New Study Names Best Cars and SUVs of 2017


9 March 2017 [Santa Rosa, CA] – In anticipation of a Trump EPA proposal that could roll-back fuel economy standards, the Automotive Science Group (ASG) released its 2017 Automotive Performance Index (API) Study findings today, revealing some irony in the new EPA deliberation. A Trump roll-back may be little too late. 

With new vehicles hitting the market in 2017 that reveal the industry’s true capabilities to reach aggressive fuel economy targets, and remain price competitive, actions that slash fuel economy targets will not dissuade consumers from demanding more of what they really want. They want it all, and in this hyper-competitive automotive landscape, innovation will trump deregulation.

Innovation is live and well in the 2017 automotive marketplace, as ASG releases its 2017 Study findings today. According to the Study, advanced powertrains are not only available to the masses in record numbers in 2017, and with exceptional environmental performance, but the true innovators actually break from the pack this year to offer industry leading economic performance and best all-around value in the market. ASG’s data-driven assessment suggests that automakers already have the technical capabilities to meet the Obama era fleet efficiency standards by 2025. Case in point – the all-new 2017 Kia Niro crossover with 51 MPG combined (city/highway) and with a starting MSRP at $22,890. The all-new Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ (NYSE: FCAU) Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid, with 84 MPGe, also reveals new possibilities for large vehicle segments. Innovative offerings are here in 2017, and they are not only here to stay, they are the new industry benchmark.

A word of caution however, striking the balance between environmental and economic performance across the North American fleet is still in transition. When comparing all 805 (trim variants) model year 2017 cars in North America in a head to head environmental assessment, ASG’s Study found only one standout model with a conventional combustion engine earning a position on ASG’s Environmental Performance Index – the 2017 Mitsubishi Mirage. The remaining positions on the Index were held by hybrids, PHEV and EVs. Toyota Motor Corp’s (NYSE: TM) Prius Prime PHEV topped the Index with the smallest carbon footprint of any model year 2017 car, besting the all electric #2 Nissan Leaf, #3 General Motors Company’s (NYSE:GM) Chevrolet Bolt and #4 Ford Motor Company’s (NYSE:F) Focus Electric. The Study findings reveal that these advanced powertrains offset increased production impacts within the first 6.5 years of vehicle operation, or 87,594 vehicle miles traveled. It also reveals that advanced powertrains are largely responsible for leading significant fuel economy gains in 2017.

Topping ASG’s Economic Performance Index was the 2017 Mitsubishi Mirage, holding claim to the lowest cost of ownership and best economic performance of any model year 2017 car in the North American market. The remaining 19 positions on the Index were also held by conventional combustion powered cars. The best performing advanced hybrid configuration was the Toyota Prius at #34, albeit with an economic performance deficit of 32%, as compared to the #1 Mirage. 

When looking for the best balance of environmental and economic considerations, ASG’s All-Around Performance Index found alternatively powered vehicles holding seven positions – #1 Toyota Prius Prime, #2 Nissan Leaf, #3 Ford Focus Electric, #4 Toyota Prius, #11 Chevrolet Bolt, #17 Ford C-Max Energi, and #19 Chevrolet Volt. All remaining 13 positions were held by vehicles with conventional powertrains. The highest ranking car with a conventional powertrain was once again the Mitsubishi Mirage coming in at #5, with an all-around performance score falling just 3% short of the #1 Prius Prime. The Mirage is the only vehicle to score a position on all three ASG Indexes in 2017. The All-Around Performance Index findings suggest that the advanced powertrains that hold the top four positions on the index, do in fact offer a best all-around value proposition. 

When comparing all 631 Crossover/SUVs (trim variants) head to head, only six of the eleven vehicles with hybrid and PHEV configurations made ASG’s Environmental Performance Index (SUV), the remaining 14 places were held by vehicles with conventional powertrains. The all-new Kia Niro topped the Index with the smallest carbon footprint of any model year 2017 SUV, besting the Tesla Model X by 15%, a notable feat by the new hybrid whose MSRP is but a mere fraction of the Model X.

The Kia Niro distanced itself further ahead of the competition by maintaining the lowest cost of ownership of all SUVs, the first hybrid to top ASG’s Economic Performance Index (SUV). The Index was rounded out by all conventional powertrains, with no additional hybrids or PHEV’s. Similarly, ASG’s All-Around Performance Index (SUV) was dominated by conventional powertrains holding 18 positions, however the Kia Niro once again lead all others by topping the Index at #1. The RAV4 Hybrid was the only other hybrid to make the list, landing at #8. 

For detailed information on ASG’s 2017 findings and methodology, visit www.automotivescience.com/pages/the-study

Colby Self
Colby Self