Green is still a red-hot buzzword in the auto industry, with carmakers competing to showcase their commitment to fuel savings. It’s not all altruistic; carmakers have to meet tougher fuel-economy standards between now and 2025. And not every winner is a paragon of green technology. But each vehicle we spotlight is the least thirsty in its class based on annual fuel cost
The annual fuel cost assumes 15,000 miles of combined city and highway driving each year and fuel prices of $3.20 a gallon for regular, $3.40 for premium and $3.95 for diesel. Models must make our top 25 in their category to be eligible, and no model can win the award if another trim level of that model has won in a lower-price category.
Cars Under $20,000: Scion iQ
Sticker price: $15,995Invoice price: $15,231
TrueCar national average price: $15,978
3-year resale value: 53%, 5-year: 37%
City mpg: 36, Hwy: 37
Only ten feet long, the iQ is the world’s smallest four-seater. But don’t let the size fool you. Scion packed the micro-subcompact with 11 airbags (including the industry’s first rear-window airbag), standard Bluetooth and HD radio technology. The 1.3-liter engine puts out 94 horsepower and gets 37 miles per gallon in combined city and highway driving.
Cars $20,000-$25,000: Toyota Prius Two
Sticker price: $24,760
Invoice price: $23,320
TrueCar national average price: $22,209
3-year resale value: NA, 5-year: NA
City mpg: 51, Hwy: 48
America’s favorite hybrid leads the midsize class in fuel economy with 50 mpg in combined city and highway driving. It was Kiplinger’s Best in Class winner last year, with the most cargo space in the midsize class and plenty of legroom for all passengers.
Cars $25,000-$30,000: Mitsubishi iMiEV ES
Sticker price: $29,975
Invoice price: $29,349
TrueCar national average price: NA
3-year resale value: 47%, 5-year: 34%
City mpg: 126, Hwy: 99 (electric vehicle, mpg equivalent)
Mitsubishi’s electric iMiEV took first place in the Environmental Protection Agency’s Fuel Economy Leaders list this year, with a combined city and highway mpg equivalent of 112. The tiny EV offers zero tailpipe emissions for $6,000 less than the Nissan Leaf (and it’s eligible for a $7,500 federal tax credit), but you’ll trade price for interior space.
Cars $30,000-$40,000: Nissan Leaf SV
Sticker price: $36,050
Invoice price: $34,557
TrueCar national average price: $36,191
3-year resale value: 47%, 5-year: 36%
City mpg: 106, Hwy: 92 (electric vehicle, mpg equivalent)
The first mass-market electric vehicle to hit the streets, the Leaf boasts serious amenities in addition to a “fueling” cost of less than $700 a year. Heated seats and mirrors are standard features for 2012, as is a seven-inch information display with navigation, Bluetooth and a USB connection for music. The price tag is steep, but it’s tempered by a $7,500 federal tax credit.
Audi A6 2.0T Premium
Sticker price: $42,575
Invoice price: $39,657
TrueCar national average price: $41,211
3-year resale value: 55%, 5-year: 39%
City mpg: 25, Hwy: 33
The winner of Best New Car in its class this year, the A6 packs a powerful yet thrifty turbocharged 2.0-liter engine. Its roomy interior is comfortable and elegantly styled, befitting the brand’s reputation for quality interiors and fit and finish. Plus, German-engineered handling comes baked in.
Cars $50,000 and Over: Infiniti M35h
Sticker price: $54,595
Invoice price: $50,601
TrueCar national average price: $51,239
3-year resale value: 54%, 5-year: 37%
City mpg: 27, Hwy: 32
Striking the perfect note between power, efficiency and luxury isn’t easy, but Infiniti manages it with the hybrid variant of the M35. Far less costly than its luxe hybrid competition (all over $90,000), it puts out 360 horses and gets 29 mpg in combined city and highway driving.
Sports Cars: BMW Z4 sDrive28i
Sticker price: $49,545
Invoice price: $45,655
TrueCar national average price: NA
3-year resale value: 56%, 5-year: 38%
City mpg: 22, Hwy: 34
BMW’s drop-top racer gets a new inline 4-cylinder engine for 2012 as well as notably thrifty fuel economy. Direct-injection technology and turbocharging help it produce 240 horsepower (more than the inline 6-cylinder it replaces).