5 Finalists for 2016 Green Car of the Year

BMW i3 Miles Willis/Getty Images

BMW i3: 2015 Green Car of Year (Miles Willis/Getty Images)

The annual Green Car of the Year award is one of the highlights of the Los Angeles Auto Show that takes place every November. Last year, the BMW i3 electric car landed the prize as the only EV in a sea of Volkswagen Clean Diesel models, the efficient Honda Fit, and a Chevy Impala Bi-Fuel (natural gas and gasoline) that you may not be aware exists.

This year, TDI models will sit out the race as a certain emissions scandal continues to engulf the world’s largest automaker. (In fact, Dieselgate claimed a few casualties of Green Car of the Year awards past. Volkswagen returned the prizes it won for both the 2009 Jetta and 2010 Audi TDI.) Instead, the finalists reflect a sensible shift toward plug-in hybrids, some of which will soon make their U.S. debuts.

Here are the five finalists for the 2016 Green Car of the Year award.

1. Audi A3 Sportback e-tron

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Source: Audi

The Volkswagen Group is set to unveil several plug-in hybrid models in the U.S., and we will see the Audi A3 Sportback e-tron as the first model from the VW luxury division. This five-door small wagon can cover at least 19 miles on electric power. (If you like, think of it as a premium version of the Ford C-Max Energi, which shares its green specs.) Audi’s reasonable pricing of the A3 e-tron bodes well for its U.S. release late in 2015.

2. Chevy Volt

2016-chevrolet-volt-010-1 (1)

Source: General Motors

There may be plenty to hate about Chevy’s ad campaign for the 2016 Volt, but there is plenty to love about the actual car. Starting with the 53 miles of electric range and 420 miles of total range, drivers get the practicality you expect from any gas vehicle. What makes it so green? Volt drivers are likely to get about 90% of their driving done in electric mode.  It’s like an EV with a gas engine to save you when your battery dies. Based on the specs alone, we say the 2016 Volt is a frontrunner for this award.

 3. Honda Civic

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Source: Honda

How does Honda always place near the top of the fuel economy list without a plug-in vehicle on sale? Cars like the 2016 Civic do the trick. By dropping the car’s weight and other upgrades in the redesigned model, Honda says the next Civic will crack the 40-mile-per-gallon barrier in standard gasoline mode. This upgrade allowed the automaker to drop the hybrid model from its lineup, which makes the standard edition affordable and very green.

4. Hyundai Sonata

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Source: Hyundai

Want to see a smooth, economical midsize sedan in action? Take a road trip to Vermont for the weekend in a 2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid. We did it in September and came back raving about the overall experience, especially after seeing it get 43 miles per gallon. What’s more: 2016 brings the first Hyundai plug-in model, a Sonata that can run 27 miles on electric power and get 99 miles per gallon equivalent. Those specs are even better than the ones that made it a Green Car of the Year finalist, so this car could be the dark horse for the award.

5. Toyota Prius

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DANIEL ROLAND/AFP/Getty Images

With a new Toyota Prius in existence, you have to book the hybrid king as a Green Car of the Year finalist. We still don’t have the details, but what we do know is the 2016 model gets even better mileage than the previous mile-per-gallon champion. In the release announcing its place among the final five, the new Prius gets a shout-out for better driving dynamics and, yes, “bolder” exterior styling. With so many Priuses on the roads of the world, we have to say owners hardly care about that part. But show them 60 miles per gallon (what some project for the ECO model) and they’ll show you the money.

May the judges now retire to their chambers. We’ll let you know who wins live from L.A. in November.

Source: Los Angeles Auto Show

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