All this week we're rolling out our annual awards for best new automobiles, with us unveiling our favorite sedans yesterday. To suss out the best of the best in every category, we prowled the earth's byways, from twisty roads in China to hilly thoroughfares in the south of France to the clogged intersections of Los Angeles and Chicago. Now, we'll let you know what made the cut. Today, behold the best green cars of 2014.
WINNER: HONDA ACCORD HYBRID
$29,995 | Engine: 2-liter electric hybrid I-4 | Horsepower: 141 | 0-60: 7.7 seconds | MPG: 50 city, 45 highway
Underneath that silver sheet metal, this new Accord packs some serious engineering voodoo. It's basically three cars in one. In EV mode it cruises around at speeds of up to 60 mph without using a single drop of gas—like a purely electric car. Or it can run in hybrid mode using two electric motors, an air-cooled lithium-ion battery pack and a small combustion engine. It also runs in engine mode at highway speeds using a single-gear transmission with just enough punch to let you merge onto the interstate without having to white-knuckle the wheel. Beautifully built in America, it achieves the 50 mpg goal with a price tag under $30,000. It's the perfect solution for drivers who want comfort in a midsize car, don't want to spend too much money on gasoline and don't go for the wonky styling of other top-selling hybrids. It won't knock your socks off the way a new Vette will, but it will make mincemeat of a Prius when the light changes.
TESLA MODEL S
The Model S is the first automobile this Silicon Valley start-up built in-house from the ground up. (The Tesla Roadster was based on a Lotus chassis.) It's an all-electric plug-in sedan with gorgeous styling that gets 88 mpg (the electric equivalent) in the city and 90 on the highway. It also gets our nod for the coolest interior on the market, with a 17-inch tablet screen front and center that controls just about everything. This is the car interior of the future, and the future is now.
CHEVROLET CRUZE TURBO DIESEL
Clean diesel is the green technology of Europe. Finally, General Motors jumps in with an affordable American turbodiesel (the engines are built in Germany) that puts up 46 mpg and 264 foot-pounds of delicious torque, and spits out far fewer emissions than its gasoline brethren. Sure, an Audi A3 TDI is nicer in every way, but you'll pay thousands more for one. Specs: two-liter turbo in-line four, room for five passengers and an 8.1-second jaunt to 60.
The all-new plug-in electric i3 combines disco packaging with real BMW roadability. You'll enjoy about 170 horsepower, a range of 100 miles, a tiny optional range-extender gas engine you'll probably never need, plus enough torque to scare whoever's in the passenger seat. Clamshell rear doors and plenty of interior space make it a nice option for green-conscious families. Toss the dogs in and head for the beach! With this car's quirky looks, be prepared for gawkers.
Check back Thursday, when we unveil our 2014 SUV/Crossovers of the Year.