“The [Green Car of the Year] award is an important part of Green Car Journal’s mission to showcase environmental progress in the auto industry,” the Journal said in its press release. The award, established in 1992, focuses on “the intersection of automobiles, energy, and environment.”
The Journal has picked out the five finalists competing for the honors of being named the 2014 Green Car of the Year. The publication says it seeing its pool of eligible vehicles grow increasingly larger each year as automakers are able to produce better cars that use less fuel.
“The diversity of this field of finalists illustrates not only that ‘green’ has gone mainstream, but also that there is no single approach to achieving ever higher levels of fuel efficiency and environmental performance,” said Ron Cogan, editor and publisher of Green Car Journal and CarsOfChange.com. “There’s something for everyone in this year’s field of finalists, including clean diesel, high efficiency gasoline, and hybrid/plug-in hybrid power featured in mainstream, sporty, and executive models.”
Noticeably, no vehicles from American manufacturers made the list, and there was nothing in the press release that definitively explained why. Here are the five contestants, ranked alphabetically.
1. Audi A6 TDI
Boasting nearly 40 miles per gallon on the highway (38mpg, officially), the Audi A6 TDI “blends excellent ‘green’ credentials with unexpected levels of performance in a high efficiency vehicle,” Green Car Journal says. The 3-liter diesel unit at its heart offers about 24mpg around town; it’s also good for 428 pound-feet of torque and can reach 60 miles per hour in 5.5 seconds.
2. BMW 328d
While the previous generation of the diesel 3-Series was focused primarily on performance, the latest oil-burner from BMW switches gears and puts efficiency first and foremost. Using a new-to-the-U.S. 2-liter four-cylinder engine, the BMW can return around 45mpg on the highway, all while swathing the driver in the utmost of comforts. The models are also offered with rear-wheel drive or with BMW’s xDrive all-wheel drive platform.
3. Honda Accord
Among the crowded midsize sedan segment, Honda (NYSE:HMC) is making its Accord range more distinct by pushing heavily on fuel efficiency aspects. “Even the V6, the largest engine option, nets 34 highway miles per gallon, with the four-cylinder rated at up to 36 highway miles per gallon. The bar raises considerably with the Accord Hybrid at 50 city and 47 highway miles per gallon, and the Accord Plug-In with its 47 city and 46 highway miles per gallon on hybrid power,” Green Car Journal writes of the Honda vehicle.
4. Mazda 3
Mazda’s new 3, its best-selling nameplate, is “lighter, more efficient, and packed with advanced electronics”; it also “features an appealing new design and has been built from the ground-up with Mazda’s award-winning SKYACTIV technology,” according to Green Car Journal. This allows the new hatchback model to manage 41mpg on the highway from its 2-liter in-line four. If you’re looking for more oomph, though, a more powerful 2.5-liter engine with Mazda’s i-ELOOP capacitor-based regenerative engine braking system gets 38mpg.
5. Toyota Corolla
“With the all-new 2014 Corolla, Toyota (NYSE:TM) adds visual excitement, improved driving dynamics, and even greater efficiency to its popular compact sedan, achieving up to 42 highway mpg delivered by the model’s Eco version,” the Journal writes. The ECO setting is driver-activated; the function moderates acceleration and optimizes on-board systems to enhance the Toyota’s fuel economy.