Many consumers relish the thrill of driving right by the gas station. Who can blame them, as it might be the greatest luxury of them all. While enhanced fuel economy has come to vehicles in every market segment these days, hybrids and EVs still have strong appeal to some consumers. Hybrids represent an entry-level solution that minimizes the impact of their conventional gasoline engine on mpg in city driving. Plug-in hybrids offer extended electric range before the conventional gasoline engine comes to life. And the electric vehicle takes gasoline out of the equation altogether. The smart shopper does the purchase calculus based on affordability and practical range as well as pure fuel-efficiency.
Why Edmunds Recommends the 2016 Ford Fusion Hybrid / Energi: The 2016 Ford Fusion Hybrid is a great choice for car shoppers who are new to hybrids. It's quiet, comfortable and feels very much like a normal family sedan, while delivering the fuel economy you expect from a hybrid. It's also a Ford Fusion, which means you also get impressive refinement, good road manners and plenty of standard and available high-tech features. The Fusion Energi is the plug-in version, which allows you to travel up to 20 miles on electric power alone. You'll pay a hefty premium for the Energi, but those with shorter daily commutes could possibly drive the whole work week without burning a drop of gasoline.
Why Edmunds Recommends the 2016 Toyota Camry Hybrid: Substantial changes last year vaulted the Toyota Camry Hybrid onto our top-recommended list. Although it doesn't quite match the fuel economy of some competitors, the real-world cost of that difference is negligible. Plus, dismissing the Camry simply because of an mpg or two would mean missing out on an otherwise compelling sedan. Comfort remains a Camry priority, but this latest Camry Hybrid also handles pretty well. That's especially true of the SE trim, which boasts a degree of driver engagement to rival the Fusion and Accord. A spacious, user-friendly cabin and a reasonably useful trunk round out the Camry Hybrid's benefits.
Why Edmunds Recommends the 2016 Toyota Highlander Hybrid: No other automaker bothers to offer a hybrid version of its three-row SUV. But Toyota's Highlander Hybrid doesn't earn a spot in our Buying Guide purely by default. It continues to show just how well the hybrid formula can be applied to a big, family-friendly crossover SUV. The hybrid version earns a 28 mpg combined estimate, or 7-8 mpg better than the V6-powered Highlander. In addition to that, the Highlander Hybrid offers solid build quality, respectable acceleration, a sophisticated and quiet ride quality and plenty of standard and available features.
Why Edmunds Recommends the 2016 Porsche Panamera E-Hybrid: Porsche's flagship sedan is the Panamera, a low-slung four-door with a hatchback trunk. The 2016 Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid is the plug-in hybrid version, and it offers 16 miles of pure electric driving before the supercharged 3.0-liter gasoline V6 engine takes over. Acceleration, handling and braking are pure Porsche, which is something of a trick for a car this large. It's perfect for those shoppers
Why Edmunds Recommends the 2015 BMW i8: You want your plug-in hybrid to be a head-turning sports car? Look no further than the BMW i8, the two-door supercar for the environmentally conscious. Like the more attainable BMW i3, the i8 is built around a carbon-fiber passenger cell. But in the i8 an electric motor drives the front wheels and a turbocharged three-cylinder gasoline engine pushes from behind. The i8 will go 15 miles on electricity, after which the engine comes to life. With both working together it'll tear up your favorite canyon road.
Why Edmunds Recommends the 2015 BMW i3: BMW's i3 is a remarkable vehicle. Its main structure is made of light yet strong carbon fiber instead of the usual steel or aluminum. This helps reduce the i3's weight, which pays dividends for both electric range and performance. With its electric motor in back and the battery under the floor, the i3 boasts sporty acceleration and handling. The all-electric version can go 81 miles on a charge, and there's also a range-extender model that adds a 600cc gasoline generator than can push total range out to 150 miles (its all-electric range is reduced to 72 miles, however). Inside, a stylish design with high-quality materials might make you think you've stepped inside a modern architect's office. Plus, with its small dimensions, quick reactions and aggressive regenerative braking (you rarely have to touch the brake in stop-and-go traffic) it's one of the best-suited cars to urban life.
Why Edmunds Recommends the 2016 Kia Soul EV: Kia's first real foray into the electric vehicle world is a success. In fact, the funky Soul is arguably more appealing when it swaps out its internal combustion engine for an electric motor. In our testing, the Soul EV went farther on a charge than its similarly sized and priced competitors, and then recharged quickly thereafter. It also doesn't suffer a reduction in cargo space versus the non-EV Soul, meaning it provides the utility of a small SUV rather than that of a small hatchback like its rivals. A long warranty and generous features are other benefits.
Why Edmunds Recommends the 2016 Tesla Model S: We owned a 2013 Tesla Model S for 18 months and despite numerous dealer visits and maintenance issues, we were ultimately sad to see it go. It's quick, comfortable, quiet, spacious, and can tote as much cargo as some crossover SUVs. The "85" version can go 265 miles on a charge, so range anxiety is a nonissue. We even drove ours from L.A. to New York in less than three days using Tesla's free Supercharger quick-charge network. We definitely have gripes, including some underwhelming interior trim pieces and a lack of small item storage. There's also the below-average reliability, although our dealer experiences were exceptional. So even though it's not perfect, the Model S remains our favorite electric car.
Why Edmunds Recommends the 2016 Volkswagen e-Golf: Among entry-level EVs, the Volkswagen e-Golf is our favorite. It handles well, has a handsome interior, delivers class-competitive range and has the optimal equipment for quick battery recharging. What's even better, cargo space is unchanged from the non-EV Golf because the batteries are located under the floor. Whereas most other EVs feel inherently compromised, the e-Golf feels exactly like a well-equipped regular Golf that just happens to be powered by electricity rather than fossil fuel.