“This is our award that picks one vehicle — or a line of vehicles — that we consider to be the greenest new vehicle[s] launched for the new model year,” John Voelcker at Green Car Reports wrote regarding its annual Best Car to Buy for 2014 award. “To be eligible,” he said, “vehicles must be available for purchase by April 2014. At least one High Gear Media editor — preferably several — must have been able to drive and review the vehicle by December 1, 2013.”
Further, the base price of the vehicle is capped at $60,000, allowing the editors to focus on mass-market vehicles and eliminate the ultra-luxury green machines that sell in such low quantities that their cumulative impact is negligible, Voelcker says.
Furthermore, Green Car Reports eliminates “any vehicle that does not achieve 30 miles per gallon combined or 80 MPGe on the EPA’s testing cycle,” Voelcker continued. “In specific cases, we will consider estimated figures for new vehicles, in light of their potential impact on the green-car market, before official ratings are released.”
In the past couple of years, the Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) Model S, Toyota (NYSE:TM) Prius range, and the Nissan (NSANY.PK) Leaf have all been bestowed with honors. Here are the five finalists up for this year’s designation. The following are ranked alphabetically.
1. BMW i3
The i3 is BMW’s first foray into the electric vehicle market, and it is meant to undercut the path being taken by Tesla by introducing a lower-end luxury electric car with a price tag south of the Model S’s $70,000 base price. The i3 achieves this with a starting price of around $41,350.
2. Chevrolet Cruze Diesel
Looking to cash in on the growing diesel trend in the U.S., General Motors (NYSE:GM) has released the Cruze diesel, which puts an oil burning unit into Chevrolet’s popular compact. The result is a Cruze that can pull 50 miles per gallon on the highway and make it some 700 miles between fill-ups.
3. Chevrolet Spark EV
Essentially an electric version of Chevrolet’s subcompact, the Spark EV has 130 horsepower, far more than its 83 horsepower, gasoline-powered cousin. More importantly, the Spark EV offers the highest combined efficiency rating of any plug-in car sold this year, at 119 MPGe.
4. Honda Accord Hybrid
Boasting 50 miles per gallon in the city, the Honda (NYSE:HMC) Accord Hybrid is perhaps the most efficient midsize sedan hybrid on the market today, and while the electric powertrain is a commendable feat, the 141 horsepower, 2-liter four-cylinder i-VTEC gasoline engine that it sits next to is the most efficient internal combustion engine in the world, as well as the first Honda engine to run on the Atkinson cycle.
5. Mazda 3
Speaking of fuel-efficient gasoline engines, the new Mazda3 proves that vehicles with “no plugs, no hybrids, and no turbos” can still be green. With Mazda’s new SkyActiv engine and design technology, Green Car Reports expects the 2014 Mazda3 to be among the most fuel-efficient (non-hybrid) compacts on the market, with ratings floating from 31 miles per gallon to 34 miles per gallon combined.
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