QotW: What’s the greenest car you’ve ever owned?

Happy Earth Day! We at JNC don’t see a love for cars as being in conflict with care for the planet. We’re all about preservation, whether it’s classic cars or mountain gorillas or clean rivers. We love our Land Cruisers and rotaries, but luckily for us, many of our favorite old cars are not the gas guzzling kind. If anything, J-tin proved that you don’t need a big thirsty engine to have a ton of fun behind the wheel. From Honda CRXes to Mazda Miatas, there are plenty of excellent performance cars that don’t leave a big carbon footprint.

What’s the greenest car you’ve ever owned?

The most entertaining comment by next Monday will receive a prize. Scroll down to see the winner of last week’s QotW, “Which carmaker takes the best care of its heritage?“.

Many commenters, like Lukas and Lakdasa, said the winner was Porsche and it’s hard to disagree. With a massive HQ museum (and more, if you consider the Experience Centers) that rivals the Guggenheim, a Stuttgart welcome center that was the original brick-walled  356 workshop, and an active restoration program for classics, they’re miles ahead of everyone else.

Among Japanese carmakers, Honda was rated very highly. Like JJ said, all the cars and motorcycles in their collection actually run. Negishi no Keibajo mentioned that Nissan has kept their heritage alive with the Zama collection as well.

The winner this week was Dillon, who pointed out that Nissan has made some moves that put it closer to Porsche’s exemplary model though they still have a ways to go, and that Toyota should be commended for appreciating all makes and models:

Its hard to argue away from Porsche as they openly offer factory restoration for their cars. Though it ,ay be a little more difficult to source individual parts directly from Porsche, they stand by and offer complete service, which you certainly pay for.

However, it is nice to see that Nissan has stepped their game in offering more and more parts. Though I’m still unsure if it is their acknowledgement of poor manufacturing from back in the day, or realizing that their only real staples are the “Z” and “GTR” to keep the brand alive and well.

Toyota seems to be slow moving, but you have to respect their work in restoring other manufacturer cars in their restoration pit at Mega Web.

Omedetou, your comment has earned you a set of decals from the JNC Shop!

JNC Decal smash

This post is filed under: Question of the Week.

23 Responses to QotW: What’s the greenest car you’ve ever owned?

  1. Fred Langille says:

    I would believe that the greenest car I’ve EVER had was my 1972 Honda Z600 Sports Coupe.
    I was awaiting my final orders, medical exam and pay etc. at Fort Jackson, SC after a 3 year tour in Germany as a First Lieutenant. An old Dodge Colt that I bought in order to have a car shipped home had just come in and, I was driving around awaiting all the things one does while processing out from active duty.

    While driving, I passed a used car dealer and, saw the Honda on the lot. I quickly stopped, put a deposit down and, came back 2 days later with cash and title in hand for the Dodge and, made the deal. Just in time too, I found out, from a friend I had stayed with there while out processing, that the Dodge had died on their lot!

    That little Honda, with it’s 600cc air-cooled FWD twin and I began an association that lasted five years! Every USAR tour of duty I went on in which I was able to drive to was actually a moneymaker because of SYNARA’s (my AZ license plate tag … now on our 1989 Nissan S-Cargo here in WV) 45mpg in the city and 64mpg on the highway. I poured effort into rebuilding and modifying the car … redone interior, rims, window tint.

    However, the car finally died with over 105,000 on it. Traversing the USA back and forth, it was a most faithful and, economical little car. I developed a liking for similar cars and, if I had a chance, I’d not mind finding another one as a stablemate to the S-Cargo and, our new 2023 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 4Matic AMG (in Sun Yellow over Black leather), that we just acquired.

    Hoever that is a story for another time …..

  2. CycoPablo says:

    Funny the CRX was mentioned in the preamble. Despite having the D16A8 twin-cam engine, it’s easily my greenest car.
    Mostly because it hasn’t run since 2012.

    My runner is an L13A engined Jazz, and it’s cheaper on fuel than the CRX ever was. An easy 40mpg, often closer to 50 which isn’t bad for a car nearing 20 years old (and that’s mostly gentle stuff around town).
    It may be environmentally irresponsible to switch the 175-14 for 195-15 boots, but there’s a few twisties nearby, and man cannot live on U91 alone!

