The best cars to buy in 2015: Audi, Volkswagen, and...Kia?

The best green cars to enter the market this year come from a wide variety of automakers, from luxury brands like Audi to reliable, budget-friendly makes like Honda and Kia. Which new car will come out on top? 

Mark Lennihan/AP/File
the 2015 Honda Fit is displayed at the New York International Auto Show in New York. The new Fit is one of the finalists for GreenCarReports' Best Car to Buy award for 2015.

It's time once more for our annual Best Car To Buy award.

It's the fifth time we've chosen the one car or lineup, newly introduced for this model year, that represents the best new green car to enter the market.

To qualify, a car must be all-new or substantially updated from the previous model year.

(That's why, Tesla fans, we're not going to say it's the Model S again. The electric luxury sedan won in 2013.)

To be eligible for consideration, a car must be available for purchase in North America by April 2015. At least one High Gear Media editor--and ideally several of us--must have driven and reviewed it by December 1, 2014.

To focus on mass-market vehicles and eliminate ultra-luxury green machines that sell only in tiny numbers, we require a base price of $60,000 or less for qualifying entries.

Our five nominees for Best Green Car To Buy 2015 are:

  • 2015 Audi A3 TDI: The compact luxury Audi is an all-new sedan this year, and it gets a new and even more fuel-efficient turbdiesel engine that rates at 36 mpg combined.
  • 2015 Honda Fit: We've always deemed the Fit the best and most versatile subcompact hatchback, and the all-new model this year also gets a 36-mpg combined rating.
  • 2015 Hyundai Sonata Eco: The latest Sonata mid-size sedan has less expressive styling than the old one, but gains a smaller turbocharged engine that beats Ford's Fusion EcoBoost with a 32-mpg combined rating.
  • 2015 Kia Soul EV: With ratings of 93 miles and 105 MPGe, the all-electric version of Kia's tall wagon offers space, range, and practicality that seemingly trump many competitors.
  • 2015 Volkswagen Golf Range: With new gasoline and diesel engines in an all-new and lighter body, plus an all-electric version too, the quintessential compact hatchback brings a full arsenal of green, greener, and greenest to the table.

So what's the process:How do we choose from among dozens of new and updated vehicles to pick the list of five that become the finalists for the Green Car Reports Best Car To Buy 2015 award?

First, we rank the contenders by the numeric scores found in the full vehicle reviews on The Car Connection.

Second, we toss out any candidate that doesn't achieve an EPA rating of 30 miles per gallon combined or 80 MPGe. If necessary, we'll accept estimated figures for new vehicles before official ratings are released.

Third, as a group, our editors get together and weigh the green aspects of specific models, qualitative issues, and any numeric ties in ratings.

And lastly, we take into account a variety of other factors as well: real-world market impact, lifetime environmental burden, and consumer significance.

For the record, here's the list of past winners:

We'll discuss each of this year's five finalists in more detail during the week ahead.

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