Top 10 PZEV Cars for Eco-Friendly Drivers

Teddy Leung / Shutterstock.com

The whole idea of a PZEV (that is, a partial zero-emissions vehicle), seems paradoxical. You’d think it’d have to either be zero-emissions or not in the category at all. But as contradictory as it sounds, a partial zero-emissions vehicle is a classification in the US for a very clean running vehicle that boasts no evaporative emissions from its fuel system, from fuel tank to combustion chamber. It also has to meet United States SULEV (super low emissions vehicle) standards, and be backed by a 15-year or 150,000-mile warranty on the emissions-control components.

These super-clean vehicles were originally only available in California and the five “clean” states and Canada that followed California’s lead. Then another seven states started implementing the same rules, and the PZEV population started to really take off.

Of the 20 or so PZEV models out there, here are the ten we like best.

  1. Mazda3 - This new 2015 Mazda3 has been receiving accolades and winning comparison tests by various media, praised for its original styling, beautiful interior, surgical steering and sporty handling. Available either as a four-door sedan or hatchback, the Mazda3 is powered by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine lauded for its eager performance and economical use of fuel. There have been several suggestions in the enthusiast press that the Mazda3 is the best car in its category, so it looks very much like this the best good, clean fun you can have.

  2. Volkswagen GTI - This is the model that started the hot-hatch, pocket-rocket revolution all those years back, and despite having grown in size and sophistication, it still embodies much of the practicality, personality and sheer brio that made it a worldwide household name. With a responsive turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine good for 210-horsepower hooked to a standard seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, the GTI has incandescent throttle response at any engine speed, and its sport-tuned chassis provides a nice balance between comfort and control. Performance, economy, clean emissions. Isn’t technology great?

  3. Ford Focus - Ford’s second-smallest car has been well received in the market, complimented for its styling, handling and driving pleasure. The PZEV version has a 2.0-liter normally aspirated four-cylinder engine, with a choice of six-speed transmissions; either manual or automatic, depending on your preference. Ford only has one other non-hybrid PZEV model; the Fusion.

  4. Honda Civic - With a spacious interior, a comfortable ride, and a nicely integrated sense to its controls, the Civic reminds one why it has been such a big seller over the years. Adding to its appeal in its new guise, the Civic has a number of available technologies, like keyless entry and ignition, a seven-inch touchscreen with smartphone integration, and a blindspot camera display. The tech package upgrade includes Aha radio and Siri-based voice instruction. Add great fuel economy, ultra low emissions and a solid reliability reputation, and you can hardly go wrong.

  5. Audi A3 - Having suffered as a kind of more-expensive Golf GTI twin over the years, the new Audi A3 is a sedan (unless bought as an electric e-tron model, when it’s again a hatchback). In its latest guise, it attains PZEV status with two models; a 1.8-liter turbo four, with just front-wheel drive, and a 2.0-liter turbo four with Audi’s Quattro all-wheel-drive system. Both car’s offer Audi’s distinctive styling, vigorous performance, and European handling finesse. Fine leather interiors, huge sunroofs, and impressive telematics make both models desirable.

  6. Mini Cooper S - The answer to driving clean without losing an ounce of stylishness is the Mini Cooper S. Imbued with all the cheeky flair of the Mini, the PZEV version loses nothing but the extra tailpipe emissions. Powered by a 189-horsepower 2.0-liter turbo four, the Mini is as much fun to drive as any small car can be, whether equipped with the manual or automatic six-speed transmission.

  7. Subaru Forester - In PZEV guise the Forester comes equipped with a 2.5-liter flat-four engine hooked to a manual six-speed transmission. There are automatic Foresters, just not in PZEV form, and they are actually CVTs, which many people dislike for their tendency to drone along at the same engine speed (called motorboating). But no need to worry, the Forester’s gearbox is light and accurate, and the car is entertaining to drive. Also, it has all-wheel drive, a boon for those skiing trips.

  8. Camry Hybrid - Toyota’s Camry takes a lot of flak for being the archetypal suburban runabout, but its reputation for near indestructibility, longevity and reliability still has the car-buying public snapping the model up by the thousands. This one, the hybrid, has also had the zealous engineers in Japan working on improving steering feel, sharpening up the styling, and improving the feel of the brakes. It’s never going to be a sports car, but it’ll probably still be here for the grandchildren.

  9. Prius - Yes, it’s another hybrid, but being the car that pretty much blazed the trail for Toyota’s vaunted Hybrid Synergy Drive, it ought to be on the list. Besides, now that there are several versions in several sizes, the choice has broadened. And new Prius models carry a lot of fun technologies these days, with Bluetooth and smartphone integration and voice recognition. And when you look at the gas bill at month’s end, the PZEV low-emissions performance will just be frosting on the cake.

