10 Greenest Cars of 2013

PORTLAND, Ore. (TheStreet) -- The nation's blacktop is looking greener by the moment.

With new mileage restrictions coming just a few years down the road, more than two dozen vehicles in the U.S. are achieving more than 40 miles per gallon in combined mileage. Costly trips to the pump are about to get less frequent just as reaching for the plug becomes more commonplace.

The folks at Kelley Blue Book still have a fondness for calling such gas-sipping vehicles "green" and came up with 10 such cars that hit the roads at 40 mpg or better in the city and on highways. While General Motors ( GM) is banking on its Chevrolet Cruze to hit that mark without any electric help, a slew of new hybrids and plug-ins are getting the job done just as efficiently.

It's an eerily quiet ride to better mileage, but there aren't a whole lot of stops along the way:

10. Lincoln (F) MKZ Hybrid

MSRP: $35,925

Miles per gallon: 45 city, 45 highway, 45 combined.

One word for Ford's half-electric leap back into the luxury market: Ambitious.

This hybrid engine cranks out 200 horsepower and can put up 62 miles per hour without using fuel. Add a glass panoramic roof, a touchscreen entertainment and navigation system, pushbutton shifting, a heated steering wheel, heated/cooled seats, a THX sound system, parking assist, lane assist, adaptive cruise control and full LED lighting, and you have one very loud, clear statement from Ford.

9. Toyota (TM) Avalon Hybrid

MSRP: $35,559 (before tax credits)

Miles per gallon: 40 city, 39 highway, 40 combined.

How did Toyota turn its semi-luxury boat into a streamlined, fuel-efficient machine?

It remembered it actually makes luxury and hybrid vehicles and realized the Avalon wasn't very good at being either. This year, Toyota ditched the Avalon's '90s cruiser frame and built it on the same platform as the Lexus ES. It gave the Avalon LED taillights, noise reduction in all the right places, heated front seats, a moonroof, a touchscreen entertainment center, wood-grain trim and a backup camera.

It also trimmed fuel consumption and gave it mileage more suited to the modern driver. It's an upgrade in almost every regard and, with miles per gallon that still beat the Chevrolet Volt's hybrid mode, it's a a luxurious ride that doesn't skimp on its efficiency.

8. 2013 Honda (HMC) Fit EV

MSRP: $389 a month (lease)

Miles per gallon: 132 city, 105 highway, 118 combined.

Electric charge range: 83 miles

This is the second whack at an electric vehicle for Honda, whose EV Plus was beloved on the West Coast and inspired the documentary Who Killed the Electric Car? The great news this time around is that Honda's Fit subcompact hatchback gets the EV treatment and gives drivers 83 miles per charge and room for five passengers. That's better than every EV save the Tesla.

The bad news is that, as with the EV Plus, only a handful of Americans can get it and, even then, they can only lease it. Honda's going with a pilot program that makes the vehicle available for lease only in select cities, likely those in the coastal U.S. with access to charging equipment beyond peoples' homes. Still, the Fit's standard keyless entry, cruise control, modular seating, under-seat storage, 57.3 cubic feet of cargo room and 10 cupholders should be as appealing as they've always been, even if drivers can't keep the electric version just yet.

7. 2013 Volkswagen 6 Hybrid

MSRP: $24,995

Miles per gallon: 42 city, 48 highway, 45 combined.

Don't let that quiet little electric engine fool you. There's 170 horsepower under that hood, which is still a rarity for a hybrid of this size and price.

All that juice doesn't mean the Jetta loses any of Volkswagen's consistently generous features, however. Three feet of legroom in the back, more than 15 cubic feet of trunk space, Bluetooth and music controls through the steering wheel and dual-zone climate control give drivers a sporty European sedan that feels more like the common car than a grand experiment.

6. 2013 Ford C-Max Energi

MSRP: $32,950

Miles per gallon: First 21 miles: 100 mpge combined. Next 600 miles: 43 mpg combined

If C-Max sounds like the name of a battery, it's not a bad pick for a car that's among the most affordable plug-in hybrids on the road.

It may looks a whole lot like the Prius, be priced similarly to the competing Prius and do some very Prius-type things, but Its plug-in range is a full 10 miles better than the competing Prius. Not only that, but it's assembled in Wayne, Mich., and has "Made In The U.S.A." clout the Prius can't claim. It also gets all those sweet Prius benefits such as state and federal refunds and solo carpool lane access.

