexican production is expected to grow another 53% by 2019 (LMC Automotive). With the North American Free Trade Agreement in place, automakers are leveraging Mexico as a labor and environmental cost advantage. However, the U.S. consumer is not realizing any tangible cost savings from this outsourcing practice, as the retail price for Mexican made cars remains virtually unchanged. What is changing are the profit margins for automakers. Auto labor costs in Mexico are only one-fifth the cost of average autoworker labor costs in the U.S.

Volvo is also stepping up the outsourcing game, and recently began importing the Made in China Volvo S60 into the U.S. market. Interesting enough, the China made car is priced above the Volvo S60 that is Made in Belgium. The cost of labor and compliance in China is significantly less than the cost of compliance in Belgium, yet when the S60 is sold in the U.S. market, the financial cost that was avoided by manufacturing in China and that which was externalized to the Chinese labor force is not passed on to the consumer. In this way, the U.S. consumer is paying a premium price for a product that does not embody the same overall value as the competitive product that was assembled in Belgium.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, International Labor Comparisons for automobile manufacturing, hourly compensation costs in Belgium are USD $57.63. This includes direct pay, social insurance expenditures, and labor-related taxes. Compare Belgium’s hourly compensation costs with that of China’s $4.10 (Center for Automotive Research), Mexico’s $7.80, the United States’ $45.34, and Germany’s $58.82 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics), and one can see there is indeed a significant cost difference.

But, ironically the S60 (T5 Drive-e FWD) built in Belgium is priced in the U.S. at $34,150, while the S60 (T5 Drive-e FWD Inscription) built in China is priced at $38,900. The China built model has 3 inches more legroom in the back seat, but other than that, it’s a Volvo S60 built in China. Volvo has found a cost advantage and is carefully planning to expand on this model, that is if the U.S. consumer is willing to simply look the other way. Charging the U.S. consumer more for a product made in China is not a model for social progress.

For the 2016 model year, ASG found vehicles destined for the North American marketplace being assembled in 18 different countries, with varying degrees of social performance. While ASG named Sweden as the 2016 BEST SOCIAL PERFORMANCE Country of Assembly, China was named the worst. Ironically, Volvo holds claim to both Made in Sweden and Made in China for the North American market.

 

BEST ALL-AROUND PERFORMANCE

When looking for the best balance of economic and environmental performance, ASG’s Best 20 All-Around Performance List (Car) found alternatively powered vehicles holding five positions – #1 Nissan LEAF, #2 Ford Focus Electric, #3 Toyota Prius c, #5 Toyota Prius Two Eco, and #14 Chevrolet Volt. All remaining 15 positions were held by vehicles with conventional powertrains. The highest ranking conventional car was the Chevrolet Spark coming in at #4, with an all-around performance score falling just 5% short of the #1 Nissan LEAF, which was named ASG’S BEST ALL-AROUND PERFORMANCE CAR of 2016.

ASG’s Best All-Around Performance List (SUV) was dominated by conventional powertrains with the RAV4 Hybrid as the only outlier. The 2016 Mazda CX-3 topped the list and was named ASG’s BEST ALL-AROUND PERFORMANCE SUV of 2016.

  

BEST 20 ALL-AROUND PERFORMANCE LIST (CAR)

RANK MAKE MODEL TRIM ALL-AROUND PERFORMANCE SCORE
1  Nissan  Leaf  S 4dr Hatchback (24 kWh electric DD) 100
2  Ford  Focus  Electric 4dr Hatchback (107 kWh electric DD) 98
3  Toyota  Prius c One 5dr Hatchback (1.4L 4cyl gas/electric hybrid CVT) 97
4  Chevrolet  Spark  LS 4dr Hatchback (1.2L 4cyl 5M) 95
5  Toyota  Prius  TWO Eco 4dr Hatchback (1.8L 4cyl gas/electric hybrid CVT) Li-ion 94
6  Nissan  Versa  1.6 S 4dr Sedan (1.6L 4cyl 5M) 93
7  Toyota  Yaris  4dr (1.5-Liter 4-Cylinder 4-Speed Automatic) 91
8  Chevrolet  Sonic  LS 4dr Sedan (1.8L 4cyl 5M) 89
9  Hyundai  Accent  SE 4dr Sedan (1.6L 4cyl 6M) 89
10  Toyota  Corolla  L 4dr Sedan (1.8L 4cyl 6M) 88
11  Mazda 3  i Sport 4dr Sedan (2.0L 4cyl 6M) 88
12  Ford  Fiesta  S 4dr Sedan (1.6L 4cyl 5M) 88
13  Kia  Rio  LX 4dr Sedan (1.6L 4cyl 6M) 88
14  Chevrolet  Volt  LT 4dr Hatchback (gas/electric hybrid DD) 88
15  Honda  Fit  LX 4dr Hatchback (1.5L 4cyl CVT) 88
16  Honda  Civic  LX 4dr Sedan (2.0L 4cyl CVT) 87
17  Ford  Focus  S 4dr Sedan (2.0L 4cyl 5M) 87
18  Mitsubishi  Lancer  ES 4dr Sedan (2.0L 4cyl CVT) 86
19  Chevrolet  Cruze Limited  L 4dr Sedan (1.8L 4cyl 6M) 86
20  Hyundai  Elantra  SE 4dr Sedan (1.8L 4cyl 6M) 86

