Best Eco-Friendly Cars 2016

2016 Toyota Prius c

2016 Toyota Prius c

Best Eco-Friendly Car

Created in its bigger brother's image, the Prius c comes through with a combination of extraordinarily high gas mileage and low price, something the Prius v, its even-bigger brother, doesn't do quite as well. Even as the venerable midsize Prius has been redesigned for 2016 and now boasts even higher mileage, the wee Prius c still amazes with an EPA-estimated 53/46/50 mpg city/highway/combined. It's no luxury car, but when viewed alongside other subcompacts, it's an impressive package even at a starting price of $20,395, including a destination fee.

2016 Nissan Versa Note

2016 Nissan Versa Note

Best Eco-Friendly Deal

Today's automotive market boasts more high technology than ever devoted to cutting fuel use and pollution, but that tech comes at a price. So it's no surprise the most affordable of our recommended eco-friendly vehicles is a straight-up, gas-powered, fuel miser, the Versa Note automatic. Using nothing more than a 1.6-liter four-cylinder and optional continuously variable automatic transmission (in our recommended S Plus trim level) in a small, lightweight package, the Versa Note delivers an EPA-estimated 31/40/35 mpg city/highway/combined for $16,255 including a destination fee.

2016 BMW X3

2016 BMW X3

Eco-Friendly Recommendation

Clean diesel has gotten a sooty-black eye recently, but there's no evidence this efficient alternative fuel is inherently flawed when executed properly. One of the best examples is the X3 xDrive28d, with its EPA mileage estimate of 27/34/30 mpg city/highway/combined, a full 6 mpg combined better than the most efficient all-wheel-drive gas X3. Just as impressive, the price premium is just $1,500, so you have a chance of making your money back, depending on how diesel is priced in your area. This X3 could go as many as 600 miles on a tankful, with a driving experience better than any hybrid.

2016 Ford Fusion Hybrid

2016 Ford Fusion Hybrid

Eco-Friendly Recommendation

Not all vehicles with hybrid badges guarantee high mileage, but the Fusion Hybrid is one that delivers on the promise, its EPA-estimated 44/41/42 mpg city/highway/combined being the highest rating among midsize sedans. The efficient-but-capable drivetrain joins a car that's quiet and rides nicely, yet boasts surprising athleticism when you push it hard. Now several years into its current generation, the Aston-Martin-inspired styling still looks great.

2016 Lexus CT 200h

2016 Lexus CT 200h

Eco-Friendly Recommendation

The CT 200h delivers a lot of mileage in a relatively affordable luxury car. With EPA-estimated mileage of 43/40/42 mpg city/highway/combined, the CT blows non-hybrids out of the water, yet its small size and sporty personality make it fun to drive, something we can't often say about hybrids of any stripe. The hatchback body style and folding backseat compensate for the CT's small size with more cargo volume and versatility than a sedan could offer.

2016 Mazda CX-5

2016 Mazda CX-5

Eco-Friendly Recommendation

Can you have fun in an efficient vehicle? You can in the Mazda CX-5 SUV. For anyone who wants efficiency but can't go for the quirky driving experience common to hybrids, the CX-5 is EPA-rated at 26/35/29 mpg city/highway/combined with a six-speed manual transmission. That's right, the most efficient CX-5 and the most efficient non-hybrid compact SUV is a manual, bucking the rest of the market. Even with an automatic, the CX-5 is just 2 mpg behind at 26/33/29 mpg.

2016 Mazda Mazda3

2016 Mazda Mazda3

Eco-Friendly Recommendation

While no one was looking, Mazda — a company known for driving fun more than any other attribute — figured out how to make its gas-powered cars exceptionally efficient, without sacrificing the driving fun. The Mazda3 compact sedan and hatchback exemplify that feat, with an EPA-estimated 30/41/34 mpg city/highway/combined with the automatic transmission and a good-old six-speed that's responsive and unobtrusive. In something of a perfect storm, the new powertrains coalesced with great new styling, upgraded interiors and, long overdue, a modern multimedia system.

2016 Toyota Avalon Hybrid

2016 Toyota Avalon Hybrid

Eco-Friendly Recommendation

Toyota dominates the hybrids in the commuter-car category because its hybrids consistently deliver substantial mileage improvements over gas-only models. The roomy Avalon Hybrid fits that description with an EPA-estimated 40/39/40 mpg city/highway/combined, the highest of any full-size sedan. Most notable, its city rating improves on the non-hybrid Avalon by a staggering 19 mpg, making it a great choice for motorists subjected to traffic jams and slow-and-go commutes. The comfort and quiet operation mean you'll arrive with a little less fatigue.

2016 Toyota Highlander Hybrid

2016 Toyota Highlander Hybrid

Eco-Friendly Recommendation

When people think of eco-friendliness, they often think of the smallest vehicles with the highest possible mileage numbers. But why limit efficiency to a subset of vehicle types? Those who need a larger vehicle can also save on fuel with the Highlander Hybrid. With up to eight seats, it handles family chauffeuring brilliantly. With an EPA-estimated 27/28/28 mpg city/highway/combined (or 28 mpg across the board in the LE Plus trim level), it improves on the gas-only Highlander with all-wheel drive by 8 mpg combined and suits grocery-getting and other stop-and-go driving with a city advantage as high as 9 mpg.

2016 Toyota Prius v

2016 Toyota Prius v

Eco-Friendly Recommendation

With an EPA-estimated 44/40/42 mpg city/highway/combined, the Prius v doesn't match the smaller 2015 Prius' 50 mpg combined, much less the redesigned 2016's higher estimates, but it's still dramatically more efficient than most vehicles, especially of its size and utility. It adds some width and, most notably, cargo volume for people whose commuter car occasionally has to carry more than just commuters.