  3. Ian G. says:

    I’ve been a JNC guy since I’ve owned cars but had stints with a V8 Silverado and 2 different VW R32’s (I-6). In my car ownership history including MX-5s and MR2s, the greenest car I’ve had is a 1993 MKII MR2 NA. That was the 5SFE motor from a Camry. I never modded that car so no extra emissions. My carbon footprint was minimal as it was the 2.2L motor and had great gas mileage.
    I did oil changes myself and recycled the oil at the nearest Discount Auto Parts store.
    To boot it was in Toyota’s Turquoise Pearl Metallic so it was literally green! 🙂
    I’m sure I’d rock an Electric or hybrid Japanese car someday but for now my MR2 is the winner.

  4. speedie says:

    My 2015 Honda Fit (6-speed manual) I purchased last year to replace my Mazda3 Grand Touring (also a 6-speed manual). The Mazda3 got about 29 mpg on the highway, while the Fit consistently gets 40. It is a nice offset to my weekend driver a 2010 RX-8 R3 which gets an average of 18 mpg. I can’t save the world but at least I’m balancing out my own impact (or at least that’s what I tell myself every time I fill up the RX-8).

  5. Peglomaniac says:

    I had a 1991 Nissan Micra with a 1.2 litre engine (the Canadian model) for a few years. I drove it from Red Deer AB to Vancouver Island BC and back, a round trip of about 3100 miles, and carefully calculated the mileage. When the dust settled, the average for the trip was 57.17 MP(US)G. It sounds even more impressive when I was working with Canadian gallons (1.2009 US gallons), so that worked out to 63 MPG. To top it off, it only used 3 litres of oil for an oil change and had 12″ tires, so they were also about as affordable as you could get. It was a little 5 speed, so peppy enough, although some of the mountain climbs had me slowed down a touch. 😉 Another one I wish I still had.

  6. Aaron Cake says:

    Well it’s funny that the hero image for this post is the Insight, because my 2000 Insight is the “greenest” car I have owned. And still own, since new, as my daily driver. A slight irony being that in order to achieve the highest possible fuel economy, Honda was unable to meet the SULEV emissions standard (due to higher NOX output from the ultra-lean mixture) and instead had to settle for just ULEV.

    Greenest in two ways because not only do I regularly exceed 100MPG on long trips, but the custom iridescent Dodge Viper “Snakeskin Green” paint makes it hard to miss.

  7. Ryan says:

    I have a British Racing Green Miata, looking to go even more green with a Nori Green Pearl GX 550, if I can get my hands on an allocation.

  8. Jim Daniels says:

    I have a grasp of reality that tends to avoid many. I would say that most only think of being green as they are driving down the road and how little Co2 they are emitting. Then turn around and purchase another vehicle of choice (ICE, Battery) in 2-5 years. Most tend not to see the bigger picture and probably don’t what to know what occurred prior to the vehicle arriving at the dealer lot.

    Issues such as where and how were the raw minerals were obtained. The smelting process to make the metal, batteries, or resins, plastics, glass. How much Co2 was emitted during that process? So by the process of continually replacing vehicles way before the end of their life expectancy is not green even though the new vehicle most likely has fewer tail pipe emissions. And even though most of us on this site have old cars and the EPA regulations were not as strict when our car were built as today you can’t change how things were 52 years ago. However, I have helped keep overall production demand down by driving my 52 year old Datsun 240Z. I could have purchased countless sports cars and other vehicles in my life and I keep my vehicles a minimum of 10 years.

    Green is a way of thinking about everything you do not just the tail pipe emissions. Therefore, my1972 Datsun 240Z is the greenest vehicle I own and it will probably still be around in 50 more years. From manufacturing of the vehicle to the recycling of the old parts is the actual green foot print. And if I parked my Z on the coast for the next 50 years most of it would just rust into the ground.