* This score is relative to the Best 20 list, not each vehicle’s competitive class set. The difference between a score of 100 and 94 is a 6% performance differential. The models listed are the best performing trim of that corresponding model.

 

BEST 20 ALL-AROUND PERFORMANCE LIST (SUV)

RANK MAKE MODEL TRIM ALL-AROUND PERFORMANCE SCORE
1  Mazda  CX-3  Sport 4dr SUV (2.0L 4cyl 6A) 100
2  Honda  HR-V  LX 4dr SUV (1.8L 4cyl CVT) 95
3  Mazda  CX-5  Sport 4dr SUV (2.0L 4cyl 6M) 95
4  Mitsubishi  Outlander Sport  ES 4dr SUV (2.0L 4cyl CVT) 94
5  Chevrolet  Trax  LS 4dr SUV (1.4L 4cyl Turbo 6A) 94
6  Nissan  Rogue  S 4dr SUV (2.5L 4cyl CVT) 93
7  Toyota  RAV4 Hybrid  Hybrid XLE 4dr SUV (2.5L 4cyl ECVT Hybrid) 93
8  Jeep  Patriot  Sport 4dr SUV (2.0L 4cyl 5M) 92
9  Mitsubishi  Outlander  ES 4dr SUV (2.4L 4cyl CVT) 92
10  FIAT  500X  Pop 4dr SUV (1.4L 4cyl Turbo 6M) 91
11  Jeep  Renegade  Sport 4dr SUV (1.4L 4cyl Turbo 6M) 91
12  Honda  CR-V  LX 4dr SUV (2.4L 4cyl CVT) 90
13  Toyota  RAV4  LE 4dr SUV (2.5L 4cyl 6A) 90
14  Jeep  Compass  Sport 4dr SUV (2.0L 4cyl 5M) 90
15  Hyundai  Tucson  Eco 4dr SUV (1.6L 4cyl Turbo 7AM) 89
16  Chevrolet  Equinox  L 4dr SUV (2.4L 4cyl 6A) 89
17  Ford  Escape  S 4dr SUV (2.5L 4cyl 6A) 88
18  Subaru  Crosstrek  2.0i Premium PZEV 4dr SUV AWD (2.0L 4cyl CVT) 88
19  Buick  Encore  4dr SUV (1.4L 4cyl Turbo 6A) 87
20  GMC  Terrain  SL 4dr SUV (2.4L 4cyl 6A)

86

* This score is relative to the Best 20 list, not each vehicle’s competitive class set. The difference between a score of 100 and 94 is a 6% performance differential. The models listed are the best performing trim of that corresponding model. 

2016 LIGHT-DUTY TRUCKS

Diesel engines hit the light-duty truck market in both the Full-size and Mid-size truck segments in 2016. According to ASG, there are instances where the combustion efficiency gains from advanced diesel technologies can provide net benefits in reducing CO2-equivalent emissions (CO2-e), but such a vehicle doesn’t show up in the 2016 Truck lineup in North America.

True to form, ASG found diesel configurations touting best in class fuel economy ratings in both the Mid-size and Full-size light-duty truck categories for 2016. But what does this metric really mean for modern truck buyers –  is the diesel option a better financial choice, is it an environmentally preferable choice?

