We find ourselves, once more, in December, the last month of another year.

And that means it's time once more for our annual Best Car To Buy award.

Somewhat to our surprise, this is now the sixth time we've chosen the one car or lineup--newly introduced for the coming model year--that represents the best new green car to enter the market.

DON'T MISS: 2015 Volkswagen Golf: Green Car Reports' Best Car To Buy 2015

We should explain right up front that to qualify for consideration, 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--and Autopilot doesn't qualify it as substantially updated.)

To be eligible for consideration, a car must be available for purchase in North America by April 2016.

And at least one High Gear Media editor--preferably several--must have driven and reviewed it by December 1, 2015.

ALSO SEE: Green Car Reports' Best Car To Buy: 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid

We have a cap on base price of $60,000, to let us focus on mass-market vehicles and eliminate ultra-luxury green machines that sell only in tiny numbers.

So 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 2016 award?

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

Second, an EPA rating of 30 miles per gallon combined--or 80 MPGe--is required. Any candidate that fails to achieve that level is tossed out. (If necessary, we'll accept estimated figures for new vehicles before official ratings are released.)

CHECK OUT: 2013 Tesla Model S: Green Car Reports' Best Car To Buy 2013

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: consumer significance, real-world market impact, and lifetime environmental burden, among others.

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

  • 2011: Nissan Leaf
  • 2012: Toyota Prius range
  • 2013: Tesla Model S
  • 2014: Honda Accord Hybrid
  • 2015: Volkswagen Golf range

We'll release the list of this year's five finalists sometime during next week, and we'll analyze each of those nominees in more detail in its own article.

MORE: 2012 Toyota Prius: GreenCarReports' Best Car To Buy 2012

As the list above indicates, our award in past years has gone to pure electric cars, hybrids, and even one range of cars that includes gasoline engines, a battery-electric model, and [gasp] diesels.

For 2016, we're pleased by the long list of nominees--and even more pleased by our five finalists.

Stay tuned for more details.


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