  9. Wally says:

    I have a 1984 Honda Accord, or should I say… had. 🙁 I have been daily driving this thing for the last 7 years almost and just recently had to say goodbye due to an accident. She may have been a boring economy car; slow, carbureted etc. but dang, she got 40+ miles to a gallon and parts were cheap and abundant. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a gateway drug to classic JDM. If it wasn’t for this car I would not have cared anything about JNC or import cars or anything Honda of that sort. I now have a baby blue Acty Truck that was delivered recently, a Honda Trailped and a bunch of other toys I definitely wouldn’t have had if it wasnt for energy from that silly old accord. Thank you.

    • Wally says:

      Best part was how out of place this car felt going anywhere.

      • Brian G. says:

        My first car, which I rebuilt with my Uncle over the span of 2 years & taught me so much of what I know & love about (older, analog) cars was a 1985 Honda Accord STD, 5-speed sedan and the 7mo & 8k miles I put on it before it was smashed by an SUV at a light were the best times I’ve ever had behind a wheel. Absolutely slow car, moderately peppy given the 86hp and 2k curb weight. I was frequently beating & keeping up with friends in their brand-new V6s up & down twisties. Taught me so much about car control & driving at and within its limits which were, fortunately, often within the legal speed limits. There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t miss it or find myself scouring the internet and daydreaming about getting another one.

  10. Alan says:

    Mom had a ’79 Tercel three-door. This was circa ’87. I’ll count the ways in which it was very “green”:

    It replaced a Cougar Eliminator with a 428 Super Cobra Jet, quadrupling mom’s fuel economy.

    It was bought used, negating the massive investment of resources involved in producing a new car.

    My childhood best bud Kevin carpooled to school with us in it for years.

    Mom carpooled to work with her boss in it for years.

    It had a rust hole in the floorboard, and iron oxide is good for soil replenishment.

    It had mold growing on the rear seat cushion, near the rust hole in the floorboard. It was literally green.

    I once tried to push one of its rear windows closed (venting type) from the outside, and it shattered. We replaced it with a piece of duct tape-covered cardboard, negating the investment in resources needed in produce a new piece of glass.

    Mom had the oil changed once every ~20,000 miles or so, negating the investment in resources to refine more oil.

    The starter died one summer, and mom had my brother and me push-start it for a few months, negating the investment in resources for producing a new starter.

    Mom drove it until ~500,000 miles when the manual trans died, leaving only 1st and 2nd gear working. She gave it to a family friend who operated a wrecking business. He pulled of the hatch and used it as a yard parts goat until 1999, thus negating the massive investment of resources in producing a new pickup truck.

  11. r100guy says:

    My ’71 Mazda R100 would be my greenest vehicle I’ve ever owned for the era that it was made. The clean air act of 1970 required a 90% reduction of hydrocarbon emissions from passenger cars. Mazda, with their thermal reactor emission system fitted to their rotary engine cars were the only cars that could meet the standard. The clean air act would be enforced in 1974 but from 1970-1973, Mazda was the only manufacturer that could meet the standard already. The American/European manufactures requested an extension for the new standard but were denied mainly because the Mazdas had already met the standard. The Honda CVCC systems were also smog compliant even without reactor or catalytic converters. These both were considered low pollution vehicles and had tax breaks in some countries.

  12. RX626 says:

    Since everyone is making serious comments, I would like to post my bittersweet memories as a unique response.

    The greenest car I’ve ever owned was probably the Mazda 626, which gives me the name I use here.

    This car was not a green car. In fact, it may have been the worst of the JNCs I’ve owned.
    However, the reason why I list this car as a green car is because of the later years of this car.
    My 626 broke down and spent its last few years in a parking lot. I was trying to fix him, but that dream never came true because I lost my job and my family situation deteriorated.
    And last year, I decided to sell him to help make ends meet. He is no longer in my possession.

    In his last few years, he literally did not consume 1cc of gasoline or emit 0.1g of CO2. He didn’t pollute the earth with tire dust, so he was probably greener than a Prius or Tesla.

    This is my bittersweet memory.

  13. Robin says:

    I will sit this one out, I only own White cars.

  14. Franxou says:

    The closest to a green car I ever had was my cherry red 240SX, to my color-blind uncle…

    But if I think of “green” as in “earth-friendly”, I had a purple Infiniti I30 for a couple years, bought with a hair under 200k km and when I was done with it, it was around 250k km old and was returning back to earth by itself so much, it almost did not casting a shadow on the ground anymore in order to help plants grow!