ASG assessed the different technologies of choice in this transitioning truck marketplace:  gasoline engines combined with advanced lightweight vehicle designs, and diesel engines that inherently increase vehicle weight. ASG’s life-cycle assessments enable vehicle performance comparisons across different technologies. Diesel fuel, for example, has higher energy content per gallon than gasoline and typically delivers higher MPG ratings, but due to the higher density of diesel, the fuel releases more emissions per gallon combusted. This disadvantage can be overcome in diesel configurations by greatly improved fuel economy, but according to ASG, the diesel fuel economy gains observed in the 2016 light-duty truck market are not sufficient to overcome the carbon deficit.

RAM, General Motors and Nissan have adopted diesel engines in 2016, with the RAM 3.0L Ecodiesel, GM 2.8L Duramax diesel and the Nissan Titan XD leveraging the 5.0L Cummins diesel. Meanwhile Ford has steered clear, opting for lightweight aluminum intensive truck designs absent the diesel engine. Toyota’s chief truck engineer has been clear too that Toyota will not be in the diesel camp, but a hard light-weighting push has yet to be seen in the Tundra and Tacoma line-up.

In the Full-size truck category (Crewcab), the RAM (3.0L Ecodiesel) offers the highest combined MPG rating at 23 MPG, however, the Ford F-150 (2.7L EcoBoost) with only a 1 MPG deficit actually delivers a life-cycle carbon footprint that is 8% smaller than the RAM’s, a savings of nearly 20,000 pounds of CO2-e emissions, according to ASG’s 2016 study. ASG found the 2016 F-150 to hold the smallest life-cycle carbon footprint of any full-size truck in the North American market. 

The F-150 aluminum design is key to Ford’s elevated performance, which not only reduces environmental burdens associated with raw material mining and processing, but with reduced vehicle weight, less power is required to physically move the vehicle, encouraging the use of the smaller fuel efficient engine found in the 2.7L EcoBoost.

The idea of light-weighting is not revolutionary in and of itself, it’s common sense that can be illuminated by basic physics. What is groundbreaking however, is Ford Motor Company’s ability to implement its light-weighting strategy with economies of scale that makes the F-150 not only price competitive, but in fact the industry leader with the lowest combined purchase and operating costs of any full-size truck in 2016 (3.5L V6), according to ASG’s study. All things considered, ASG named the Ford F-150 the Best All-Around Performance Full-size Truck of 2016.

In the Mid-size Truck segment, the Chevrolet Colorado (2.5L) gasoline powered truck leads the vehicle segment, outperforming the new and highly anticipated diesel configuration for the Colorado and GMC Canyon, along with the Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier. With the GM 2.8L diesel gaining only 2 MPG (combined city/highway) over the 2.5L gasoline engine, while adding 440 pounds to its curb weight, the diesel fuel economy gains are not sufficient to offset the higher emission factor for diesel fuel, with the diesel option producing 4% more CO2-e emissions over the truck’s life-cycle.

Further, ASG found that the cost premium diesel demands at the pump cancels out the fuel economy gains from an economic view, with diesel fuel costs over the first 5-years coming in slightly higher than the gasoline option. The diesel variant also costs $5,250 more at purchase than the comparably equipped 2.5L model, leading to a combined 14% cost premium for the diesel option when assessed over the first 5-years of ownership.

With these facts in mind, the diesel does have advanced utility for truck buyers that require greater towing capabilities beyond the limits of the 2.5L. In this respect, buyers are wise to consider the 2.8L diesel over the 3.6L V6 engine, with the diesel delivering a 4% life-cycle CO2-e benefit. The diesel will also save over $500 in fuel costs over the V6 in the first 60-months of ownership, however the diesel still costs 9% more than the V6 variant given the $3,730 price premium paid at purchase. 

In 2016, it’s the Chevrolet Colorado (2.5L) that is ASG's Best All-Around Performance Mid-size Truck of 2016. When the Mid-size Truck category features a lightweight aluminum design in future years, the North American light-duty truck marketplace will stand to be disrupted again. 

 

About Automotive Science Group

The Automotive Science Group (ASG) is a research group founded by Eco-innovations, LLC, an environmental policy consulting group established in 2007. Eco-innovations and its partners, ASG and Carbon Checkout, seek to address environmental challenges with market-based solutions that prompt informed consumer action. ASG is changing the way we define value in today’s automotive marketplace by providing life-cycle data-driven findings that help consumers make purchasing decisions that are ecologically sustainable, socially equitable and economically viable.