What Car? Green Awards 2009 - SUVs

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Best buy Lexus RX450h SE-L
Surely a large, luxurious SUV can't also be planet-friendly, can it? Yes, it can – Lexus has managed to combine high-end quality with low emissions and exceptional fuel economy in its new RX450h.

If you're wondering what the 'h' stands for, it's 'hybrid': the car's electric motors can power it for short periods at the typically low speeds you drive at in town, but it assists the 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine once you get up to speed.

So, not only you do save fuel when in traffic jams, but you're not using as much when you're cruising down the motorway.

Double the distance
Comparing the figures with those of SUV rivals, the numbers look even more impressive. Its average fuel economy of 44.8mpg is closer to those with smaller diesel engines and, if you put it up against a car of a similar size – say an Audi Q7 with a 3.6-litre V6 petrol, for instance – the 246bhp RX450h will go nearly twice as far on a gallon of fuel. Its CO2 levels are low, too, so its rock-bottom company car tax rates will make it more appealing to company car drivers than other large SUVs.

So if running costs are low, Lexus must have scrimped and saved in the cabin to save weight, right? Wrong – it's as sumptuous as you'd expect any car at this price to be. Each trim is generously equipped with all the goodies you could wish for, with the plush SE-L trim getting dual-zone climate control, keyless entry, and a 15-speaker Mark Levinson stereo with a DAB digital radio as standard. The car's safety kit list is also lengthy: traction control and anti-lock brakes are in the line-up, as expected, but there are also 10 airbags to protect you and your passengers if you're unfortunate enough to end up in an accident.

Room for everyone
This Lexus is practical, too – the rear seats can accommodate three people comfortably and the seats can be folded down easily if you want to boost boot space. Room in the front is more than adequate, too, with plenty of cubbyholes to take all of your odds and ends without any trouble.

The RX450h is remarkably quiet and will keep out most noise from the outside world – both in town and on the motorway. It'll hold its own on any winding country roads you encounter, too – granted, it's no sports car, but it's not bad.

To top it all off, Lexus is always found at the top of the JD Power customer satisfaction surveys, and is usually at the sharp end of our reliability tests. Chances are, then, that you'll have very few problems with your hybrid RX – with its luxurious, practical and green credentials on top of that, what more could you ask for?

Buying used
If you're looking to buy a used RX450h, you're out of luck – it's only just gone on sale. However, the RX400h it replaces is still a great car and was our favourite SUV in the £30,000+ price bracket last year. A year-old one with 12,000 miles should cost you less than £24,000 at a dealer.

Green car fact file

Best buy up to £18,000
Suzuki SX4 1.6 DDiS 2WD
Price: £12,375
Target Price: £11,720
CO2: 139g/km
NOx: 0.240g/km
Particulate emissions: 0.010g/km
Average fuel economy: 53.3mpg
Green verdict: Proof that bargain-bucket pricing doesn't have to mean poor quality for a greener car

Best buy £18,000-£30,000
VW Tiguan 2.0 TDI S 2WD
Price: £19,745
Target Price: £17,785
CO2: 155g/km
NOx: 0.150g/km
Particulate emissions: Too low to register
Average fuel economy: 45.6mpg
Green verdict: All the prestige of an SUV from Volkswagen, but with the green credentials of a supermini

Best buy over £30,000
Lexus RX450h SE-L
Price: £50,460
Target Price: £50,460
CO2: 148g/km
NOx: 0.0129g/km
Particulate emissions: na
Average fuel economy: 44.8mpg
Green verdict: Pinch yourself – a posh SUV that doesn't chuck out too many pollutants really does exist


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