Green Car of the Year Finalists Announced

Green Car of the Year award now in its eleventh year.

2015 Audi A3 -- Green Car of the Year Finalist

The Audi A3 is a Green Car of the Year finalist.

Think “green car” and your thoughts might turn to a variety of battery electric vehicles, including the Tesla Model S, the Ford Focus Electric and the Nissan Leaf. Not to be left out are an assortment of hybrid models such as the Toyota Prius, Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, BMW i3, Infiniti’s Q50 hybrid and more.

Green cars, however, comprise a far greater number or types of vehicles than those with electric batteries. Indeed, today’s “clean diesels” are often recognized as are vehicles that run on natural gas or hydrogen. To that end, the Green Car Journal has announced the finalists for its 2015 Green Car of the Year award, with the winner to be named at the 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show next month.

2015 Green Car of the Year Award

The five finalists are: the Audi A3 TDI, BMW i3, Chevrolet Impala Bi-Fuel, Honda Fit, and the Volkswagen Golf. Only the BMW i3 is a pure electric vehicle, yet it can also be had as a hybrid. Only the BMW i3 is entirely new — the other four models are established players.

The Audi A3 TDI is an entry-level model, offered in standard front-wheel drive or optional all-wheel drive. Auto Trends tested the gasoline AWD version last month — you can find our review here. The TDI is prized as it provides clean, turbo-diesel power and delivers an EPA-rated 31 mpg in the city and 43 mpg on the highway for segment-best fuel economy.

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New on the market is the BMW i3, a compact model powered by a 170-horsepower electric motor. It offers 80 miles of all-electric range and takes 3.5 hours to recharge. A gasoline motor serves as a range extender, allowing drivers to go 150 miles before recharging or adding gasoline. This model is prized for a number of other reasons too, including its unique style and lightweight carbon fiber body.

Who knew that a Chevrolet Impala Bi-Fuel is now available? The model is so new that GM announced it only on Monday. What we have with the Impala Bi-Fuel is a large sedan that runs on two fuel sources: straight gasoline or compressed natural gas (CNG). What is particularly noteworthy about this rendition is that it switches to gasoline from natural gas when the CNG tank is empty. Drivers can also switch between fuel choices while in motion, simply by pushing a button.

Among subcompact models, the Honda Fit is one of the newest. It is a gas-only model now in its third generation and powered by a 1.5-liter “Earth Dreams” engine. Honda’s Earth Dreams Technology means various things depending on the vehicle marketed. With a gasoline engine, Honda says it “…realizes top level driving performance and fuel efficiency.” That translates to 33 mpg in the city and 41 mpg on the highway for its most efficient version.

The Volkswagen Golf needs no introduction. It is a subcompact model and one of the best selling vehicles of all time. Powered by gasoline or diesel engines, the VW Golf is highly efficient and rated as high as 45 mpg on the highway when outfitted with diesel engine paired with a 6-speed manual transmission. An all-electric drive version is available in limited areas as well.

The Jury

The Green Car of the Year Award was introduced in 2005 and relies on a panel of jurists including Jay Leno. The remaining jurists are composed of leaders in the field of environmentalism and efficiency including Jean-Michel Cousteau, president of Ocean Futures Society; Matt Petersen, board member of Global Green USA; Dr. Alan Lloyd, President Emeritus of the International Council on Clean Transportation; Mindy Lubber, President of CERES; and Kateri Callahan, President of the Alliance to Save Energy.

The journal’s editors consider a wide variety of vehicles initially before settling on five finalists “recognized for their achievements in raising the bar in environmental performance.” It is then up to the jurists to decide with the winner announced on Nov. 20.

See AlsoThe Top 10 Fuel Efficient Cars of 2016

Audi A3 photo property of Auto Trends Magazine.

Delayed: 2015 Honda Fit

The battlefield for small cars is an intense one with numerous compact and other small models available to entice first-time car buyers. Honda has its Civic, a compact model that competes with the Toyota Corolla, Nissan Sentra, Chevrolet Cruze and Ford Focus for customers.

On the subcompact level is the Honda Fit, a vehicle that is nowhere near as popular as the Civic. Yet, Honda has big plans for its smallest model, having invested more than $800 million to build a new plant in Celaya, Mexico. This is the first time that the Honda Fit will be built in North America.

That manufacturing plant was supposed to have begun producing the next generation Fit in April, but quality control and transportation issues have pushed back its release until June reports Automotive News.

Im thrilled that we’ve been able to greatly enhance and add to the Fits already excellent attributes to provide Honda customers with class-above features and refinement at such a value price point, said Jeff Conrad, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Honda. The 2015 Fit is practical, roomy, efficient, affordable and perhaps best of all, great fun to drive.

2015 Honda Fit

Subcompact Honda Fit

Nevertheless, the front-wheel drive, five-passenger subcompact will soon arrive and will position the Fit to better compete against several models. Those models include the Ford Fiesta, Toyota Yaris, Chevrolet Sonic, Mazda2, Mitsubishi Mirage, Volkswagen Golf, and the Nissan Versa. The Versa, including the Versa Note hatchback, is currently the best selling model in the segment, a position that Honda hopes it will soon take.

To get to greater sales Honda is aggressively pricing the 2015 Fit. The base Honda Fit LX with a six-speed manual transmission retails from $15,525. Choose the available continuously variable transmission and your starting price rises to $16,325.

