As promised, we'll be announcing our nominees for the Green Car Reports 2016 Best Car To Buy award this week.
But first, it's time note all those candidates that didn't make the final cut. This year, we're explaining why each one isn't on the final nominees list.
Remember, to qualify for consideration, a car must be all-new or substantially updated from the previous model year, it must be available for purchase in North America by next April, and at least one High Gear Media editor--preferably several--must have driven and reviewed it by December 1.
Readers who follow the industry and this site closely may be able to suss out our list of nominees--we'll leave that for the Comments section--but here are the 12 vehicles that didn't make it past the qualifying round.
2016 Chevrolet Spark, 2015 New York Auto Show
2016 Chevrolet Spark
While an all-new generation of the Chevrolet Spark hatchback was announced way back at the New York Auto Show last April, the U.S. version of the global minicar hasn't been released yet.
GM hasn't held press drives yet, and our only time in the new Spark was sitting in auto-show display cars. We haven't driven it, so it doesn't qualify.
2016 Fiat 500X, Bear Mountain State Park, NY, May 2015
2016 Fiat 500X
We found Fiat's new subcompact crossover utility vehicle, the 500X, a pleasant enough vehicle when we drove it. It shares the underpinnings of the similarly-sized Jeep Renegade, but has quite different styling and personality.
But as with most new vehicles from Fiat Chrysler, it breaks little new ground in fuel economy or notably better energy efficiency. In fact, it's not particularly good on mileage overall, compared to its segment competitor, the ...
2016 Honda HR-V, debut at 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show
2016 Honda HR-V
Honda is to be commended for launching a subcompact SUV that incorporates the Fit hatchback's flexible "Magic Seat" arrangement, which makes the remarkably capacious HR-V adaptable to virtually any use.
Anecdotally, we hear that the HR-V's popularity has decimated Fit sales--and while the Fit is rated at 37 mpg combined, the HR-V comes in at 31 mpg combined. Not bad.
Still, while the HR-V is toward the top of the gas-mileage charts--and will likely sell in substantial numbers--it too is only an incremental mover.
2016 Hyundai Tucson Eco, road test, Catskill Mountains, NY, Sep 2015
2016 Hyundai Tucson
Hyundai is reputedly the company that industry colossus Toyota is most scared of, and it's made enormous strides over the past three decades to emerge as a genuine global contender. Almost every generation of new vehicles it releases are visibly improved over those they replace.
The latest Tucson compact crossover is more stylish, better equipped, and very competitive in its segment. The new Tucson Eco model is rated at 29 or 27 mpg combined, in front- and all-wheel-drive forms respectively.
We've driven a Tucson Eco, and while it was acceptable, we wouldn't put it at the top of our list for that segment. Didn't quite make the cut, unfortunately.
2016 Lexus RX 450h F Sport
2016 Lexus RX 450h
The Lexus RX virtually invented the luxury crossover utility category, and the RX Hybrid did the same for more fuel-efficient models in that category.
The 2016 model represents the fourth generation of RX, but the hybrid version's fuel economy is all but unchanged from the previous generation. So much for that.
2016 Mazda CX-3, Malibu, California, July 2015
2016 Mazda CX-3
We enjoyed our drive in the new Mazda CX-3, which joins the Chevrolet Trax, Fiat 500X, Honda HR-V, and Jeep Renegade in the burgeoning crop of smaller SUVs.
It too is toward the top of the gas-mileage charts--its best front-wheel-drive model comes in at 31 mpg combined, matching the HR-V--but it too represents only an incremental improvement.
2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata drive, Southern California, July 2015
2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata
Most automotive journalists love the Mazda Miata (which the company insists is now called the MX-5, with Miata tagged on somewhat reluctantly).
The two-seat roadster typifies the spirit of several decades of British sports cars, except that this Japanese-built model is well-built, reliable, and lasts forever.
And the latest Miata, the first to use the company's highly efficient SkyActiv powertrains, delivers a huge boost in fuel efficiency: both manual and automatic versions are now rated at 30 mpg combined, against 24 and 23 mpg combined for their predecessors.
That's laudable. But the Miata will never be more than a niche product, as are all two-seaters sold in North America. We love it, but it's not remotely close to the greenest new car of the year.
2016 Scion iA drive event, Philadelphia area, Sept 2015
2016 Scion iA
A sedan that holds four adults and gets a 37-mpg combined rating is nothing to sneeze at in the world of gasoline-powered vehicles. The fact that it's fun to drive is a huge plus.
Scion may be Toyota's "youth brand," but the Scion iA is a Mazda 2 sedan in disguise, and a vastly better car for it. And we truly wrestled with whether the Scion iA should make our list of finalists.
In the end, it narrowly missed the cut despite its efficient powertrain. It improves on what has come before, but not in such a huge way that it bested our final nominees.
But did we mention how much we liked the Scion iA?
2016 Scion iM drive event, Philadelphia area, Sept 2015
2016 Scion iM
While you might expect a compact hatchback to do better than a subcompact sedan in the sales charts, Scion thinks its new iM won't do quite as well as the iA sedan (see above).
It's an older and heavier vehicle, and it doesn't have the advantage of Mazda's highly efficient SkyActiv powertrain--nor that company's expertise at building cars that are fun to drive.
Scion hints that the iM will have a short life and be replaced with a newer and more modern car within only a few years. Consequently, this was an easy one to knock off the list.
2016 Smart ForTwo minicar, Portland, Oregon, Aug 2015
2016 Smart ForTwo minicar, Portland, Oregon, Aug 2015
2016 Smart ForTwo
The first totally new Smart two-seater in more than 15 years is a vastly better vehicle than the previous one, which was widely disliked for its jerky powertrain and grim econocar interior.
But its EPA rating remains at the same 36 mpg combined--and a new manual-gearbox version comes in at 35 mpg combined--proving once again that the very smallest cars usually don't return the highest fuel efficiency.
2016 Tesla Model X
2016 Tesla Model X
The second volume vehicle from electric-car maker Tesla Motors would almost surely have been a nominee for this site's 2016 Best Car To Buy award.
It's the first large all-electric luxury utility vehicle, and Tesla suggests it may eventually equal or surpass its Model S electric sedan in sales.
Unfortunately, Tesla declined to make a Model X available for us to drive. In fact, few if any journalists have had more than a handful of minutes behind the wheel of a Model X.
That alone disqualifies it. Unfortunately.
If we have any Model X-owning readers, however: Would you be willing to let a friendly journalist take a spin behind the wheel of your new electric SUV? Contact us!
2016 Toyota Mirai - Quick Drive - Portland, July 2015 [photo: Doug Berger]
2016 Toyota Mirai
Finally, there's the Toyota Mirai, the first hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle sold and leased in volume globally.
Toyota's delivered 57 of them in its first two months on the market--at only eight California dealers--and says it's on track to sell 1,000 in the car's first year on sale.
We drove the Mirai last fall, and debated internally whether it should make the final cut. But in the end, given its limited distribution and low sales volume, we just couldn't justify it.
If hydrogen infrastructure does in fact spread throughout larger regions of the country, perhaps the Mirai's successor in 2020 or so will qualify.
For the moment, the 2016 Toyota Mirai just won't have a big enough impact on the car market to qualify.