    And I still miss its effortless, smooth glide of a ride.

  15. Lee L says:

    2008 Yaris M/T. I sold it during the COVID times and still regret it. I was working from home and had too many cars insurance and decided to sell it.

    It was not fast…the rev hang was awful, but it was such a functional vehicle. It was so easy to work on, parts were cheap, it was comfortable for long drives, and of course during the summer I could get low-mid 40s MPG on the highway.

    It served me well for almost 200k miles and I still think about how selling it was a mistake, but don’t we all feel that way about cars after selling them?

  16. Lakdasa says:

    Havent had a lot of cars in my life but always had something interesting. I think my old Honda Fit Hybrid was the most efficient and environment friendly. It used to give me around 17-20kmpl and performance wise it was pretty good except when it came to restrictions with the CVT gearbox. My current car (Indian Alto) also averages around the same but it doesnt pack the performance and long distance cruising of the Honda, although I think not running it on a daily basis makes it more environmentally friendly than the Honda.

  17. StreetSpirit says:

    judged purely by original color, moss and overgrowth it would have to be our NA miata that came with an assortment of interesting botanicals growing from the softtop, nooks and crannies around the car when we bought it. it’s currently painted lilac and kept spotless so a far cry from green, especially with the little 1.6 running a bit rich…

    from an environmental perspective it’s probably my old wonder-civic, its funky little hondamatic might have made for 0-60 times measurable by sundial or calendar but once shifted from star into OD it’d hapilly cruise along slightly below the speed limit sampling fuel every once in a while.

  18. Negishi no Keibajo says:

    My 1973 240-Z. Not only was it fun & classy, it would haul an admirable amount of “stuff” under the hatch. I managed to cram my entire drumset into it to gigs. It was also an ungaraged crime magnet. After the third “recovery”, I gave up but I certainly miss it.

  19. Dove says:

    2011 CR-Z I think I was getting 5L/100KM with it (6 speed manual) combo city, highway/B Roads.
    It didn’t do much better that the 2015 Fit I had 5.5L/100KM (6 speed manual).

  20. Taylor C. says:

    Not sure if my entry would be considered a joke or not, but I think my 2011 VW Jetta Sportwagen TDI definitely went from “dirty cheatin'” to “squeaky clean.” I bought it in 2016 and without any retrofit or mods, I got 40MPG. I added a Kerma TDI tune and got 170hp with 340lb-ft torque, AND 45MPG, AND no tailpipe soot. That was beautiful. Then I performed a rest and did the VW recall fix, and with all the scrutiny VW went through, I bet the particulate filters and catalysts that VW designed made the exhaust emissions cleaner than the crisp Yukon air. That dropped the MPG down to 35MPG. It sure felt slower, as I was easily flooring it and noticing the difference in torque. I worked with Kerma to develop a post-VW recall tune, and through a couple iterations, I got what was essentially a Euro-V emissions level tune, and back to 340lb-ft torque.

    Post VW recall, I still think there’s hope for clean diesel technology. Diesel fuel packs more power density than gasoline, their engines run higher compression ratios to extract more power, and lack of throttle bodies means you’re running 100% volumetric efficiency, just to name a few. There’s a reason big trucks run diesel engines over gas counterparts, for the overall efficiencies.

    How is this all “green?” Well, it’s a modern common rail turbo diesel, it keeps up with fast cars, hauls almost everything related to our lifestyle, 42MPG, slippery wagon shape, 6-speed, 70mph @ 1800RPM, and still soot-free. With a set of Altimax Artics, it’s handled every winter just fine, no need for the Range Rover that’s sliding around on summer tires. I bought the TDI Wagen because I needed something more green, and the Legacy GT wagon wasn’t doing that with 22MPG. I was going to drive it to the ground, but it ultimately succumbed to water damage when rain seeped through the sunroof frame, entering the electronics. Found a lot of “green mold” under the carpet too.

    • Franxou says:

      I still think electric is the way to go for the future for most people, but I completely agree with you that Diesel should still be offered and developped for passenger cars. Emissions can be made clean and the engine still be efficient, there always are people with different needs that an elec will not serve, and diesel made a lot of sense before VW got caught and the widespread scare started 🙁

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