What Car? Green awards 2008 - Superminis
You won't need to hear about the Fiat 500's environmental credentials to want one - its cute retro looks have made it the must-have fashion accessory of 2008. The baby Fiat isn't just a pretty face, though - it's one of the greenest cars around.
The 1.2 Pop emits just 119g/km of carbon dioxide, putting it in tax band B. Plenty of new cars puff out even less, but most are diesels with fairly high nitrous oxide emissions. This Fiat is a petrol and its NOx output is just 0.034g/km (with the Dualogic semi-automatic gearbox) - five times lower than the average new car.
Because it's not a diesel, there are also no particulate emissions.
Clearly cute looks and green credentials aren't enough on their own, but the 500 is a fine car in other respects. It's bigger inside than a Mini, it's reasonably refined and the super-light steering makes parking a doddle.
It's also one of the safest superminis around, with a five-star Euro NCAP crash rating. The 1.2-litre engine is gutsy enough - especially around town - and because it doesn't emit much CO2, you'll pay only £35 a year for a tax disc.
That's not much good if it costs a bomb to buy, though, right? Good news. The 500 is cheap as chips - £8100 to be exact. Don't think its petrol engine means you'll pay at the pumps, either - the 1.2 Pop will average 55mpg. Find a diesel that's as frugal, and it will cost you a lot more to buy. Petrol is also a few pence cheaper at the moment.
The entry-level Pop trim is the one to get. It's the cheapest by £1400, and comes with central locking, front electric windows and a CD player. You might want to fork out another £500 for air-conditioning, though.
The Fiat isn't as much fun to drive as a Mini and the build quality is a bit rough round the edges, but it's a lot more affordable and more exclusive than its rival. So, not only will you be driving one of the trendiest cars around, you'll also have a queue of buyers lined up when you come to sell it on.
Still not persuaded? Then why not shell out a little bit extra and really make your 500 stand out from the crowd by having an Italian flag painted down the side, or a barcode on the roof - cast-iron proof that green cars don't necessarily have to be dull.
The Fiat 500 is already on the used market, but it comes at a premium. There's a waiting list for new cars, so dealers can charge close to list price or maybe even more for used examples. There are also opportunistic private sellers who reserved a car early and now fancy making a fast buck.
Best buy up to £9000 - Fiat 500 1.2 Pop
Target Price £8100
Average economy 55.4mpg
Green verdict A super-stylish car with only a small carbon footprint
Best buy £11,000+
Mini Cooper D
Target Price £14,271
Average economy 72.4mpg
Green verdict A frugal, clean motor with good performance, but a little expensive
Best buy £9000-£11,000
Vauxhall Corsa 1.3 CDTi 75 Life 5dr
Target Price £9803
Average economy 62.8mpg
Green verdict Refined and spacious, but would need a particulate filter to win
With thanks to the Eden Project: www.edenproject.com
Featured in this story