The Los Angeles Auto Show is coming up next month and, as activity starts ramping up, news is starting to break on the new models that will be announced and other juicy tidbits. This past week, the five finalists for the Green Car Journal’s 2016 Green Car of the Year award were shared. They are:
Audi A3 e-tron (PHEV), Chevrolet Volt (PHEV), Honda Civic (ICEV), Hyundai Sonata (PHEV), and Toyota Prius (Hybrid)
This list feels like it would have been a solid offering 3 or 4 years ago, but with so many fully electric offerings out there today, and with Tesla blowing the cap off the Consumer Reports rating scale and awkwardly absent here, I’m having a hard time swallowing this list, but here we go:
2016 Chevy Volt
This blue beast was announced several months back with great fanfare and seems to have delivered against all expectations. As a result, the 2016 Volt was the one car I expected to be on this list, and I still give it top shot at taking home the prize. Notable improvements include the increase battery-only range to 53 miles, a lower price point (starting at $33,170), and a reduced curb weight. Interestingly, the Volt is the only car on the list with a fully electric drivetrain, using the onboard gasoline engine as a generator if/when the pilot needs more range in a single trip, which makes the Volt a great option for those looking for a range-extended electric vehicle.
2016 Audi A3 Sportback e-tron
I test drove the A3 e-tron last month in Santa Monica at the Alt Car Expo, and I have to say — it was fun to drive. I was very impressed with its peppy, sporty throttle feel and extremely well tuned sport suspension. Having said that, it felt like Audi took the same approach that BMW used with their i8 — using the hybrid integration of the gas engine and electric motor to enhance performance vs to improve fuel economy. That’s not necessarily a negative, as the resulting PHEV sports car is attractive to a new audience and gets them tuned in to the benefits of PHEVs and electric drivetrains.
I was disappointed, however, that in full EV mode, the gas engine kicked on every time I pounded the pedal to the floor. Per the technical consultant from Audi, this was because the car assumed I was in an emergency, so brought all the ponies — both gas and electric — to the table to get the car moving. The A3 PHEV is packed with a 102 hp electric motor, which enables up to 19 miles driving range, after which its 150 hp engine fills in any gaps in power band, startup, or off-the-line performance we have come to expect.
2016 Hyundai Sonata Plug In
When I first rented a Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, I was excited to have a hybrid as an option at the rental car facility. After driving the Hyundai Sonata, I was even more impressed. It essentially felt like a different version of the Prius but with the same insane hybrid gas mileage — coming in at 50–51 mpg average for me over a few hundred miles. The 2016 Sonata boasts 43 mpg and can run a full 24 miles before requiring a charge or having the gas engine take over.
Hyundai’s stylish 2016 Sonata offers it all with efficient gasoline, hybrid, and plug-in hybrid choices within the Sonata lineup. New this year, the hybrid delivers up to 43 highway mpg and features distinctive styling cues. The Sonata Plug-In Hybrid drives up to 24 miles on batteries with additional range on conventional hybrid power.
2016 Toyota Prius
The Prius was overhauled for 2016 and emerged from its upgrade with a futuristic exterior that fits better with the forward-leaning design of its hydrogen fuel cell powered Mirai and improved mileage at a combined 55 mpg, vs the 2015 which was rated at 50 mpg. Aside from those minor tweaks, not much to mention here — most readers know the Prius brand and that reputation continues with the 2016. Still, no EV from Toyota, and with declining Prius sales, the company is putting all its chips into the hydrogen fuel cell basket.
2016 Honda Civic
The gasoline only version of the Honda Civic makes the list with its “hybrid-like fuel economy,” while, behind the curtain, Honda drops the hybrid Civic option in 2016. Ironically, the hybrid Civic offered today achieves 44 mpg city, 47 mpg freeway (hint: better mpgs than the 2016 Civic) whereas the 2016 gas-only version gets just over 40 mpg. I’m no scientist but that seems like a downgrade. Here, have an award. Huh?
Have a tip for CleanTechnica? Want to advertise? Want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.
CleanTechnica Holiday Wish Book
Our Latest EVObsession Video
CleanTechnica uses affiliate links. See our policy here.