The Fit EX outfitted with the six-speed manual transmission retails from $17,435. Choose the CVT and the base price comes in at $18,235. Honda also sells Fit EX-L CVT ($19,800) and a Fit EX-L CVT with Navi ($20,800) editions.

Engine Choice and Trim Levels

All 2015 Honda Fit models are powered by a 1.5-liter (1498 cc) four cylinder engine making 130 horsepower at 6,600 rpm and 114 foot-pounds of torque at 4,600 rpm. Fuel economy ranges from 29 mpg in the city and 37 mpg on the highway when equipped with a manual transmission to 33 mpg in the city and 41 mpg on the highway with the CVT. The Honda Fit is outfitted with a 10.6-gallon fuel tank and runs on regular grade gasoline.

The Fit LX comes equipped with a security systems with remote entry, intermittent wipers, a body-colored rear spoiler, automatic halogen headlamps, air conditioning, a rear view camera, power windows and door locks, cruise control, map lights, two 12-volt outlets, a cargo area light, and a 160-watt audio system with four speakers. This model also includes Bluetooth audio streaming, an auxiliary input jack, and speed-sensitive volume control.

Choose the EX or EX-L editions and your standard equipment includes a one-touch power moonroof with a tilt feature, smart entry and fog lights. Heated, power side mirrors with embedded turn signals are standard with the EX-L.

Other standard equipment with the EX and EX-L include Honda LaneWatch, push button start, HDMI port, cargo area tie down anchors, floor mats, a 180-watt, six-speaker sound system, audio display, and Pandora compatibility. All EX-L models upgrade to leather seats from cloth and include heated front seats.

Safety Features and Warranties

All 2015 Honda Fit models come equipped with stability control, traction control, an antilock brake system, electronic brake force distribution, brake assist and daytime running lights. Six airbags are included.

Honda also provides the following warranties with its new vehicles: a 3-year/36,000-mile new vehicle limited warranty, a 5-year/60,000-mile limited powertrain warranty, and a 5-year/unlimited-mile corrosion limited warranty.

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Photo courtesy of American Honda Motor Co., Inc.

Seeing is Believing: 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage

Something odd has happened along Mitsubishis supposed exit from the US new car market: it has updated its Outlander crossover SUV, has shown us a PHEV version of the same and this Japanese car manufacturer just introduced an all-new Mitsubishi Mirage at the New York International Auto Show. Perhaps rumors of Mitsubishis demise have been exaggerated after all.

2014 Mitsubishi Mirage
The 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage makes its global debut.

The newest model, however, does not guarantee Mitsubishis success in the ultra-competitive domestic market. Indeed, it will take a lot more than an all-new Mitsubishi Mirage to stem the brand’s losses. In 2012, its sales fell by more than 20 percent in a market that grew by about 14 percent. Just 57,790 vehicles were sold reports Bloomberg Businessweek, far below the 345,000 Mitsubishi models driven off of dealer lots in 2002.

Subcompact Car Segment

The front-wheel-drive Mitsubishi Mirage is a five-door hatchback with room for five. Mitsubishi promises to serve up the most efficient model in the subcompact car segment, delivering a projected 37 mpg around the city and 44 mpg on the highway for a combined 40 mpg.

Those fuel economy numbers are better than what its competitors now offer including the Volkswagen Golf TDI. Cars such as the Chevy Sonic, Ford Fiesta, Mazda2, Toyota Yaris, Honda Fit and Nissan Versa will have to play catch up, with tiny Mitsubishi now setting pace. Who would have thunk?!

2014 Mitsubishi Mirage

The 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage gains a mileage edge by serving up a 1.2-liter three cylinder engine. Thats the type of motor offered in mini cars such as the Smart Fortwo, an engine that makes 74 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 74 foot-pounds of torque at 4,000 rpm. You can pair this engine with a five-speed manual or a continuously variable transmission.

Standard equipment includes a tilt steering wheel, power windows, power door locks, automatic climate control, power side mirrors, keyless entry, a rear spoiler, a four-speaker audio system and a 60/40 split rear seat.

When upgrading from the Mitsubishi Mirage DE to the Mirage ES, a number of amenities are added including front fog lamps, 14-inch aluminum alloy wheels, a proximity key, push button start, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, Bluetooth connectivity and cruise control.

Various packages will be offered including trim upgrades, a navigation system and rear parking assist.

Pricing will be announced before the model’s fall 2013 release.

Generous Safety Features

Mitsubishi will outfit every Mirage model with a host of standard safety features. Seven airbags including a drivers knee airbag a tire pressure monitoring system, anti-lock brakes, electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist are standard. In CVT-equipped models, hill start assist is added. Other safety features include stability control and traction control.

The hatchbacks handling benefits from electric power steering, what Mitsubishi says aids fuel efficiency. EPS also gives the driver a communicative steering feel and sharp 15.1 feet turning radius the best in its segment.

Mitsubishi Mirage Warranties

All 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage models will be backed by a 10-year, 100,000 mile powertrain warranty. A new vehicle limited warranty has you covered for 5 years or 60,000 miles, whichever comes first. Rust protection coverage and a roadside assistance plan are also provided.

See Also — Mitsubishi Cancels Galant Replacement Model

Photo courtesy of Mitsubishi Motors North America, Inc.