Only a few years ago, there weren’t many options for car buyers looking to “go green.” Here in 2014, however, there are many shades of green transportation among which buyers can make an environmentally responsible choice, and our car-savvy Yahoo readers have been on the hunt. Which are the most popular? And are they worthy of an even closer look? Here are the top 12 most feverishly searched green cars on the market today.
12. Honda Civic Natural Gas — As one of the few available natural-gas vehicles around, the Honda Civic CNG has a loyal, if limited following, particularly among fleet customers with easy access to natural gas pumps. But Honda is happy to sell the Civic Natural Gas to anyone with access to a suitable filling station— California has the most, with 150 around the state — and all who get one be rewarded with 31 mpg-e (miles per gallon equivalent) and fuel that is up to 40 percent cheaper, according to Honda. And they’ll enjoy the added benefit of qualifying for HOV lane access in many parts of the country.
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11. Chevrolet Cruze Diesel — Chevy’s compact Cruze is an appealing enough sedan on its own merits: harmless looks, spacious and stylish interior, and smooth ride. But the Cruze also has a green ace up its sleeve in the form of an excellent, fuel-sipping diesel engine option. Diesels are rare in this class, and this one achieves stellar fuel economy of 27 mpg in the city and a spectacular 46 mpg on the highway, the latter number even besting many hybrids. Better still, the diesel engine is quiet in operation, and in every other respect, the Cruze diesel drives just like the regular gasoline-powered version.
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10. Volkswagen Jetta TDI — Volkswagen’s long and storied history with diesels has earned VW a faithful diesel following in the U.S. for many years now. And for 2015, both Jetta diesel loyalists and new customers alike will be rewarded with the Jetta sedan’s best fuel economy ever: 31 in the city, and 46 on the highway for manual versions, and 31/45 for automatics. The Jetta TDI is also available in an appealing wagon form (soon to be renamed Golf SportWagen), too, but only the sedan is available in a “Value” edition that represents the cheapest way into a new diesel-powered car.
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9. Tesla Model S — Undoubtedly the most desirable way to drive green is at the wheel of the revolutionary, pure electric Tesla Model S. Combining dapper looks, high-zoot luxury features, and spectacular performance, the Model S also boasts an impressive safety record and has spacious front and rear cargo areas. While the Model S is not affordable to everyone, it is a halo car that proves that you don’t have to forego the luxuries of life in order to drive responsibly.
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8. BMW i3 — BMW’s i3 and its more exotic sibling, the i8 are such departures for BMW that it created an entire new sub-brand for the cars. Offered both as a pure electric vehicle and a plug-in hybrid with a range-extending gas engine, the i3 looks like it’s from the future, and utilizes many exposed materials that give its cabin a cool, industrial vibe.
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7. Nissan Leaf — The Nissan Leaf has been blowing around for a few years now, but its combination of four-door hatchback utility, reasonable (for an electric car) price and household name recognition keeps it popular among green-car shoppers. It’s not that fun to drive, and its beauty is, well, debatable, but as far as green cars go, it has nearly as much credibility as the Toyota Prius, with zero-emissions bragging rights to boot. If you can live with a range of about 75 miles between charge-ups, which can take several hours, the Leaf could be worth a look.
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6. Chevrolet Volt — The Volt electrified the green car scene for the 2011 model year and nearly swept the industry’s awards podiums that year, and with good reason: the plug-in hybrid technology is ingenious, combining 35 to 40 miles of electric range before a fuel-efficient gasoline engine kicks on to recharge the battery in real-time, thus allowing for longer trips at about 37 mpg. Alas, the Volt has changed little since 2011, though GM has made the price increasingly attractive over the years. As with many dedicated green cars, not everyone likes the Volt’s aero-honed styling, but no car at any price allow one to drive this far on electrons, and then keep going on hundreds more miles before pulling over for gas (some of which can be done in an HOV lane in many areas).
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5. Toyota Prius Plug-In — On one hand, the “Prius with a plug” is the priciest of all Prius models, but on the other, it is the cheapest plug-in hybrid on the market. Theoretically, the Prius Plug-In is capable of driving 11 miles on electric power alone, but the gas engine will step in when anything more than leisurely acceleration is required. It may have far less electric-only range than the Volt, but its smaller battery allows it to carry five passengers whereas the Volt can hold only four. Like the Volt, the C-Max Energi and all pure electric vehicles, it qualifies for HOV lane access in many areas while supplies last.
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4. Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid — The Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid is one of the newest hybrids on the market, yet it is also one of the most researched by Yahoo readers. Alas, we’re not sure they’ll like what they find once they see the EPA-rated fuel economy numbers: 30 mpg city / 34 mpg highway and 31 combined — that’s just two miles per gallon more than the non-hybrid XV Crosstrek with the automatic transmission, which achieves an impressive 26 city / 34 highway and 29 combined. So there is not much of a case to be made for the Hybrid, especially considering the hybrid’s higher price tag. Then again, of all the cars on this list, the XV Crosstrek Hybrid is the only one with all-wheel drive as standard fare.
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3. Ford C-Max Hybrid — Ford’s C-Max is equal parts crossover and mini-minivan, and is available only as a hybrid. Thus it combines practicality and high fuel economy ratings of 42 mpg in the city, 37 on the highway, with 40 mpg combined. Even better, it’s reasonably enjoyable to drive, based as it is on Ford’s engaging Focus platform. A plug-in version is also available at considerable extra cost, but it allows you to drive up to 22 miles without gasoline if you have a light touch on the go-pedal.
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2. Honda Civic Hybrid — The Honda Civic Hybrid was one of the first hybrids on the market more than a decade ago, and it remains one of the most popular. For 2015, it achieves the best fuel economy ever, rated by the EPA at 44 mpg in the city and 47 mpg on the highway and 45 mpg combined. It’s slow as molasses, but at least its four-door sedan body and conventional profile render it more attractive than some other cars on this list, and its interior is both futuristic and highly sensible.
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1. Toyota Prius / Prius c — The undisputed king of hybrids is also the most highly researched, as it turns out, and one need look no further than the EPA fuel economy numbers to see why the Prius is so enduringly popular. Both the standard Prius and the bare-bones, sub-$20,000 Prius “c” models achieve combined ratings of 50 mpg, with the little Prius c going a bit further on a gallon of gas in the city, but not quite as far on the highway. A Prius “V” model offers most of the standard Prius’ goodness in a more practical, tall wagon package, with only a slight penalty in fuel efficiency. They may not be much to look at, and deliver no thrills from a driving perspective, but each and every one comes standard with that feel-good feeling that all eco-responsible buyers are looking for in the first place.
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