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reen cars continue to be a growing part of the automotive market, and more of these vehicles are going on sale as time passes by. 2012 brought with it many electric cars, plug-in hybrids, hybrids, diesels, and fuel-efficient gasoline engines, so there were plenty of new and redesigned/refreshed green vehicles to choose from this year.

Our criteria was the overall packaging; we didn't simply look for the cheapest or most energy-efficient vehicle. If it was a good car with a green powertrain, it got our attention, and five of those cars made our list.


Ford C-Max 2013 Ford C-Max

5) Ford C-Max: It's rare to find a hybrid that's fun to drive, and even rarer to find any SUV (hybrid or not) that's a blast from behind the wheel, but that's just what this compact crossover is. That's because of precise, accurate steering and a suspension tuned toward the sporty side of things. It may look like a bland rolling jellybean, but it doesn't drive like one, thus defying half the stereotypes about hybrids. The same can't be said of the Toyota Prius V wagon that is the C-Max's closest competitor. Those who want to go completely gas free will be happy that Ford also offers an all-electric C-MAX.

2013 Volkswagen Passat
2013 Volkswagen Passat

4) Volkswagen Passat TDI: The diesel version of Volkswagen's mid-size sedan impressed us with its extremely long range in between fill-ups, its low-RPM torque, and its solid driving dynamics. The Passat is as sedate as any mid-size sedan around town, but those who like to drive aggressively will be pleased by the Passat. The old stereotype of smoke-belching diesels is dead. An upscale interior and a handsome exterior don’t hurt, either—we find the Passat to be one of the best mid-sizers on the market regardless of engine choice. The Passat TDI makes a very good case for bringing more oil-burners to the market, thanks to its approximate range of 700 miles.

2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid
2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid

3) Ford Fusion Hybrid: The Fusion hybrid model isn't the only mid-size hybrid sedan that promises high mpg numbers, but it's so damn good-looking that it stands way out in front of the class. It's so handsome, in fact, that we think that other automakers will finally begin moving away from blandly-styled family cars. Yes, Hyundai started this trend with the Sonata, but Ford has taken it to another level. Hybrids rarely look this good. We don’t care if the grille is an Aston Martin rip-off, we just know that you can feel like the James Bond of your book club while maintaining your green cred. Who says you can't look good while going green?

2013 Chevrolet Volt
2013 Chevrolet Volt

2) Chevrolet Volt: The Volt remains a major player in the green-car game because it's still the only mainstream extended-range electric out there. We've spent plenty of time in the Volt, and we love it for its ability to travel far without giving us range anxiety, thanks to its gas-powered generator that can drive the electric motor once the battery runs out of juice. We also found it to be a pretty darn good compact car overall. It's sporty, looks good, offers plenty of upscale features, and it has the utility of a hatchback. It's much more like a "conventional" car than the uninitiated will realize, and while it does have a high price of entry (at least before $7,500 federal tax credits kick in), we think it will pave the way for more extended-range electrics to reach the market. Unlike other cars that ushered new alternative-fuel tech, the Volt doesn't look or act radically different from other cars—which means that even tech-averse customers could happily live with this thing.

Tesla Model S Tesla Model S

1) Tesla Model S: The Model S isn't a value proposition, since it starts at nearly $50K, but it offers an impressive range (up to a claimed 300 miles), fierce acceleration, handsome looks, an interesting infotainment system, some unusual in-car tech (such as in-car wi-fi and screens that monitor energy usage), a luxurious interior, and available seven-passenger seating. The Model S has already earned several car of the year awards from various publications, and we think it deserves it. Why? Because thanks to its range, sleek styling, and performance, the Model S will do a lot to get folks to think differently about electric cars. Yes, a Nissan Leaf is much more affordable, but the range is shorter and that compact hatch doesn't turn heads. For now, the Model S will remain a car for the rich, but it shows that electric cars can be made mainstream once it becomes easier to mass-produce electric vehicles with similar range.