  10. Hyundai Elantra - The Elantra Limited has a 1.8-liter four to pull it around, but this 145-horsepower engine is perfectly adequate to the needs of most drivers, and it puts its humble horsepower to the ground via a standard six-speed automatic. The power may be unambitious, but the Elantra has plenty of available equipment to keep you comfortable and entertained, and it has possibly the easiest phone-linking system in the business.


Next Step

Schedule Oil Change

The most popular service booked by readers of this article is Oil Change. YourMechanic’s technicians bring the dealership to you by performing this job at your home or office 7-days a week between 7AM-9PM. We currently cover over 2,000 cities and have 100k+ 5-star reviews... LEARN MORE

SEE PRICING & SCHEDULING

The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details

Recent Oil Change reviews

Excellent Rating

(21,699)

Rating Summary
20,382
845
179
87
206
20,382
845
179
87
206

Matthew

33 years of experience
991 reviews
Matthew
33 years of experience
Volkswagen Passat - Oil Change - Hampton, Virginia
Matt always does a great job. Very professional. I look forward to my next appointment.... A++++++
Ford Expedition - Oil Change - Hampton, Virginia
I am so please to have Matt work on my vehicle, he is very friendly and personable, and always does a great job.

Greg

22 years of experience
37 reviews
Greg
22 years of experience
Audi A3 - Oil Change - Queen Creek, Arizona
Job well done! Greg was on time and professional. He treated my vehicle with care. He completed the job smoothly and so far so good. First time using Your mechanic and it was a pleasant experience. I will be looking into them again. Thanks Greg!
Ford Explorer - Oil Change - Scottsdale, Arizona
Greg was very friendly and professional. Communication was great, he let me know what he was doing. He went above and beyond to make sure everything was running smoothly. I would 100% recommend Greg!

LAVELL

27 years of experience
93 reviews
LAVELL
27 years of experience
Buick Encore - Oil Change - Oakland, California
Another home run! Really appreciate the flexibility regarding my service appointment. Due to my work schedule I desperately needed a late appointment. So grateful my car is receiving top shelf professional service. Replaced a oil pan drain plug that was seriously damaged and stripped by a competitor that will NEVER get my business again! All services were quickly completed. Thank you so much for another great experience with my.... Your Mechanic Lavell 5 ⭐️ Service consistently.

Brian

23 years of experience
483 reviews
Brian
23 years of experience
Porsche 911 - Oil Change - Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida
Brian is extremely knowledgeable and very personable and has taken very good care on my 911. I would recommend Brian to any one who has mechanical car challenges. I would recommend Brian to all My friends and family

Need Help With Your Car?

Our certified mobile mechanics make house calls in over 2,000 U.S. cities. Fast, free online quotes for your car repair.

GET A QUOTE

Related articles

The Top 5 Selling Cars in Delaware in 2012
Delaware Delaware offers a variety of weather, which means drivers have to be prepared for both the mild and the treacherous. In previous years, the best-selling vehicles have included the Honda Civic, Accord and CR-V, along with the Toyota Camry....
A Buyer’s Guide to the 2012 Honda Fit
The The 2012 Honda Fit is a fuel efficient car that has lots of head and legroom for drivers and passengers alike. In addition, its five door configuration holds large items like skis, bikes, and surfboards for those who love...
The Most Popular Cars in American Cities
The The American car market is defined by diversity underneath sameness. In almost every part of this country, the most common cars are sedans from Honda, Toyota, Ford and Chevrolet. But this belies how different Americans truly are in...

Related questions

Codes P0121, P0221, P2101, P2104, P2110, P2111

Here are the codes, what they mean and the potential causes below each of them. Note that some of them may be related and can cause additional codes to be triggered that may be fixed when one of it's related...

What is the four-wheel anti-lock brake system?

You have two braking systems on your car – the standard system that kicks in when you press the brake pedal under normal conditions and a four-wheel anti-lock brake system (ABS). The ABS works only under certain conditions. It’s tied...

How do I change a tire if I have a flat?

Spend enough time driving and it’s going to happen – you’re going to get a flat tire. It happens to all of us eventually. Knowing what to do will make the process less stressful and frustrating. Here’s what you should...

How can we help?

Our service team is available 7 days a week, Monday - Friday from 6 AM to 5 PM PST, Saturday - Sunday 7 AM - 4 PM PST.

1 (855) 347-2779 · hi@yourmechanic.com