Best and Worst Vehicles for that ‘New Car Smell’

Many people prefer cars that will give them high mileage on a gallon of gas. Some factor in how high they’ll get on a car cabin full of chemical off-gas.

Yes, many people cherish that new car smell and all its associations with a vehicle that has yet to be soiled, run ragged, dinged, or otherwise diminished, even if they’re at least vaguely aware the sources of the smell are not benign. The environmental advocacy group Ecology Center, which recently released a ranking of the best and worst vehicles based on the chemicals off-gassed into their interiors, warns that the sources of those zesty odors and aromatics include bromine (associated with brominated flame retardants), chlorine (indicating the presence of polyvinyl chloride, or PVC and plasticizers), lead, and heavy metals.

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So driving around for, say, 90 minutes every day in that sweet new ride might actually be pretty toxic, depending on factors such as interior and exterior temperatures (That hot dashboard? Watch out!), and whether you drive around leaning out the window like the family dog.

Anyway, website presented the Ecology Center list (shown above), which ranks the Honda (NYSE:HMC) Civic as the most toxin-free among 200 vehicles tested out of the 2011 and 2012 model-year releases. The Mitsubishi Outlander Sport ranked at the bottom.

Other notables: the Toyota (NYSE:TM) Prius took second place on the best-of list and the Honda CR-Z took third. The Chrysler 200 SC took second place on the worst-of list and the Kia Soul took third. Still, Mitsubishi followed Volkswagen (PINK:VLKAY) on the list of most improved automakers in terms of average ratings for their vehicles from the 2009/2010 model years to the 2011/2012 model years. Ford (NYSE:F) placed third among the most improved.


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