5. 2013 Toyota Prius Plug-In

MSRP: $32,000

Miles per gallon: First 11 miles: 95 mpge combined. Next 529 miles: 50 mpg combined

The Prius Plug-In is a bit of a misnomer given its scant electric radius. A three-hour charge to go a scant 11 miles without using gas implies not only an impossibly short commute, but infinite patience.

Fortunately, the Prius makes up for its lacking electric mileage with 50 mpg hybrid mileage that's still near the top of its class. It also gets owners some sweet state and federal rebates for their trouble, as well as an occasional comfy solo ride in the carpool lane.

4. 2013 Chevrolet (GM) Volt

MSRP: $31,645

Miles per gallon: First 35 miles: 98 mpge combined. Next 344 miles: 37 mpg combined.

OK, so maybe it's not the technological luxury that other all-electric vehicles on the road are. Take the Volt out for more than 35 miles and you basically have a very costly, somewhat inefficient hybrid.

That said, its all-electric range is still far better than that of any plug-in hybrid on the road. All those tech toys such as navigation, status apps for your mobile device, a sweet sound system, lots of space and relative silence make it far more luxurious than its plug-in hybrid peers as well. It's still fuel-efficient luxury, if not entirely cost-efficient.

3. 2013 Ford Focus Electric

MSRP: $32,900

Miles per gallon: 110 city, 99 highway, 105 combined.

Electric charge range: 76 miles

By taking the frame of its popular, existing focus, stripping out the combustion engine and giving it all the cool electronic and mobile-based features EV owners have come to expect, Ford's begun the arduous task of carving a niche for itself in this increasingly crowded market.

How do you do that, you ask? By taking aim at the other cost-effective electric car on the road. While the Focus Electric is a full $11,000 more expensive than the Nissan Leaf, the company takes great pains to point out that its high-capacity charger can juice up the Focus in half the time it takes the Leaf to get a full charge. During a time electric vehicle advancements are occurring incrementally and U.S. drivers' patience with range and charging is still being tested, the Focus' familiarity and fast charging speed may be the deciding factor.

2. 2013 Tesla (TSLA) Model S

MSRP: $52,400

Miles per gallon equivalency: 94 city, 97 highway, 95 combined.

Electric charge range: 200 miles

New York Times articles aside, the Model S high-end wonder not only gives drivers 200 miles of range on a full charge, but has a diagnostic system that can gauge every variable influencing the life of that charge.

Features include a 17-inch touchscreen control center, a sound system with enough memory for 500 songs and options including navigation, a high-definition backup camera, a power liftgate and a communications and emergency response system. Add-ons can boost the Model S' sound system to a 12-speaker beast and upgrade the passenger compartment with a rear-facing back seat that gives it room for seven.

1. 2013 Nissan (NSANY) LEAF

MSRP: $21,300

Miles per gallon: 106 city, 92 highway, 99 combined.

Electric charge range: 73 miles

Nissan must have heard Americans complain once or twice that it's near impossible to get a decent electric vehicle for less than $25,000.

Though it's hard to believe the Leaf has been around since 2010, the roughly $6,000 price drop for 2013 indicates Nissan is well aware that the lack of a supercharger dates this vehicle a bit. For folks lacking a long commute and living in places such as the West Coast towns along Interstate 5's electric corridor with loads of access to chargers, however, it's a dream.

A bevy of audio, navigation and app support features -- including maps of nearby charging station -- are similar to that of the higher-priced Volt. The Leaf is just as silent, though, and is still one of the best EV options available for the money, even if advancing EV technology makes it seem like the rest of the field is passing it by.

-- Written by Jason Notte in Portland, Ore.

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Jason Notte is a reporter for TheStreet. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Esquire.com, Time Out New York, the Boston Herald, the Boston Phoenix, the Metro newspaper and the Colorado Springs Independent. He previously served as the political and global affairs editor for Metro U.S., layout editor for Boston Now, assistant news editor for the Herald News of West Paterson, N.J., editor of Go Out! Magazine in Hoboken, N.J., and copy editor and lifestyle editor at the Jersey Journal in Jersey City, N.J.

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