Green Car of the Year finalists head to Los Angeles

Green Car Journal announced its finalists for the Green Car of the Year award it gives out every year at the Los Angeles Auto Show.

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Wayne Cunningham reviews cars and writes about automotive technology for CNET's Roadshow. Prior to the automotive beat, he covered spyware, Web building technologies, and computer hardware. He began covering technology and the Web in 1994 as an editor of The Net magazine.
Wayne Cunningham
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At the 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show next month, Green Car Journal will bestow its Green Car of the Year award on one lucky car. The list of five finalists for the award includes cars powered by gasoline, diesel, natural gas, and electricity.

Audi A3 TDI

The gasoline version of the Audi A3. Antuan Goodwin/CNET

With a large diesel portfolio around the world, Audi adds a diesel option to its updated A3 model. When we reviewed the gasoline version of the A3 earlier this year, we were impressed by its handling and data-powered dashboard electronics. It was a car that needed little improvement. However, the 2-liter diesel engine gives the A3 fuel economy averaging in the mid-30s, getting it to the final round of Green Car Journal's picks.

BMW i3

BMW i3 electric car Tim Stevens/CNET
The BMW i3 is the only electric car among this year's finalists. Sporting a body with carbon-fiber-reinforced panels and a 130-kilowatt motor driving the rear wheels, the i3 gets an EPA-rated range of 81 miles. However, it can also be had with a range extender engine, adding 71 miles. The i3 follows the Ford Focus Electric , Mitsubishi i-Miev , and Nissan Leaf as previous all-electric contenders.

Chevrolet Impala Bi-Fuel

The gasoline version of the Chevrolet Impala. Antuan Goodwin/CNET
The Impala Bi-Fuel is an interesting beast, combining gasoline and natural gas fuel systems to feed its 3.6-liter V-6 engine. When we reviewed the gasoline Chevy Impala LT , we found the car very comfortable, with a smooth ride and well-integrated data features in its head unit. The V-6 gets the Impala only 19 mpg city and 29 mpg highway, but the natural gas fuel system allows for much cleaner emissions.

Honda Fit

Honda Fit Antuan Goodwin/CNET
The compact Fit has been a reliable economy car for many years, with exceptional interior space and practicality. Green Car Journal honors the latest update to the Fit, which features a 1.5-liter engine from Honda's Earth Dreams technology initiative. Direct injection for the engine and a continuously variable transmission bring fuel economy up to 33 mpg city and 41 mpg highway.

Volkswagen Golf

Volkswagen Golf TDI Antuan Goodwin/CNET
The most important new car for Volkswagen this year is the updated Golf, a compact hatchback designed to fit many lifestyles. Although we got a thrill out of the new Golf GTI , Green Car Journal calls out the diesel-fueled Golf TDI and electric e-Golf as the justification for its place among the finalists. The EPA rates the e-Golf's range at 83 miles, while the Golf TDI uses the same engine as the Audi A3 TDI, so should produce mid-30s average fuel economy.

Considering that Green Car Journal's judges chose the Ford Fusion in 2013 and the Honda Accord in 2014 as winners, the Volkswagen Golf seems a likely winner for 2015, as it offers similarly diverse drivetrains and appeal to the widest audience.

Green Car Journal will announce its winner on November 20, during the press preview for the 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show.