Safest, Greenest, Meanest Cars for 2008

What do the 2009 Nissan Murano, the 2008 Honda Civic GX, and the 2008 diesel-powered Volkswagen Touareg have in common? They’ve all been singled out for recognition in various automotive categories — some good, some not so good.

First, the good news. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a non-profit research institute based in Arlington, Va., has named the 2009 Nissan Murano (above) the Top Safety Pick for 2008. The Murano performed best in front, side, and rear crash tests out of a field of nine mid-sized, four-door SUVs tested. Redesigned for 2009, the Murano now includes electronic stability control as a standard feature, which helped it claim top honors in the competition. It also excelled in protecting passengers from whiplash injury in rear-end crashes, and in protecting the head, chest, and abdomen in side crashes.

The Mazda CX-7 and CX-9 SUVs, as well as the Mitsubishi Endeavor, earned good ratings in the crash tests, while the Jeep Liberty, Jeep Wrangler, and Kia Sorrento came in at the bottom end of the scale.

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, an independent, non-profit research group based in Washington, D.C., has assigned environmental scores to all 2008 cars and passenger trucks, and has named the natural gas-powered 2008 Honda Civic GX as the “greenest” car of the year. The innovative Civic GX, which has won this award for five consecutive years, has a 113-horsepower i-VTEC engine that runs on compressed natural gas (which can be refueled at home) and is a near-zero-emissions vehicle.

The Toyota Prius, Honda Civic Hybrid, Smart Fortwo Convertible, and Toyota Yaris joined the Civic GX in the top five greenest vehicles for 2008.

At the opposite scale, the diesel-powered Volkswagen Touareg was named the “meanest” vehicle for 2008, meaning that it’s the most environment-unfriendly vehicle. Diesel-powered cars from Mercedes-Benz, as well as a number of the world’s top exotic supercars, such as the Bugatti Veyron and the Bentley Azure, also received poor environmental marks.

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