Manufacture is a massive source of CO2 emissions. Keep a small car for a long time to be truly green, says James Ruppert

Thierry is thinking about changing his car, a Rover 45 that has had a lot of problems mechanically. Thierry has also been troubled by the 168g/km, which he says he calculated on David Cameron's website. He wants to go greener, reducing the size and consumption of his car, but it needs to be a proper one that is comfy, rather than something electric. Thierry isn't bothered about the brand and just wants to save the planet, provided doing so doesn't cost more than £10,000.

This might be a bad time to break it to you, but I'm not convinced that the whole carbon-footprint, reduce-your-C02 thing is anything more than propaganda to get us to feel guilty and pay more taxes.

Not only that, I wouldn't spend any time or believe anything I read on a politician's website. However, if Thierry wants to drive a less polluting car to save the planet, then that's his business. I can't argue with the underlying aim, which is also to save money by making the fuel go further.

My own green philosophy, as expounded in Bangernomics, published in 1993, was that the ultimate form of green motoring is to recycle an old car. The amount of environmental damage caused buying a brand-new car is very much reduced by buying older. Indeed, many so-called green cars, after they have been imported from the other side of the world (just think of the energy expended doing that) have a limited lifespan anyway, as the technology (batteries) has a limited lifespan.

Not so green then, although there are some small-engined petrol cars and also many diesels that deliver remarkable mpg figures. The key for maximum greenness, especially when buying new, is to keep the vehicle for as long a possible.

A car for the head

Thierry told me that I haven't mentioned the VW Polo BlueMotion, but I am happy to do so. It will return 72mpg overall and has a dashboard display that makes you feel guilty when idling, switching from miles per gallon to gallons per hour. A new one, however, will be well over £11,000 and the next best Polo diesel, the 1.4 TDI, delivers just over 60mpg and is around £10,700 new.

Thierry could buy a used one, however, and I found a 2004 one example with 40,000 miles at £6,400.

I'll presume that a Smart Fortwo is a bit too small, as trading down from a five-seater to a two- might be a drop too far down the motoring scale. Even so, the Smart is cheap to run, will return 60mpg and in pollution terms it dishes out only 113g/km CO2.

But I would also like Thierry to consider a Morris Minor. Last made in 1971, first launched in 1948, here is the ultimate green car that has been given a new lease of life by pioneers such as Charles Ware (see picture). You can update the Minor with larger engines and disc brakes, but the basic structure is very durable and working on one is simple, so running costs are marginal. All parts are available and prices start at £3,000 for a solid one.

A car for the heart

When I think frugal and green these days, I can't help coming up with Citroë*. That's not surprising, considering that for the second year running, the company has picked up the Manufacturer prize in the Green Fleet awards.

In particular, the C1 in both 1.0i petrol and 1.4HDi diesel forms returns ultra-low CO2 emissions of 109g/ km as well as over 60mpg on the official combined cycle. The C1 is cheap to buy and run and Thierry shouldn't worry about going for the diesel as the 1.0 petrol is just as efficient and, most importantly, cheaper, at £6,995 compared with £8,825 for the HDi model.

There is also the Toyota Aygo and the Peugeot 107, which are broadly the same cars. I think the C1 looks the most interesting, in a funky and fresh way. It isn't the largest car in the world, but you can just about seat four.

On long journeys it will sound a bit noisy, but Thierry should think about the money and planet he is saving. The three door Vibe has a CD and MP3 player and that should be more than enough specification. Thierry might prefer to go for the five-door model for its added practicality.

Car choice

Please write to Car Choice, Features, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS, or email James Ruppert at, giving your age, address and phone number, details of the type of vehicle in which you are interested and budget.

Search for used cars